Heavyweight: Alexander Povetkin knocked out Dillian Whyte

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Alexander Povetkin knocked out Dillian Whyte with a stunning uppercut in the fifth round Saturday to shatter Whyte’s hopes of fighting for the WBC world heavyweight title next year.

As the WBC’s highest-ranked contender, Whyte looked to be on course to secure a shot at the winner of the 2021 bout between heavyweight champion Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder after dropping Povetkin twice in the fourth round. But at 40, Povetkin remains a lethal puncher, and a sweet left uppercut put Whyte onto his back for a shock defeat 30 seconds into Round 5 at a crowdless event in the garden of promoter Matchroom’s office headquarters in Essex, England.

It was totally unexpected — Povetkin was on the brink of defeat in the fourth round and had shown no hint of threatening Whyte. Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn said he will now try to secure a rematch for Whyte, but his long wait for a WBC world title shot just got longer.

“I can’t quite believe it,” Hearn said. “When the punch landed I felt like I was in a dream. After two knockdowns I felt it was over, but this is the drama of heavyweight boxing and one punch completely changed the fight.

READ ALSO: Dillian Whyte vows to brutalize Anthony Joshua after he promised him a punch

“We have a rematch clause, and the first thing Dillian said to me was, ‘Get me that rematch.’ … We’ll exercise that rematch clause. We’ll look to make that before the end of the year, and it’s a huge fight. He will rematch Alexander Povetkin and bring his No. 1 position back to life.”

The winner of Fury and Wilder could now go directly into a mega-money fight against Anthony Joshua, the WBA-IBF-WBO world champion, to decide the undisputed world heavyweight champion next summer. The WBC confirmed earlier this week that if Whyte beat Povetkin, the winner of Fury-Wilder III had to fight Whyte next in 2021.

“One of the stumbling blocks was the mandatory of Dillian Whyte. Povetkin will not be for called for that mandatory, so it frees up AJ to fight the winner of Fury-Wilder,” Hearn said.

Joshua (23-1, 21 KOs), 30, from England like Fury and Whyte, fights Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev at a rearranged date in December yet to be confirmed, while no date has been announced for Fury-Wilder 3.

Jamaica-born, South London-based Whyte (27-2, 18 KOs), 32, had been the leading contender for the WBC for more than 1,000 days; now he faces a longer journey to a first world title shot. Whyte badly needed a better night than his previous ring outing, in December, when he weighed a career heaviest and was sluggish in a points win over Mariusz Wach. Whyte was cleared of a doping violation on the eve of the fight.

He was nearly 19 pounds lighter for Povetkin and a lot more muscular. On paper, Povetkin (36-2-1, 25 KOs) was Whyte’s toughest assignment since he finished flat on his back following a right uppercut from English rival Joshua five years ago. The Russian boxer has been among the world’s heavyweight elite for a decade, and has twice lost world title attempts, against Joshua (2018) by seventh-round stoppage and Wladimir Klitschko (2013) on a wide points decision.

But Povetkin never looked a threat Saturday until the fifth round. His timing was off in the third round as he was continually caught by the jab and Whyte comfortably blocked his attacks to the body. Whyte targeted the body late in the third and looked to be in total control as he landed two right hands and a short left hook to drop the Russian to a knee for a count. Povetkin was down again late in the fourth when Whyte landed a left uppercut, and it seemed the fight was going in one direction only.

But early in the fifth, Povetkin uncorked a sweet left uppercut that left Whyte laid out on his back.

READ ALSO: Tyson Fury to face Dillian Whyte if he defeats Deontay Wilder

“I didn’t feel I would finish the fight like this,” Povetkin said through an interpreter. “I went down twice, but it was OK, not too much damage. I was watching his fights and I was thinking he was missing uppercuts from left and the right, so I was training for it. It’s probably one of my best-ever punches.”