Alexander Povetkin, according to many ringside observers, showed in his fight with Marco Huck last month he's not quite ready to leave the nest. Insiders believe Povetkin still needs the guidance, nurturing and protection that only his mentor, Teddy Atlas, can provide.
In a gritty performance but underwhelming performance, Povetkin won a controversial majority decision in a bout many believe he clearly lost. General consensus was that Marco Huck, the WBO cruiserweight champion who was making his debut at heavyweight, got the better of the bigger and seemingly stronger Povetkin. And some are saying it was the underdog Huck, and not Povetkin, who gained the admiration and endearment of fans with his valiant effort. Within hours after the bout, buzz had already been generated about the possibility of Huck fighting other top heavyweights as boxing fans around the world expressed interest in seeing him fight again.
In the past, Teddy Atlas was arguably the most valuable element in Povetkin's arsenal - especially when the Russian heavyweight was taken into 'deep water.' Onlookers have noticed that Alex tends to run out of gas in the latter rounds.
Atlas' value as trainer to Povetkin was most evident when the Russian heavyweight won his WBA 'Regular' heavyweight title in August in a title eliminator with former titlist Ruslan Chagaev. With Povetkin slowing down and starting to look ground, Atlas, who is known for his unorthodox antics and dramatic speeches in the ring corner, dug deep into bag of tricks to find the words to inspire and ultimately uplift his fading fighter.
With his opponent, Ruslan Chagaev, coming on strong and winning rounds, Atlas, in between rounds, told Alex that the eyes of his recently-deceased father were looking down upon him, expecting his son to win. Teddy Atlas also wisely reminded his pupil there was limited time left in the bout while imploring Alex to fight hard and outwork his opponent for the fight's remaining six minutes.
Many insiders allege Atlas's expertise was sorely missed in his fight with Huck as Povetkin appeared to run out of gas in the fifth round. And in the twelfth, a weary Povetkin nearly went down after several hard shots from the smaller, faster Huck. Had Huck unleashed hard, crisp uppercuts on the inside, Povetkin may not have been able to avoid getting knocked down - or knocked out.
What difference would Teddy Atlas have made in the Huck fight?
Some argue had Povetkin trained under Atlas, the Russian would have been in better shape and not gotten winded so soon. Visibly gasping for air at the start of the fifth, Povetkin may have missed out on several opportunities to knockout his foe due to Alex's lack of conditioning.
Prior to badly tiring, Povetkin looked to be getting the better of his younger opponent. Connecting on several stiff left jabs and clean and effective straight right hand combinations, Povetkin appeared to seize control of the bout early on. Some assert if Teddy Atlas had trained Povetkin, the Russian would have not tired so quickly and, as a result, may have gotten an easier, more decisive victory.
Some will also argue that Teddy Atlas would have developed a superior game-plan for dealing with Huck's speed and precision. Huck, although effective, looked one-dimensional as he appeared overly-focused on simply dropping his big right hand.
And important side note to the bout was the disputable performance of referee Luis Pabon who received widespread criticism after the fight for allegedly separating the fighters too quickly - actions that seemed to work to the WBA titlist's advantage nearly every time.
Initially saying he wouldn't watch the fight, Teddy Atlas eventually succumbed and tuned-in. After his former pupil's performance, Atlas, via ESPN, said of Povetkin, "He looked horrible... He was gulping for air from round four on." Atlas also referenced the referee, asserting Pabon's questionable performance 'helped Povetkin immensely.'
Teddy Atlas says he feels so betrayed by Povetkin he may never train another fighter again. And Atlas has, arguably, one of the most coveted positions in boxing as an analyst for ESPN's Friday Night Fights so training fighters isn't his primary gig and hasn't been for quite some time. Only time will tell if he decides to become a part-time trainer again.
Would Atlas change his mind if Povetkin apologized? Some say Atlas, who is known for his forgiving nature, would forgive and forget if Povetkin approached him in a humble and sincere manner.
Teddy Atlas is an accomplished trainer who assisted in the training duties of Mike Tyson during the early and mid 1980s. Years later, Atlas worked the corner of former light heavyweight champion Donny Lalonde and briefly with featherweight great Barry McGuigan. And in 1994, he achieved mainstream recognition after guiding southpaw Michael Moorer, a former light heavyweight titlist, to heavyweight championship glory in 1994.
If Povetkin choses to repair his relationship with Atlas will it propel the Russian to higher heights, including wins over boxing's dominant heavyweight duo, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko?
Many believe Team Povetkin should spare no expense in regaining Atlas' services. The consequences may be devastating otherwise.