The long matriculation of 2004 Olympic Gold Medallist Alexander Povetkin came to a close last night as the Russian outboxed ex-WBA titlist Ruslan Chagaev to capture the vacant WBA heavyweight belt at Messehalle in Erfurt, Germany.
The bout started slowly as the combatants sized each other up with probing jabs and a vast array of fake moves and pulled punches.
By the third things began to heat up a bit as Povetkin started putting his shots together, following the jab with a straight right and a more effective left uppercut.
Chagaev didn't lead very often, content to sit back and wait for openings for his power left hand and while he did score at times with the punch when Povetkin didn't get back out or cover up after throwing, the Uzbek southpaw wasn't given many opportunities.
Povetkin began mixing in left hands to the body that provided an excellent bookend to the jab, right, left uppercut combinations that were winning rounds.
Chagaev simply wasn't active enough to take many rounds. Povetkin managed to nullify most of Chagaev's efforts by backing off whenever the former WBA champ came forward with punches and also keeping Chagaev on the defensive.
The fifth round saw Chagaev get in a good counter left and the 32 year old went into the sixth with more confidence, doing a better job in closing distance to Povetkin.
The early part of the sixth saw Chagaev nail Povetkin with three heavy lefts in close succession and while Povetkin was shaken up, he kept Chagaev at bay by going right back to work with good right hands.
Chagaev did catch Povetkin with a sharp right on the ropes later in the frame but the Russian took it and went right back to work.
The seventh saw Chagaev stalking and letting go a fair number of whistling lefts that either missed or only glanced a tired looking Povetkin, who fought back with jab, right hand sequences that would force Chagaev to reset his plans each time.
There was a good exchange at the end of the round as Povetkin got in a good right only to get immediately countered with a nice left.
Still on the offensive in the eighth, Chagaev was winging haymakers anytime he got near his rival until Povetkin started to short circuit this approach by jumping in with a lead right, uppercut or left to the body.
Povetkin took control in the ninth by upping his activity rate and punishing Chagaev on the inside with sweet combinations of hooks and uppercuts.
Chagaev became less ambitious but managed a good right, left sequence after fielding a sharp body combination from Povetkin.
The tenth saw Povetkin come out swinging and shake Chagaev with a right. Povetkin picked good moments to move in and unload combinations as Chagaev tried to shell up behind a high guard, throwing a few scoring counters in return but was being outworked.
The first half of the eleventh was uneventful with Povetkin the busier, more accurate fighter when things stepped up in the later stages of the frame.
The twelfth saw several good exchanges as the tired fighters tried to catch each other but no one landed anything big before the final bell sounded.
Povetkin took a unanimous decision, winning the WBA heavyweight belt on scores of 117-113, 117-113 and 116-112, improving to 22-0 (15), while Chagaev falls to 27-2-1 (17).
The undercard saw heavyweight Robert Helenius, 16-0 (10), continue his climb up the divisional ladder as the Swede followed up his KO of Samuel Peter with a stoppage of former WBO titlist Siarhei Liakhovich, 25-4 (16).
Liakhovich enjoyed success in the first half of the bout, getting in multiple left hooks to the body and head of the taller, less mobile Helenius.
But when the patient Helenius finally began to open up with the right hand during the contest's second half, Liakhovich was getting punished.
Liakhovich was hurt in the eighth and was finished off in the ninth after getting nailed with a perfect uppercut.
Helenius retains his WBA and WBO Intercontinental titles for the first time.