Teddy Atlas -- the ESPN analyst and on-again, off-again trainer who helmed Michael Moorer to a heavyweight title in 1994 -- worked with Russia's Alexander Povetkin for more than two years with a singular purpose in mind:
A Cus D'Amato protégé, Atlas, from day one, had Povetkin thinking Klitschko, thinking of ways to take down little brother Wladimir. Atlas drilled into Povetkin, now 34, the holes in Klitschko's game.
"I made it clear to Alex that Wladimir is vulnerable, that when he's not standing tall, controlling space and keeping you at the end of his jab, he doesn't know how to fight," Staten Island resident Atlas told me Wednesday, three days out from Povetkin's challenge of the unified heavyweight champion Klitschko in Moscow.
Atlas and Team Povetkin parted ways before Povetkin was to face cruiserweight Marco Huck in February 2012, because Povetkin became unwilling to travel to the U.S. to train so that Atlas could accommodate his schedule with ESPN.
I put it straight to Atlas: Does Povetkin have a chance to beat Wlad?
"I think he's going to knock out Klitschko," Atlas said.
Nobody has bettered Wlad since 2004, when Lamon Brewster stopped him in Round 5. But Atlas believes Povetkin can bring the 37-year-old Ukrainian back to a dark place and make him recall what it's like to be drowning in the ring.
"I worked with Povetkin on ways to do that," Atlas said. "He pulls straight back, he's vulnerable to rights and left hooks, and sometimes he gets to a place where he loses control, he looks to grab, and there are a lot of things you can do with that. Inside is not his territory."
Atlas said that when pushed to do what he doesn't want to do, Klitschko can resemble a Golden Glover in the squared circle.
"He gets discombobulated," Atlas said, noting that Klitschko has been stopped in each of his three losses. "He unravels, and he can be brought to those places again."
I do wonder: Can Povetkin activate that plan without Atlas to push him? I'm frankly guessing no, that his chances are less with trainer Alexander Zimin helming him. Atlas said he thinks Povetkin can do just as well without him there, indicating that he believes building blocks put in place during their time together will stand.
"I see Povetkin really having a good chance to knock out Wladimir, expose some areas of vulnerability," Atlas said.
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