Hughie Fury (23-2) returns to action just seven weeks after defeating Samuel Peter in Saudi Arabia when he takes his place on the undercard of Vasiliy Lomachenko and Luke Campbell’s clash at the O2 Arena on 31st August. However, this time around he faces much sterner competition in the form of the fearsome 'Russian Vityaz' Alexander Povetkin (34-2), as he steps to face the ex-world title challenger in what will be Fury’s first fight under the Matchroom Boxing banner.
Fury – still only 24 years old – is bidding to slingshot himself back into world title contention, having lost out to Kubrat Pulev in an IBF Title final eliminator last October. The bout with Povetkin will also mark almost two years since Fury contested his only previous world title fight, in which he was defeated by then-WBO champion Joseph Parker – a unanimous decision defeat that the Fury camp still dispute to this day.
For Povetkin, meanwhile, this bout could be considered ‘last chance saloon’ somewhat. The Russki’s last fight was an unsuccessful bid at Anthony Joshua’s WBA, IBF and WBO titles at Wembley Stadium last year, though the 39-year old did not look poor in defeat as he took the fight to Joshua – perhaps a precursor to what was to happen in AJ’s fight with Andy Ruiz Jr in the following June. Prior to his title tilt against Joshua, Povetkin’s only other professional defeat came in a unanimous decision defeat to the great Wladimir Klitschko six years ago.
For years, Povetkin has been considered – even amidst all of his PED controversy – one of, if not the best of the rest of the heavyweight contenders. Despite his age, Povetkin has handily beaten Carlos Takam, Manuel Charr and Christian Hammer since the Klitschko loss and he scored a highlight reel knockout over David Price to help set up the Anthony Joshua fight. His power remains even as his career inevitably dwindles, and his size and style make him a tricky prospect for his opponents: slipping inside of his opponent’s jab, Povetkin frequently finds success with the overhand right over the top against orthodox opponents. He’s most dangerous on the inside given his compact build and relatively smaller stature amongst modern-day heavyweights, where he seeks to land those hooks he has had so much success with in his career.
Fury’s rangier style should come as no surprise given his size and surname, although his biggest critics will all point to a lack of willingness to engage as a clear difference between himself and his older cousin Tyson. Of course, Tyson himself would sooner box long more often than not, rather than sit in the pocket and go to war with an opponent, but Hughie’s output is often far lower and he will steer clear of getting caught brawling.
Styles make fights and it is hard to call how this one will go for a number of reasons, but whoever reigns victorious here will be putting themselves right back in the mix at heavyweight. PED controversy remains around Dillian Whyte after his recent bout with Oscar Rivas, whilst Jarrell Miller undoubtedly has work to do to rebuild his career at the top after the positive tests that cost him his chance at Anthony Joshua earlier this year. Kubrat Pulev is next in line for an IBF title shot, whilst a second loss to Deontay Wilder would certainly spell the end of Luis Ortiz’s world title ambitions with Tyson Fury seemingly next in line for a Wilder rematch. Aside from those names, Joseph Parker and Dereck Chisora seem destined to fight each other soon enough, and Adam Kownacki is coming off a hard, taxing fight with Chris Arreola. There’s a spot as a top contender seemingly up for grabs, and both Povetkin and Fury will be desperate to take it with a win here.
So much of this fight depends on how much Povetkin has left in the tank: almost a full year will have passed by since he last fought in that defeat to Joshua, and the Russian looked good before fading as Joshua made adjustments in that one.
His experience is undeniable however and he is a smart fighter who will probe away until he finds a gap. Fury has a wealth of experience for his age and the Pulev defeat will have taught him so much at this level, but you get the impression that it is ‘now or never’ with him signing for Matchroom – slip up here and it is hard to see how he ever really establishes himself amongst the top heavies.
I think Povetkin’s best chance lies in making this as uncomfortable as possible for Hughie early on and hoping he can do some damage before he invetably slows down and tires, because Hughie will be very cute and try to keep it long for as much of the fight as possible.
A close points win for Fury is my final prediction, and I can actually see him putting a bit of pressure on himself to force a stoppage late on in his Matchroom debut, but he and trainer, uncle Peter, will ultimately be content to see this one out on the cards, if they can.