- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Tuneup fights can be a recipe for disaster. Just ask, for example, former heavyweight contender Tommy Morrison.
He had a done deal worth $8 million to fight Lennox Lewis but took what was supposed to be an easy tuneup fight against Michael Bentt in 1993. In shocking fashion, Bentt -- a massive underdog -- knocked Morrison out in just 93 seconds and the huge-money fight with Lewis went down the drain.
Although they would eventually fight two years later, it was not nearly as big of a fight and Morrison made a fraction of the money.
That is perhaps the most stark example of the tuneup fight turning into a nightmare, but there is always a danger and Russia’s Alexander Povetkin faces just that when he defends his secondary heavyweight belt against anonymous and untested Andrzej Wawrzyk (27-0, 13 KOs) of Poland on Friday night in Moscow.
If Povetkin (25-0, 17 KOs) blows through Wawrzyk then the decision to fight him will be forgotten. But if Povetkin should lose or get hurt it will be an absolute disaster for him.
Povetkin is going into the fight with a long-awaited showdown against champion Wladimir Klitschko on the schedule for Aug. 31. Klitschko crushed Francesco Pianeta in six one-sided rounds on May 4 in his tuneup defense.
Making the stakes even greater than just Povetkin’s shot at the real champion is the sheer amount of money at stake.
When the Klitschko and Povetkin camps could not make a deal the fight went to a purse bid and Russian promoter Vladimir Hryunov, who doesn’t promote either fighter, stunned everyone with an astronomical bid of $23,333,330, the third-biggest winning purse bid ever for a fight that most experts believe won’t come even close to generating that kind of money. But Hryunov put down his 10 percent deposit and both sides believe his bid is legit and that he won’t default.
Based on that massive bid -- which blew away bids from Klitschko’s K2 Promotions ($7.13 million) and Povetkin promoter Sauerland Event ($6.014 million) -- Klitschko is due a career-high payday of $17,499,997 (75 percent of the bid) with Povetkin due the remaining 25 percent for a career-best $5,833,333.
Povetkin knows what is at stake Friday but did his best to ignore the Klitschko talk at Wednesday’s final news conference.
“I am putting my belt on the line, so this is a very important fight for me,” Povetkin said. “I promise to give it all I have. My opponent’s name on Friday is Wawrzyk and not Klitschko. I am fully focused on him and want to give the fans inside the arena a great show.”
Wawrzyk would love nothing more than to repeat what Bentt did to Morrison 20 years ago.
“As soon as they offered me to fight Povetkin, I accepted,” he said. “This could be the chance of a lifetime. I have been in training anyways so I was ready from the get-go and I will try everything possible to burst the bubble that is the fight between Povetkin and Klitschko.”
Tuneup fights can be a recipe for disaster. Just ask, for example, former heavyweight contender Tommy Morrison.He had a done deal worth $8 million to fight Lennox Lewis but took what was supposed to be an easy tuneup fight against Michael Bentt in 1993.