Joshua vs Povetkin: The man who reinvented Povetkin
Ivan 'The Terrible' Kirpa has a point to prove and a chip on his shoulder
By James Dielhenn & Jon Beloff
Last Updated: 11/09/18 3:38pm
There was a trail of bodies behind Alexander Povetkin, writes James Dielhenn. Not just incapacitated opponents but also former trainers who left him alone, unloved and ill prepared.
Book Joshua vs Povetkin online
Click here for the easy way to ensure you don't miss the Wembley Stadium showdown, on September 22.
Povetkin was a soldier without a sergeant until he was tied down by Ivan 'The Terrible' Kirpa, his fifth pro trainer and a brutal instructor who has earned the right to share his moniker with Russia's first Tsar, one of history's most formidable characters.
It is unusual for a fighter not to have one mentor, sometimes more, whose opinion cuts through an arena full of noise but Povetkin has been his own master for much of his career; he won an Olympic gold medal, then a WBA 'regular' title, while treating the men in his corner like little more than disciples to his lone mission.
Then it fell apart.
Povetkin needed crisis talks in the corner as he was sliding to a points defeat to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, someone to provide clear instructions of how to turn the tables. His trainer, America's Stacey McKinley, had joined the team three weeks prior and despite an interpreter their language barrier prevented fluid communication during the hour of need.
Povetkin's only career defeat led him to his countryman Kirpa, who will lead him into battle against Anthony Joshua on September 22, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Late in his career Povetkin has found a trainer with whom he has gelled and forged a professional understanding.
But the fight against Joshua will not just be Povetkin's shot at glory. It will also be Kirpa's, who was forced into an afterlife as a boxing trainer when his own in-ring career was cut short in a bloody and violent incident that took place at the height of his potential.
Kirpa was an up-and-coming welterweight in the late-90s and early-2000s, whose only loss came to Bradley Pryce in Widnes in 2003.
"I have four wins, one defeat [in the UK] - this defeat gave me some experience for my trainer's career," Kirpa told Sky Sports.
"I made some mistakes in preparation that time. But, in general, I remember this as a really nice and good period of my career and my life."
The Russian contender had recovered from that setback and promoter Don King was leading him towards a world title shot.
"He's a gift from President Vladimir Putin, you know what I mean?" asked King in 2009. "This man is going to come over from Russia and shock the world. He's going to devastate everyone. Not all the people know him yet, but soon, the world is going to know him and see him and celebrate him."
Kirpa won six fighters after his only loss but his career ended outside the ring when an attack left him with severe lacerations to his back.
Ivan 'The Terrible' would never box again.
Povetkin, meanwhile, was steadily interchanging trainers during his ascent to world title level. He didn't like training in the US with Teddy Atlas, Kostya Tsyzu didn't last long, Alexander Zimin had two stints, and McKinley had to go after the Klitschko defeat.
The answer lay close to home, in a Moscow suburb, with a former fighter who had a point to prove and a chip on his shoulder.
"We changed how we did certain things," Kirpa said. "Conditional training, some tactical things. We just paid to attention to a couple of things in training camp. It's not about some weaknesses that we were trying to improve, we just changed the model of training.
"'Sasha' is a really disciplined and responsible person. All my life, the boxers I saw in my career, I don't remember boxers who are so responsible and behaved themselves as professionally. [Povetkin is] involved in the process 100 percent."
It was Kirpa in the corner when Povetkin needed a calm, reassuring voice after David Price uncorked a right hand in Cardiff last year. Povetkin responded ruthlessly, which brings us to his opportunity against Joshua.
"Every boxer has some weaknesses," Kirpa said of Joshua. "But, the key moment is how can you use it? And that's what we're working on in the training camp. To use his weaknesses correctly."
Another pinpoint Povetkin punch would bring redemption to Kirpa who never had his own opportunity on this stage.
"Just simply, I would be really happy," he said. "It also will be the titles for me as a trainer. So we don't have it physically, but we are in the same position as the boxer. And it's the same win as for the boxer."
Watch Joshua vs Povetkin, at Wembley Stadium, on September 22, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book via your Sky remote or book it online here.
Even if you aren't a Sky TV subscriber you can book and watch it at skysports.com/boxofficelive.