- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's fights are not always easy to watch. In fact, sometimes, like on Saturday, they are messy and frustrating. But the champ sure is effective, and his historic title reign continued.
Although he spent considerable time initiating clinches and draping his body over Alexander Povetkin's back after throwing a punch or combination, Klitschko also scored four knockdowns -- the first four times Povetkin had ever been off his feet as a professional or amateur -- in yet another utterly dominant victory, this time rolling to a 119-104 decision on all three judges' scorecards before some 15,000 on Saturday at the SC Olimpiyskiy Arena in Moscow.
Klitschko, who defended the title for the 15th time, used his four-inch height advantage and 16-pound weight advantage as he leaned on and clinched Povetkin after virtually every punch or combination he threw. And referee Luis Pabon did not do the fans or Povetkin any favors by ignoring it completely.
Despite the monotony of seeing Klitschko crack Povetkin with a powerful left jab and then fall on him, the champ also landed a lot of clean, hard shots, busted up Povetkin's face, scored the four knockdowns and left no doubt that he was still the king of the heavyweights with no serious challenger looming.
As has been the case throughout his seven-plus-year title reign -- the second-longest in history behind only Joe Louis -- Klitschko was again the dominant winner, remarkably routing Povetkin without being credited with landing a single body punch.
A mandatory challenger and secondary titlist, Povetkin was expected to at least give Klitschko some competition in the long-awaited showdown between the 1996 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist from Ukraine (Klitschko) and the 2004 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist from Russia (Povetkin), but he could not.
Povetkin (26-1, 18 KOs), 34, made things slightly interesting early on as he tried to make it a brawl for the first few rounds -- really his only way to win -- and made Klitschko look uncomfortable at times, charging him and winging punches. But Klitschko answered with cracking left hooks and jabs. After eating enough of them, Povetkin was dissuaded from his strategy and reduced to surviving while looking for a home run punch.
Klitschko (61-3, 52 KOs), 37, landed a powerful left hook in the first round and seemed to hurt Povetkin near the end of the round, but Pabon ruled it a slip. But there was no mistaking the knockdown in the second round, when Klitschko landed a fast, clean, short left hook that dropped Povetkin for the first time in his life.
Slowly but surely, Klitschko sapped Povetkin's strength with his punches and leaning on top of him, and he nearly ended the fight in the seventh round, which was a disaster for Povetkin, who went down three times.
First, Klitschko hammered Povetkin with a sensational jab-right hand combination to floor him hard in the first minute of the round. Then came an onslaught that included a brutal left hook that dropped him again.
Povetkin was badly hurt. He was staggering and trying to hold on when he went down for the third time from another series of shots.
Povetkin, who earned a career-best $5,833,333, his 25 percent share of the massive $23,333,330 purse bid engineered by Russian businessman Andrey Ryabinsky, was exhausted when the round finally ended, and it looked like it was going to be a matter of whether he would finish the fight on his feet or get knocked out.
To Povetkin's credit, although he continued to take punishment -- his right eye was badly bruised and his left eye was cut -- he showed heart. But he was a badly beaten man. When Klitschko shoved him in the 11th, he went down in a pile on top of his lifeless legs and Pabon docked a meaningless point from Klitschko for the infraction. That deduction led to an even round and was all that kept Klitschko from a 12-0 shutout.
Klitschko, whose 75 percent take of the purse bid was a career-high $17,499,997, has won virtually every round of his title reign as he continued to climb the historic ladder.
Already with the second-longest title reign, Klitschko's 15 successful defenses are the third-most all time in the heavyweight division behind Larry Holmes (20) and Louis (25, boxing's all-time record for any division).
The victory, his third since bringing on Johnathon Banks as his head trainer in the wake of the untimely death in October 2012 of Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, was Klitschko's 22nd in a world title fight across two title reigns. That tied him with Muhammad Ali for second place in heavyweight history, trailing only Louis' 26 wins in championship fights.
That is the kind of dominant champion Povetkin was up against as he finally faced Klitschko after their fight had twice before been called off (in 2008 and 2012) when Povetkin pulled out, giving up mandatory title shots and, at the time, career money.
On Saturday, he finally made it to the ring in front of his home fans to face the dominant Klitschko. He paid a steep price with the beating he took.