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Rumble on the Rock

Saturday March 27th is the date set for the highly anticipated rematch between professional heavyweight boxers Dillian Whyte and Alexander Povetkin. For post lockdown Gibraltar, this event, to be held at the Europa Sports Park, is expected to be a thrilling return to the world of international sports. 

Former WBC Interim champion Dillian Whyte from Brixton, London is looking to settle a score, having lost his first fight to Povetkin in August 2020 when knocked out by a surprise uppercut which left Whyte on the canvas. Whyte immediately activated his rematch option. 

The event was originally set to take place on 21st November 2020; however, it was postponed when Povetkin tested positive for COVID-19 and had to be hospitalised. Whilst some were worried about the effects that Covid might have had on Povetkin, Russia’s WBC Interim Heavyweight Champion, the boxer has assured the public that other than delaying the rematch, COVID-19 has had no long-term effects on him; he is well, and his training has been going to plan.

Whyte agrees that this situation has not given him a greater advantage over Povetkin, arguing that not only has plenty of time been allowed for the Russian boxer’s recovery, but that if Povetkin did not feel ready to fight, there was no pressure on him to do so. “I want the best Povetkin in the ring that I can fight,” he went on to say. 

Whyte has found the delays frustrating; however, this has only fuelled more his desire to win over his rival. He told the Gibraltar Magazine: “The thought of victory and revenge and vengeance motivate me. It’s all about winning.”  

Dillian Whyte is currently in Gibraltar and staying at the Sunborn Hotel. Immediately prior to this, he had been training in Portugal, and he finds Gibraltar substantially similar; Mediterranean food, similar weather and similar people. What struck him about Gibraltar was how it also makes him feel like he is still in England: “The set up couldn’t be better,” he said. 

“The thought of victory and revenge and vengeance motivate me. It’s all about winning.” – Whyte

There has been speculation in the world’s sports press that Alexander Povetkin, almost ten years older than Whyte, at 41, might be at a disadvantage, but he swiftly dispelled any such suggestions. He explained that he was training as hard as ever and that age has had no impact on his fitness; “I feel as if I’m still 25”. 

That single knockout punch he delivered to Dillian Whyte last summer was described by Povetkin as “memorable.” He had been training to punch in this way and whilst some commentators might have referred to this as a ‘lucky punch’, Povetkin claims this was simply the result of thorough training. 

There has been some debate since the summer of 2020 that Dillian Whyte still might be trying to fight the ghosts of that particular punch, but when asked directly, he instantly dismissed this, saying “with what I’ve been through in life, a knockout in a sport where I am turning my life around and making a future for me and my family is nothing. It was just another night. I’ve had 2 losses in 29 fights. I’ve come up swimming against the waves, and for me this was nothing. We readjust, we go again, and we get the revenge.” 

For his part, there is no question for Povetkin that he is in Gibraltar to win this fight decisively. He exudes calm, and an aura of collected strength. He told the Gibraltar Magazine that, “on the day of a fight, I tend to think about how I’m going to box, and I plan ahead for the fight. I think about techniques, my boxing style and I focus on how I am going to win. I really try to ignite a fire within myself just before the fight.”  

Both fighters know that the crowd of spectators in Gibraltar will be seriously limited because of the COVID-19 restrictions with their requirements for pre-match testing and social distancing. This will not deter them from performing to their absolute best. “I can fight with no one around, just one on one” said Povetkin, “I am confident, and I am coming to win the fight.” 

Meanwhile, Dillian Whyte might be expected to feel a sense of pressure in the build-up to Saturday night, but instead, he relishes the thought of getting into the ring. “There is pressure” he told us “after all, you’re performing in front of people, but it’s nothing compared to the things I’ve been through in life.” 

He was referring to the idea that boxing is considered a dangerous sport by some, and he pointed out that while he was growing up, he had been exposed to far more dangerous situations than a boxing ring. When we asked if he ever experiences nerves when building up to stepping into the ring for a fight he said, “Generally, I’m just very relaxed. This is a sport, there’s rules, there is medical assistance, you get health checked, you get blood tests and so you’re going in the ring very healthy.” 

‘Rumble on the Rock’ has already sold out but can be viewed on Sky Sports Box Office. The undercard includes professional boxing debut for Campbell Hatton, son of Ricky ‘The Hitman’ Hatton. Undeniably, the highlight of the night will be the revenge battle between Povetkin and Whyte.  

Feature by Carmen Anderson.

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