From 2009 to 2011, ESPN2 Friday Night Fights analyst and former trainer Teddy Atlas took on heavyweight Alexander Povetkin as somewhat of a personal project.
The two enjoyed a bit of success together before splitting in 2011, leaving both sides a bit embittered. Two years later, Povetkin faces an uphill battle in challenging Wladimir Klitschko in Moscow on Oct. 5 as a long-odds underdog.
Atlas was in Las Vegas on Friday to call that night’s action for FNF, the job which kept him from working with Povetkin for his bout last February against cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck.
Though Atlas has previously been critical of Povetkin’s performances since the two moved on from each other, he likes his former charge’s chances against the younger half of the two-headed Klitschko monster.
“I gave him a good fight plan for Klitschko [when we worked together],” Atlas told RingTV prior to ESPN2 going on the air on Friday.
Povetkin (26-0, 18 KOs) was being lined up as a potential opponent for Wladimir when he was working with Atlas, and the New York-based trainer decided against taking the fight.
“The reason I pulled him out initially was that he wasn’t ready,” said Atlas. “He would’ve gotten killed. But I knew with a bit more experience, he could be ready for the fight, and I think that time is now. I give him a good shot to win.”
Atlas, who previously trained heavyweight Michael Moorer to the world title against Evander Holyfield in 1994, hadn’t trained a fighter in years before joining up with Povetkin.
In two years, Atlas was able to position Povetkin for a shot at the bogus WBA belt that became available when Wladimir Klitschko was deemed “super champion” by the sanctioning body. Povetkin won a twelve-round decision over faded former titleholder Ruslan Chagaev in August 2011 to “earn” the belt.
During Atlas’ tenure as Povetkin’s trainer, he reduced the level of opponents in order to work on correcting a number of things in training. Povetkin went 6-0 under Atlas, but against a list of names that included Leo Nolan, Javier Mora, Nicolai Firtha, and Cedric Boswell, who were far from contenders.
Leading up to the Huck fight, Povetkin asked that Atlas come to Europe to train him rather than the arrangement the two had agreed to, where Povetkin came to work with him in New York while Friday Night Fights was in season. Atlas balked at the request and the two went their separate ways.
Prior to the Huck fight, Atlas thought his former fighter would eat up Huck, who was rising from the cruiserweight division where he enjoyed a lengthy reign as WBO titlist.
Against Huck, Povetkin looked dreadfully conditioned, as he was gassed out by the midway point. His heart kept him on his feet, but he was nearly stopped a number of times en route to being awarded a close majority decision over Huck.
In an article by The Sweet Science’s Michael Woods, Atlas said that he thought Povetkin looked horrible, more or less confirming what the public had seen.
Povetkin hasn’t quite been sensational since, beating undeserving challengers Hasim Rahman and Andrzej Wawrzyk in two fights since, making it a bit interesting that Atlas is giving his former fighter more than a fighting chance to score the upset.
Photos: Epsilon-Gettyimages; Boris Streubel-Bongarts/Gettyimages
Mark Ortega is a contributing writer to RingTV.com and his work has been featured in THE RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly. He is a member of the Boxing Writers Assoc. of America and can be reached via e-mail or followed via Twitter.