It was a tough decision for ESPN boxing analyst and longtime trainer Teddy Atlas. He had a willing student in Alexander Povetkin, but the circumstances weren’t optimal. Povetkin lived in Russia, while Atlas had his commitment to “ESPN’s Friday Night Fights”.
Atlas had decided not train Povetkin initially because he couldn’t be away from his ESPN job for so long. But Povetkin agreed to come to New Jersey to train with Atlas. That deal fell through as Povetkin, for reasons even Atlas doesn’t know, didn’t make the trip.
So Atlas made the decision not to train Povetkin (21-0, 15 KOs) for his heavyweight fight against Ruslan Chagaev (27-1-1, 17 KOs) for the vacant WBA title on August 27.
“Obviously [the training] was during the ESPN season. I do Friday Night Fights, as you mentioned and the understanding was that if the fight took place during the ESPN season that Povetkin and his guys would come over to me to the U.S., which they’ve done before,” Atlas explained. “This time, for some reason, they did not come over and that caused a predicament.”
Atlas was ready to walk away until he discovered that Povetkin’s camp didn’t have a replacement. Atlas wasn’t sure if Povetkin knew he had decided to step away from training him. It was Povetkin’s plight that prompted Atlas to change his mind and take the flight to Czechov, Russia to train the 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist.
Said Atlas: “Because we didn’t have the situation that was agreed to, my brain told me that a little bit, but my heart told me, do I want to be thinking about the fighter being left alone? And I didn’t want to be thinking about that.”
But their time together was short. When it’s all said and done, the two will have only spent three weeks and two days together. Atlas said he would’ve preferred eight weeks, but he believes Povetkin got a lot done in the limited time allotted.
Will it be enough?
“I think we’ve done a good job getting the strategy in place. We understand what will work against Chagaev and what to be concerned about with Chagaev,” said Atlas. “My biggest concern was having not the full amount of time for physical training, that’s my biggest concern that we didn’t have that and the full amount of time in sparring. But again, with the time we had, I saw progress.”