Full report from the Clash on the Dunes undercard, including Alexander Povetkin vs Michael Hunter and Dillian Whyte vs Mariusz Wach
The chief support to Andy Ruiz vs Anthony Joshua 2 at Diriyah Arena in Saudi Arabia pitted a seasoned heavyweight former champion against an ambitious contender, and both boasted good recent form.
American 31-year-old Michael Hunter, a quality amateur, had only lost to Oleksandr Usyk in a cruiserweight title challenge and was unbeaten in six since stepping up to the land of the giants. Russia’s Olympic gold medallist Alexander Povetkin was long removed from his WBA title reign but gave Joshua problems last year and was coming off a good win over Hughie Fury. That said, he was nine years the older man and had been in almost twice the number of paid contests. It was delicately poised, with the victor in line for a world title shot.
As it transpired, a tight opening third gave way to Hunter taking over and running out clearly superior as Povetkin tired. He failed to earn the victory however, with a surprising split draw awarded due to scores of 115-113 each and a 114-114.
The first round was surprisingly eventful as Hunter, with the faster hands, caught Povetkin cold with a short right and hurt him. Michael repeated the trick later in the round but walking into a counter left hook urged him against throwing all caution to the wind.
Hunter continued to beat ’Sasha’ to the punch in the early rounds but the latter made inroads with accurate body shots and began to move his head better. By the fourth he was weaving past Hunter’s shots on occasion to land rights of his own. His excellent jab also found a home.
Povetkin broke through with a lovely left to the chin in the fifth and increased his output as Hunter’s nose bled. The Vegas-based operator went back to boxing and I had him 4-2 up at halfway and gave him the next couple as well. The contest was fascinating rather than consistently thrilling but Hunter largely outmanoeuvred and outworked the physically stronger man.
Povetkin did not fight as if he felt he was behind, remaining patient and attacking only in spurts. Hunter focused more on the body as clinches outnumbered exchanges. For me, by the end of the 10th, the veteran ex-champ needed a stoppage or KO to triumph. However, it was Hunter who had Povetkin all at sea with rights in the 11th. The European produced one last big effort in the final session, but it appeared too late.
Dillian Whyte, name freshly cleared by UKAD and weighing a career-heaviest 271lbs, eased back into action in a scheduled 10-rounder with shopworn Polish giant Mariusz Wach. The 6ft 7 1/2in fighter had beaten two hapless victims since a three-bout losing streak, while his London rival was riding a winning run of 10 including defeating Oscar Rivas, Joseph Parker and Dereck Chisora (twice).
Wach produced a solid enough effort but was a step behind more often than not. With Whyte’s size and taking this match at three weeks’ notice, perhaps the Pole proving competitive should not come as a major surprise. Whyte took the decision with scores of 98-93 and 97-93 twice.
The main undercard fights went pretty much as expected, with two ex-amateur stars winning easily. Mahammadeasul Majidov despatched Tom Little in the second, while Filip Hrgovic got rid of Eric Molina in the third.