• Heavyweight

Povetkin stops Rahman to defend belt

Dan Rafael
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Alexander Povetkin kept his unbeaten record intact © PA Photos
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As many suspected would be the case from the moment the fight was made, former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman had nothing to offer whatsoever in a brutal mismatch against second-tier titlist Alexander Povetkin on Saturday at the Sporthalle in Hamburg, Germany.

Povetkin, making the third defence of his belt, is not to blame for the farcical fight, in which he crushed Rahman in two one-sided rounds. Povetkin had no choice but to accept the match if he wanted to keep his title.

Rahman, long-faded and a shell of the fighter who knocked out Lennox Lewis to capture the legitimate heavyweight world championship in 2001 in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, can't be blamed either. Although Rahman did nothing at all to earn the opportunity - unless you count being annihilated by the real champion, Wladimir Klitschko, in 2008, and then winning five fights in a row against the worst opposition the heavyweight division has to offer - he was handed the opportunity to fight for a belt. Why would he turn down the chance to fight for the belt and the big payday?

But the WBA deserves the blame for this mess. Rahman had not won a fight of remote consequence since outpointing Monte Barrett in an interim title bout in 2005. Since then, Rahman has done squat, except draw with a woefully out-of-shape James Toney, get knocked out by Oleg Maskaev, get slaughtered by Klitschko and beat a handful of nobodies.

Yet, the WBA - which already hands out multiple belts in the same weight class just so it can collect an extra sanctioning fee - had the audacity to make Rahman the mandatory challenger for Povetkin's belt, where it is one of two. Make no mistake - as good as Povetkin is, he is the fake champion and Klitschko is the real one.

But if Povetkin did not fight a 39-year-old shot Rahman with no notable victories in seven years, he would be stripped. So the fight went on and the result was a horrific mismatch even worse than many expected as Povetkin (25-0, 17 KOs), in his first fight under the tutelage of new trainer (and Hall of Famer) Kostya Tszyu, rolled through Rahman (50-8-2, 41 KOs), who didn't look like he ever wanted to be in the ring.

Rahman's body language was awful and he was in terrible condition. His nickname is "Rock" and he moved like one. Povetkin hurt him with the very first punch of the fight he landed, an overhand right that immediately turned Rahman's old legs to jelly.

Povetkin, 33, the 2004 Olympic super heavyweight gold medallist, knew Rahman was in trouble right away and then just took his time. But it did not take long.

In the second round, Povetkin put together nice combinations that landed flush and rocked Rahman, including a left hook that froze him along the ropes. At that point it was only a matter of how many more shots referee Gustavo Padilla would allow Povetkin to land before he stopped the fight.

Rahman was holding onto the ropes, not throwing back and finished. Povetkin kept throwing as Padilla looked closely and finally intervened at 1 minute, 46 seconds, putting everybody out of their misery.

As big of a mismatch as the fight was on paper, it lived down to even the worst expectations. Povetkin did what he was supposed to and looked good doing it, but what was the point? He gets no credit for blasting out a guy who should never have even been in the ring with him in the first place.

He's been ducking Wladimir Klitschko for a few years and now it is time to finally step up and fight the real champion. His handlers at Sauerland Event now say they want to make the fight, but let's believe it when we see it.

For Povetkin's part he says he has always been willing to fight Klitschko and remains so. That was good to hear.

"I'm ready to fight everybody," he said in Russian but with a translator on the Epix American broadcast. "When (my handlers) say it's time to fight Klitschko, I will be ready. He's the best heavyweight in the world and I will be ready to fight him."

Like Rahman has always done after losses, he had an alibi at the ready. This time he claimed that he was in the hospital suffering from dehydration on Friday night. If that's true the fight should have been cancelled and his life could have been in jeopardy.

"I was weak and dehydrated. I was in the hospital last night for fluids," Rahman said. "I couldn't move. He's not a terribly big puncher but I couldn't establish my jab. I was flat."

Then Rahman, who needs to retire immediately before he gets hurt (and also so he no longer subjects the boxing public to these kinds of preposterous mismatches) said something so over the top it was laughable.

"The fight would have been different if it was in America," he said.

No it wouldn't. It would have been exactly the same mandated WBA madness, only with a shorter plane ride needed for Rahman and his promoter, Greg Cohen, to get home to cash the paycheck - minus the sanctioning fees, of course - that they came for but did not deserve.

This article originally appeared on ESPN.com

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