On a balmy night in the back garden of Matchroom Headquarters, Russia’s veteran former WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin had shocked the world and reignited his career by rising twice from the canvas to knock out Dillian Whyte with a hellacious left uppercut the Brit did not see coming, in the fifth session.

That only occurred last August but, as the opening bell rang for their rematch in Gibraltar tonight, it seemed like an age ago. Since then, Whyte had added the renowned Harold Knight to a training team headed by Xavier Miller, while Povetkin had been hospitalised by Covid-19, forcing the return back by several months.

With the WBC Interim belt once again on the line and a chance to lead the queue of contenders for whoever emerges ultimately supreme from the two fights between leading lights Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, Whyte and Povetkin once again squared up, both aware they could be hurt by the other.

In a scheduled 12-round main event that began close to midnight local time, the pair appeared cagey for approximately 30 seconds before normal service resumed and the big shots began flying. Whyte with a right hand appeared to wobble Povetkin, whose balance deserted him for a short spell. The Russian sustained a bloody nose in the opener. Whyte popped out his stiff jab in round two, sensibly holding when Povetkin backed him to the ropes. “Sasha” was patient, probing for openings. Povetkin’s head movement and ring IQ remain admirable, but he walked into a stiff right in the third as he looked to land. Whyte can be ragged and ungainly, but that punch was as sharp as they come. Maintaining optimum distance, he was beginning to frustrate Povetkin. Dillian hurt his rival again at the start of the fourth but showed good discipline not to go for broke, given what happened in the summer. When the same thing happened later in the round, courtesy of another big counter right, Whyte did capitalise, landing another then a huge left hook on a retreating and helpess Povetkin to deck him. The Russian rose on unsteady legs and was rightly ruled out.

Just like Lennox Lewis against Hasim Rahman, Whyte avenged a fifth-round defeat with a fourth-session victory. Knight, a man most well known for his work with Lewis, was a significant and valuable figure in this latest redemption story.

The fight of the night on paper looked to be the vacant British super-welterweight title dispute between aggressive box-fighters Ted Cheeseman (Bermondsey) and JJ Metcalf (Liverpool). Cheeseman, despite being seven years the younger man, had fought the better opposition and was a former holder of the Lonsdale Belt. Metcalf, son of cult hero Shea Neary, was the reigning Commonwealth king and unbeaten, but had endured a stop-start career to this point, his first outing in over a year. The pair combined to produce an astonishing 12-rounder, exciting and gruelling, and with a memorable conclusion.

Cheeseman tried to use his reach advantage , with thicker set Metcalf throwing in combination in the early rounds. Cheeseman got busy with the jab in round two and found success with a double left hook, to body then head. The Londoner’s head movement was also impressive, as Metcalf looked a little apprehensive about leading off. Ted buzzed Metcalf with a left hook in the third and picked a lovely right uppercut, but the Liverpudlian wasn’t dissuaded, bringing blood from his rival’s nose and cutting his right eye. JJ was perhaps too patient and Cheeseman broke through with a heavy right hand in the fourth, following up to have his opponent all at sea. It was a nightmare period for Metcalf as, badly bruised under the left eye, he took several additional hard rights but bravely refused to go down. Cheeseman’s energetic assault inevitably dissipated; it was a huge round for him, but had he let Metcalf off the hook?

Cheeseman began the fifth predictably full of confidence, working off his slips and using the ring. Metcalf, however, closed the distance well and landed some telling left hooks and body blows of his own. The Commonwealth ruler mixed things up nicely at close quarters in round six. I had it 58-57 (3-2-1 in rounds) to Cheeseman at halfway but it could easily have been 5-1. Ted was hurt by a right hand in the seventh, as Metcalf came on with fast hands, if slower feet. Cheeseman recovered quickly but the Liverpool man was making inroads. Metcalf tried to impose his physicality in the next, pushing Cheeseman back and leaning on at times. Cheeseman, bleeding from the eye, was in danger of getting bullied.

He decided to fight fire with fire in the ninth, regularly wrestling Metcalf to the ropes and getting the better of the exchanges in close. Mentally, it was a pivotal session for the 25-year-old, who perpetuated those tactics in round 10, which was more competitive. Cheeseman, tired but determined, poured on the pressure in the 11th, his experience of the championship rounds coming in handy. After taking some big shots, Cheeseman suddenly uncorked an overhand right to budge Metcalf before, sensing vulnerability, landing another followed by a clean left hook to drop his man heavily. The referee gave him every chance, but the punch proved the fight-ended it had first appeared.

In a battle of unbeaten, world-ranked welterweights, Portsmouth’s awkward Michael McKinson took a deserved 10-round decision over Chris Kongo of Bermondsey, 97-93, 96-94 and 95-94. McKinson scored a knockdown in the opener and appeared to dominate early on before it became nip-and-tuck thereafter. Tall, powerful Kongo landed some sharp blows but McKinson appeared to grasp control once again in the final two sessions.

Source: Danny Flexen