Russian WBA heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin on Friday began sparring ahead of a title defense next month without trainer Teddy Atlas, who has reportedly refused to fly to Moscow to aid the fighter in his preparations.
Povetkin's camp is still expecting Atlas to arrive in Moscow ahead of the February 25 fight against Marco Huck in Germany, despite a report quoting the legendary trainer as saying work commitments would keep him in the U.S.
"We spoke yesterday. We have a dispute and I think that by the end of it, Atlas will fly to Russia," Povetkin's manager Vladimir Hrunov told RIA Novosti.
Atlas, who has a 2 1/2-year history with Povetkin and coached him to his first title against Ruslan Chagaev in September, was quoted as saying "that's impossible."
"I don’t know why Vlad is saying that. He knows that’s impossible," Atlas said in comments carried by thesweetscience.com, maintaining that Povetkin should fly to the U.S. to train for the fight.
Atlas was quoted as saying that he is only free to visit Russia when his contract as a commentator with U.S. sports broadcaster ESPN is not in effect, and that the Povetkin camp agreed to that arrangement.
"When ESPN is not broadcasting I go to Russia to train Sasha but when our broadcasting schedule starts the agreement is he comes here. I don’t know what they’re telling him but the fighter knows that."
Hrunov argued the agreement was that Atlas could come at any time, and would be wholly reimbursed for any work missed with ESPN as a result.
"Teddy Atlas' contract stipulates what decision is taken in this instance. We had the same situation in the summer, when he came to Russia, and we compensated him," Hrunov said, referring to the run-up to the Chagaev fight, which Povetkin won in Erfurt, Germany, by unanimous decision.
Hrunov's objections were also centered on the fact that Atlas allegedly had no immediate obligations in the United States.
"Look at the ESPN schedules. This week there are no such shows at all. Teddy Atlas could easily come and do two weeks with Povetkin in Chekhov," the fighter's training base near Moscow. "Also, in the contract it's written that if he wants to return to the U.S. to work with the channel, we'll pay his business class flight."
Hrunov also appeared puzzled at Atlas' recommendation that the fighter fly across so many time zones ahead of the title defense.
"When Atlas says that Povetkin should train only in America, that's just not right. Alexander has a title fight, and the training is planned for Russia. Atlas was told this in good time. My task is to create the best possible conditions for Povetkin, putting the boxer's interests first. Tell me where's the logic in flying from Europe, training in America, then returning to Europe?"
Povetkin, meanwhile, has begun sparring with two U.S. boxers. Hrunov said earlier another four training partners were expected in the coming days.