SAN DIEGO, Calif. – August 20, 2019 – Matchroom Boxing’s “Fight Camp” experiment ends before its luck with the English weather crumbles with the fourth and final card outdoors in Essex outside London. Fans should get to see the best pandemic lineup to date from any promoter.
“This week is really the first major card, the first major names to return to the sport of boxing since the pandemic, since lockdown has been over,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “It’s a thrilling fight card. Five fights on the card with Sky Sports Box office in the UK and DAZN in the US. Every single fight is a pick ‘em fight.” For once, Hearn isn’t exaggerating.
The card airs in the United States on Saturday, August 22, starting at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on DAZN USA.
Heavyweight high stakes for Whyte and Povetkin
Longtime WBC mandatory contender Dillian Whyte of Brixton (27-1, 18 KOs) will face reinvigorated veteran Alexander Povetkin of Russia (35-2-1, 24 KOs) for an interim WBC title and minor belt. What matters most is seeing the two big men get down to business.
Whyte has had so many ups and downs in his career someone should name a roller coaster after him. “The story of my life is pressure. I’ve been under pressure my entire life,” said Whyte. He says he didn’t hesitate to take a pandemic assignment.
“When the bell goes it doesn’t matter if there’s 100,000 people there or 100 people. You are zoned in. When I’m in shape, you’ve got problems, because I can do what I like to do. Whatever he wants to do, I’m cool with it,” said Whyte.
At the final news conference, Povetkin said he was happy to get the call from promoter Eddie Hearn. “Thanks to Dillian also for taking this fight. Hopefully, it will be a great fight in the heavyweight division. I have taken responsibility to train for this fight, understanding how serious it is. You have to take Dillian seriously.”
Both men professed their aversion to making predictions, and both prompted predicted a war. “It will be fireworks,” said Povetkin. “He’s a tough guy. But listen, if I land early? It is night night early. But he can do the same, as well. I’m ready for chaos and violence,” said Whyte. It’s music to any fan’s ear.
Povetkin turns 41 years old on September 2. When we asked him whether he expected to still be fighting at this age, he smiled and shrugged it off. “I didn’t think about my age. At the same time, it’s just a number. I’m so happy to be on this level still at my age, but it’s nothing special for me.” Povetkin says the only change in the past 20 years is that “I train more responsibly, due to my experience probably. I have to train to harder to look better in the fight when opponents are younger than me.”
Whyte is coming off two fights in 2019 against Oscar Rivas and Mariusz Wach. He got wins against both, but Rivas scored a knockdown and he weighed 270 pounds against Wach. Whyte’s weight has fluctuated greatly over time, but he agrees he was in terrible shape for both fights.
In contrast, Povetkin has been in excellent condition and looked stronger than expected against Hughie Fury and Michael Hunter, the last a split draw many saw Povetkin winning.
There’s less pressure on Povetkin to make a statement after a 15-year career, and he never seems to feel it. Hearn calls him “a machine.” The pressure is all on Whyte to get the rematch with Anthony Joshua he wants, or becoming the mandatory for Tyson Fury. Povetkin has more momentum than Whyte, and we’re calling for an upset win for the Russian. Call it an early birthday present.
Rematch between Taylor and Persoon for all the belts
Katie Taylor of Ireland (15-0, 6 KOs) got all she could handle from veteran Delfine Persoon (44-2, 18 KOs) of Belgium during their first meeting in June 2019, one of the best fights of 2019. Observers expected to hear the scorecards read for the veteran Persoon, but it was Taylor who got the call on the cards. Scores were 96-94 X 2 and 95-95.
Taylor was expected to defend her women’s IBF, WBA, WBC, WBO, and Ring Magazine lightweight titles against American Amanda Serrano, but pandemic delays and promoter squabbles led to a surprise rematch offer to Persoon, who didn’t hesitate to take it.
“This is a legacy building fight for me and Delfine,” said Taylor. “We’re both in this sport to prove that we are the best. You have two fighters here that absolutely believe that they are going to win. We both think we’re going to win. That’s what makes this such a fantastic fight.
“ I want to be known as the pound for pound number one. No crowd, all the belts on the line? This is the purest form of boxing you will ever see. I’m prepared for whatever comes my way on Saturday. May the best boxer win.”
Persoon, who works full time as a police officer in her native Belgium, said she’s got to prove she deserves the titles and right the wrong done to her with the decision loss in New York.
“Everybody thinks [I won the first fight with Taylor]. It’s good there is a rematch. We will see who is the best fighter. We were very surprised Katie is taking this risk. For her, it is a big risk. If she loses, it isn’t good for her career.”
‘A war? This is boxing’
Taylor believes the fight will be a war. Persoon scoffed at this. “A war? This is boxing. Punch, punch back. It is not a war. Grabbing and holding is not boxing. Boxing offensively, jabbing and working, is the way to box.
“I must prove my style, but even better. Boxing with my heart can be a problem. Sometimes I forget to use my boxing brain,” admitted Persoon.
Persoon says she’s bigger than Taylor and says she can put pressure on her. “I spar with guys in Belgium who are stronger than me. They give me problems, and I find solutions. Against a girl, I always feel stronger because I train with men.”
Persoon may have lost the first fight with Taylor, but she put herself on the map with boxing fans around the world. Most thought she won and are happy to see her getting another chance to prove herself.
As with the last title defense by unified, undefeated welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus against American Jessica McCaskill, the outcome rests again on which woman can impose her game plan on the other. McCaskill was able to crowd and rough up Braekhus to win. Persoon needs to do the same to prevent Taylor from landing clean shots. If she does and the judges play fair, she will go home to Belgium the unified champion.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities.
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