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Joshua vs Povetkin referee: Why he will be mega important

Lee Cleveland Updated
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Will Joshua vs Povetkin on September 22 resemble Klitschko vs Povetkin a few years ago?

Perhaps it all depends on who is selected to referee the affair?

Let's cycle back to October 2013 when then-lineal heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko faced Alexander Povetkin in the latter's native Russia.

A lot of experts wondered how Wlad would deal with the challenger's elite-level pedigree and formidable punching power - And we saw it.

Punch, clinch and hold... punch, clinch and tackle... punch, hold and hug. Grapple, punch and push. Maul, grapple, punch and push.

On that night, the champion, showing tremendous respect for the Russian, was determined to win "by any means necessary."

And in the end Wlad did just that, winning 119-104 on all three cards in an ugly affair. Klitschko improved to 61-3, 51 KOs while the previously unbeaten Alexander Povetkin dropped to 26-1, 18 KOs.

Povetkin hasn't lost since.

Wlad scored a bunch of knockdowns, pushdowns and tackles, and some of the ruled-knockdowns were arguably pushdowns. And while he was able to stun Povetkin a few times, Alex never appeared to be in serious danger despite all the time he spent on the canvas.

"For the first few rounds, he was trying to rough up Klitschko and did make him a bit uncomfortable," said ESPN's Dan Rafael after the fight.

"But Klitschko did what his late, great trainer Emanuel Steward had taught him to do so effectively, the same strategy Steward had taught Hall of Fame former champ Lennox Lewis: to use his size advantage to tie up his opponent and to lean on him to sap his energy."

"Klitschko often uses the strategy of punching and then tying up, especially early in a fight. But against Povetkin, it was Klitschko's primary weapon and it made for an ugly fight."

Team Joshua has certainly studied that fight and it'll be interesting to see if Anthony implements a similar or partial strategy. And it'll be equally as interesting to find out if Alex will incorporate some new wrinkles in preparation for another mauling affair.

... But perhaps the most important element, as it relates to Joshua implementing all or part of Klitschko's game plan, will be the referee selection. Will he be as liberal or hands-off as Referee Luis Pabon was for Klitschko vs Povetkin?

If Pabon wasn't going to warn Klitschko for the constant learning and clinching, why would he stop doing what was so effective? The same may hold true for Joshua should he use some semblance of that strategy.

Nevertheless, the following tactics implemented by Wlad, despite his skillful execution, are (in theory) against the rules of boxing:

  • Holding and hitting
  • Excessive holding/clinching
  • Tackling and wrestling/takedowns
  • Excessive pushing

Conservative referees have a strict interpretation of the rules and don’t allow all that grappling/mauling/holding without warnings, point deductions and the possibility of a subsequent disqualification should those actions persist.

In boxing, as in most sports, a referee has a lot of discretion and fouls, especially those of the less serious variety, are subjective.

The referee selection for Joshua vs Povetkin may prove very pivotal in determining fighter strategies and what happens in the ring.

Klitschko vs Povetkin highlights


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