Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin remained undefeated with a 12-round unanimous decision over former WBA titleholder Ruslan Chagaev in Erfurt, Germany on Saturday.
Povetkin (22-0, 15 knockouts), THE RING's No. 3-rated contender, won by scores of 117-113, 117-113, 116-112.
The 31-year-old 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Russian put his punches together more than Chagaev, THE RING's No. 5-rated heavyweight, and was the busier fighter down the stretch of the fight. However, it was anyone's fight midway through the contest.
Both heavyweights were careful in the early rounds of the bout, obviously being respectful of the other's skill and experience. However, Chagaev (27-2-1, 17 KOs), whose only previous loss was a ninth-round stoppage to RING champ Wladimir Klitschko in 2009, began to step up his aggression and offense in the middle rounds.
The 32-year-old southpaw from Uzbekistan connected with hard overhand lefts and some right hooks in rounds five, six and seven. Chagaev continued to take more chances than Povetkin in the eighth, prompting the Russian's American trainer Teddy Atlas to crack the psychological whip between rounds.
Atlas told Povetkin, whose father passed away last year, that by pressing hard in the final rounds he would win the fight and "bring his father back." Povetkin responded to the between-rounds pep talk and took firm command of the bout in rounds nine, 10 and 11 by landing quick, crisp three-punch combinations as he stepped forward and took the fight to Chagaev.
The uppercut, which Povetkin delivered from his right and left hand whenever in range, was a key punch during his late-rounds rally.
Atlas said he knew Povetkin's memory of his father could be used to make him fight harder during a post-fight interview with German television.
"You're supposed to know these things when you're a trainer," he said. "You have to know what will motivate your fighter."
Although Atlas said he did "a lot of praying" before the fight, he knew that he had the better fighter.
"My fighter was the faster guy with the quicker feet," he said. "He's taller and longer. We knew he had to keep the fight on the outside and keep turning (Chagaev) and watch out for the left, which we knew he would throw all night."
The victory elevates Povetkin as a prime challenger for Klitschko or his brother Vitali, who holds the WBC title. However, Atlas said he "isn't thinking about" the Klitschko brothers at this time.