Unbeaten heavyweight Alexander Povetkin (17-0, 12 KOs) celebrated a successful return from injury on Saturday night as he defeated Jason Estrada in a battle of Olympians. IBF/WBO/IBO heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko now has to face IBF mandatory challenger Povetkin after his voluntary title defence against David Haye on June 20. “I finally want to accomplish my dream and fight [Klitschko],” Povetkin stated. “Obviously, it will be a completely different fight from today because Klitschko is much bigger and not as fast as Estrada. I still have to improve a few areas of my game but I am ready for him. I cannot wait for the fight to happen.” Kalle Sauerland added, “We are ready for Klitschko. This was a good tune-up fight. Alexander has been working very hard to finally get the world title shot and he cannot wait to fight Wladimir.”
The White Lion turned it on in the later rounds and was close to dropping Estrada thanks to some heavy shots, but the American survived. The scores were 99-94, 98-92 and 97-93. “Had this fight lasted only a little longer, Povetkin would have stopped Estrada,” manager Wilfried Sauerland said. “After his injury it took him a little time to find his rhythm, but we are pleased with his comeback. He has not fought for a long time, so this was a good test.”
In his last real challenge, Povetkin had edged Eddie Chambers on points in January 2008 before stopping Taurus Sykes in July. He was expected to face Wladimir Klitschko in December but an ankle injury forced him to postpone the eagerly anticipated showdown. “It was good to be fighting again,” Povetkin said. “I needed some time to get going. I want to thank Jason for giving me a hard and fair fight. I enjoyed being in the ring with him. I will draw the right conclusions from it.”
It was a tough fight from the first bell on, with Estrada (15-1, 3 KOs) making good use of his speed throughout. There was a lot of infighting, with Povetkin cleverly dominating for most of the time. “He is a strong boxer,” Estrada lauded. “I think it was a close and a very good fight. I had expected him to be a little more aggressive, so I had to change my game plan. I tried to jab more but he took it away from me.”
Povetkin started to hurt Estrada with his trademark combinations in the later rounds and got him into trouble in the tenth when he connected with several huge shots. However, the bell saved the American.
In the co-featured main event, EU heavyweight champion Francesco Pianeta (18-0-1, 11 KOs) retained his title with a draw against hard-hitting Polish veteran Albert Sosnowski (44-2-1, 27 KOs). After twelve crowd-pleasing rounds which featured numerous tough exchanges, the judges had it 113-115, 116-114 and 114-114.
“I am proud of Francesco,” coach Ulli Wegner said. “He is just 24 years of age and fought a great fight against a tough opponent with a brilliant record. That was a major test for him.” Sosnowski started out strongly, trying to use his speed and movement to stamp his authority on the bout. But Pianata´s defence stood tall, and the youngster would please his ferocious home crowd by firing in precise shots to body and head throughout the entire fight. At the end of the fifth, he seemed to have his opponent in trouble, but Sosnowski hung on, just as in the eighth when Pianeta landed some heavy hands to wobble him. It remained a close encounter until the end for both fighters to leave the ring with their heads held high. “I was a little disappointed because I wanted to give my home fans a victory,” Pianeta said. “But he was a strong opponent. It was a good learning experience for me.” Sosnowski was also pleased with his performance. “Francesco is a tough guy and he fought very cleverly,” he said. “It was a very close fight.”
On the undercard, local hero Nadia Raoui (10-0, 3 KOs) clinched the WIBA flyweight title with a spectacular win over Maria Rosa Tabbuso (12-4, 3 KOs). Raoui proved incredible stamina as she kept attacking for the entire fight, often punishing her opponent with big series to body and head. “I am so happy to have won,” she enthused afterwards. “I am pleased with my performance. It was a hard fight and I gave it all I could. It has always been my dream to be world champion one day.”