It’s a slippery slope asking probing questions…

Especially when handling a man as media-cautious as Alexander Povetkin. I’d heard and watched videos which made a case for his innocence and I’d always struggled to jump off the fence in either direction. Comfortable bridging the gap, undecided between ‘heavyweight threat’ and ‘drugs cheat’.

Who am I to question the legitimacy of a former World heavyweight champion, Olympic gold medalist and amateur World champion? 

Then again – who would I be, if my first question to ‘Sasha’ was not relating to his two recent failed drugs tests? 

Heavyweight threat? Or drugs cheat? Ask that. That sounds fine.

“I have never heard people speaking about me in this way.” Povetkin told me, somewhat directly. 

The former WBA regular heavyweight champion of the World has become a scapegoat within boxing globally. People rush to judgements, hearing words like ‘failed’ and ‘tests’. Testing has changed. Thresholds are varying. Corruption is… always possible.

Alexander Povetkin, as he claims during our conversation, is none the wiser;

“I believe that fairness will triumph. I have nothing to conceal, I never took the forbidden substance.”

Olympic gold medalist Povetkin went on, detailing the ordeal which had dented his pride. I wanted to believe him. I’d heard of various Russian athletes from the Olympics and superstar tennis player Maria Sharapova who had all failed tests for meldonium. It seemed like a regimé, not in an altogether deliberate fashion.

The fight scheduled between Deontay Wilder and Povetkin was supposed to take place in a boxing ring. It took place in a courtroom. Wilder and promoter Lou DiBella sued Povetkin and his team for damages, whilst Andrey Ryabinsky from World of Boxing countersued for libel. It was messy.

The last thing that the decorated amateur from Kursk needed was a second failed test. He expressed his surprise at the results when failing a test for levels of Ostarine before facing off against Bermane Stiverne (who was already in Russia for the bout!).

“When in the morning of the day of the fight they said they found something in the blood, I was alarmed and became nervous. I felt bad. It was offensive and not clear to me why it had happened! I did not know what Ostarine was before they said they found it in my blood.”

Povetkin has once again fallen victim to regulation. When researching ostarine, it’s clear to see that cross-contamination could occur with food sources as simple as salt tabs depending on the environment and the equipment used. The level of ostarine detected in the sample was reportedly 0.000000001g. 

Minimal. Incredible. But prohibited.

He made his return to action recently and is embarking on a journey towards the divisions major titles. His only goal is to become World champion once again, but I was intrigued to find out how his love for the sport had been conceived? 

“My father took me to a boxing gym when I was 12. Apart from boxing, I took part in kick-boxing, hand-to-hand fighting, wushu and karate tournaments.”

A student of various martial arts from a young age and a dedicated athlete throughout his school years. The ‘White Lion’ paid homage to those who allowed him to follow his dreams within combat sport,

“I had always the support of my family, especially of my father. My childhood? It was perfect.”

As Povetkin plots his next step, it was fascinating to hear how solid his mindset remained. Regardless of how you view him, the heavyweight contender has a steely focus under pressure and told me what it felt like being back in camp.

“I never left boxing. I kept on training. I was always in this process and today I feel fine. I have a well united and perfect team.”

The tenure of a heavyweight boxer is significantly more extensive than his lighter peers. They can peak in their mid-thirties and fight on impressively into their early forties. Were there any concerns over age for the thirty-seven year old Russian?

“Now I am feeling even better than I did at twenty-seven. Emotionally, I also feel fine. This (winning a World title) is definite. Nothing can stop us.”

The win over Rudenko tells us that Povetkin can go the distance convincingly and has allowed him to shake off any rust he may have carried forward from his fight with Johann Duhaupus. His first points victory in five years has demonstrated that age is seemingly avoiding him. For now. Shall the politics that govern the sanctioning bodies allow him a crack at the top? It remains to be seen.

The last question I asked was around legacy. I was desperate to hear him tell me how he thought history would remember him. How would his trials and tribulations be remembered by his fans and detractors alike?

“I want to win a belt from a World champion. I haven’t thought about that yet.”

He will battle through the rankings. He will battle to repair the reputational damage. What happens after that? The rest, for the timebeing, is still unwritten for the super-talented but problematic Alexander Povetkin.

Written by Craig Scott