Heavyweight Tournament Finalists Display Their Assets And Their Limitations, Plus Jones-Trinidad On Replay

On Saturday, young blood coursed through the moribund heavyweight division, and in a replay of the previous Saturday’s big fight, young-ish blood coursed through the old veins of two legendary ring warriors. A review, some analysis and a look ahead for all the combatants:


Nothing’s changed: The IBF’s heavyweight tournament round-robin for the right to face Vladimir Klitschko is over, and the tournament victor still won’t beat Klitschko. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was.
Alexander Povetkin, with his Olympics chops, youth, power, speed and intelligence, is the one to have picked as having the best chance to off Klitschko before the four-person tournament began. Calvin Brock and Chris Byrd were a proven commodity at getting KO’d by Klitschko, since both had done it before. And Eddie Chambers, Povetkin’s opponent in the tournament finale this weekend — Povetkin arrived by beating Byrd, while Chambers arrived by beating Brock — is just too small for a 6’6″ monster like Klitschko.
That’s not to diminish either Povetkin or Chambers. There’s no one among the heavyweights now I’d pick to topple Klitschko. Chambers looked pretty sharp Saturday night against Povetkin early on, scoring with crisp, fast counter-punches that snapped Povetkin’s head back and gave him a black eye. Povetkin had trouble getting through that esoteric high guard Chambers has. HBO commentator Harold Lederman said Povetkin was slow, but Max Kellerman begged to differ. Kellerman was right. Povetkin’s got speed for a heavyweight, but Chambers is just that much faster than any other heavyweight on the scene right now. He’d make anyone about 201 pounds look slow.
Povetkin began to come into his own merely by outworking Chambers. At first, he just punched at Chambers whether “Fast” Eddie blocked the blows or not. Then, they started getting through. Chambers already has a low work rate. By the end of the fight, Povetkin was hitting him so much he couldn’t even counter effectively anymore. The judges awarded Povetkin the win. I scored it eight rounds to four for Povetkin. (Some of the early ones weren’t easy to judge, because Povetkin was throwing a lot that wasn’t connecting, while Chambers wasn’t throwing very often but landing the showier shots.)
This was a nice prospect-vs-prospect match that proved both fighters have attractive traits and liabilities. Povetkin got caught with some punches that, if they came from someone with more pop than Chambers, would have ended his night. Now, maybe they landed only because Chambers is so fast. Povetkin has a decent D, it’s just that Chris Byrd caught him with some avoidable shots as well. Povetkin needs really good D if he has any chance at beating Klitschko. Chambers has his own problem, that being the way he toils in the ring at times like a spectator instead of reminding himself he’s there to fight.
Next for the winner: It’s almost a curse for Povetkin to have won. He’s quite good. He’d be a solid pick to beat some of the lesser heavyweight titlists, like Sultan Ibragimov, whom Klitschko will face Feb. 23 in a long overdue heavyweight unification fight. By winning the tournament, he’s instead getting tossed to a murderous-punching giant with good speed and excellent fundamentals who’s hard-wired to keep any smaller opponent at a distance. Povetkin’s no shrimp, but he’s four inches shorter than Klitschko, and, while he showed he could work his way in against someone who doesn’t crack bones like Byrd or Chambers, Klitschko would make him pay. If I were Povetkin, I’d be rooting for an Ibragimov upset.
Next for the loser: Chambers was beaten definitively. He was not beaten badly, not enough at any rate to diminish his stock too irreversably. There’s something really entertaining about his style that makes him ultra-watchable; am I alone in this? He stands as still as a mannequin for forever, then picks just the right moment to explode with some ultra-fast counter-punch. The most he does on defense is to lean back at a 45 degree angle. It’s strange as all get-out, but maybe that’s why I like it — because it’s something different to look at. Anyway, if I’m not alone in thinking Chambers is watchable, he should be back on TV before long. Like Povetkin, I’d give him a solid chance to beat any heavyweight not named Vladimir Klitschko. He just needs to get himself into a position to land a mandatory title challenge, and then we’ll find out if he’s got the right stuff.
Caught up to Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad from Jan. 19 on replay. Much better fight than expected. Trinidad looked better than expected. Jones looked better than expected.
But it’s best not to confuse “better than expected” with excellent.  That Jones and Trinidad performed as well as they did, at ages 39 and 35, respectively, amplified the distortion.
There were no mysteries in how the fight played out. Jones was too fast, even at his advanced age, for Trinidad. Trinidad was spirited to the finish, but his punching power was non-existent at 170 pounds. Jones started overwhelming Trinidad with that speed, and without fear of getting hurt back, midway through. But either because of stamina problems or an excess of caution, he only ever started overwhelming Trinidad — then let him coast to a decision defeat instead of putting him out of his misery.
Based on his performance, it’s reasonable to consider Jones a top-10 light heavyweight (170 lbs); it may have been even before this. It’s reasonable to think, based on Trinidad’s performance, that he could, if he applied himself, be a factor at 160 lbs. Just don’t confuse them even a little for the greats they once were.
Next for the winner: Rumor is, Jones wanted to fight heavyweight champ Klitschko and 130-pound star Manny Pacquaio at the same time. No, look, forget that Jones is calling out everyone from 154 to 175 lbs. He’s going to get at least one more blockbuster fight off this, because he took steps toward reestablishing his credibility and he clearly was able to be part of a fight that drew in a big audience. My choice has been, and remains, a farewell rematch with Bernard Hopkins, regardless of whether he beats Joe Calzaghe in April or not. Two of the best fighters of the 1990s and into the 2000s could say goodbye against one another. Sure, the rematch is years overdue, and it would be a show between two boxers with a combined age of more than 80. But what better way to end their careers than against their most hated rivals?
Next for the loser: That Trindidad looked flabby fighting 10 pounds above his highest-ever ring weight is not exactly a testament to his ability to move back down to middleweight. At super middleweight (168 lbs.), two pounds below where he fought Jones, Trinidad wouldn’t hit very hard, I’m guessing. Sure, he boxed well, and his skills have always been underrated, it’s just that to be really good at 168 he needs to have some steam in his punches, too. Having ballooned up to 200 pounds during his off time, he’d have to dedicate himself to a degree I question he can to make 160. If he can, and has any kind of success against a serviceable 160-pound opponent by, say, summer or early fall, then don’t be surprised to see a catchweight fight at 156 or 158 that rematches Trinidad against Oscar De La Hoya, who plans to retire after a December farewell bout.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.