Heavyweights Alexander Povetkin and Michael Hunter battled to a fierce draw in a world title elimination bout in the co-feature of the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Anthony Joshua rematch on Saturday at Diriyah Stadium in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia.

They were fighting to become one of the mandatory challengers for the winner of Saturday’s main event, but neither could claim the spot after a hard-fought and highly competitive bout.

Hunter, a former cruiserweight world title challenger, went right at Povetkin at the opening bell looking for an early knockout. He rattled Povetkin with an early right hand and made it a rough round.

In the second round, Hunter, who is trained by former heavyweight world champion Hasim Rahman, continued to go after Povetkin, whom he nailed with a straight right hand that sent Povetkin into the ropes. Povetkin responded by landing a heavy right hand in the final seconds of the round.

Povetkin (35-2-1, 24 KOs), 40, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, landed a powerful left hook that caught Hunter on the chin along the ropes and nearly dropped him in a big fifth round. They rocked each other in the close seventh round. Hunter (18-1-1, 12 KOs), 31, of Las Vegas, a 2012 U.S. Olympian, clipped Povetkin with a right to the body that hurt Povetkin, who spent the rest of the seventh round looking to tie him up.

Hunter had a big 11th round when he hurt Povetkin with a left hand to the body and followed up with two right hands that rocked Povetkin along the ropes and forced him to tie him up. Hunter later nailed Povetkin with a right uppercut in a dominating round.

There were several close rounds that could have gone either way, although Hunter dominated in terms of the CompuBox statistics. He landed 140 of 558 punches (25%), while Povetkin landed 95 of 393 (24%).

“I don’t make the score, so I don’t know what to say,” Hunter said. “I just have to get back to the drawing board. I thought I did enough [to win]. But obviously the judges didn’t think so. I hope that we have another chance to fight him again. I don’t like to leave any stone unturned so I definitely want to do it again.”

Povetkin said he was also game for a rematch.

“I think it was a 50-50 fight. I want to thank Michael Hunter for a good fight, a real good rumble,” he said through a translator. “I respect Michael a lot and I want to do it again.”

Hunter was facing his best opponent as a heavyweight in Povetkin, who twice had failed drug tests for banned substances but had suffered his only losses to top opponents — a one-sided decision to Wladimir Klitschko in a 2013 world title fight, and a seventh-round knockout Joshua in September 2018. Povetkin had won one fight since the loss to Joshua, taking a decision from Hughie Fury on Aug. 31.


Whyte wins decision vs. Wach

Heavyweight contender Dillian Whyte was not in top condition, but easily outpointed former world title challenger Mariusz Wach. Whyte won by scores of 98-93, 97-93 and 97-93.

Whyte, who weighed a career-high 271 pounds for the fight, had been controversially added to the card only a couple of weeks ago, even though he still had a doping violation hanging over his head, stemming from a test tied to his July 20 decision over Oscar Rivas. However, on Friday, United Kingdom Anti-Doping announced that it had withdrawn the charge against Whyte.

Whyte (27-1, 18 KOs), 31, of England, was clearly not at his best, having taken the fight on short notice, but he dominated Wach (35-6, 19 KOs), 39, of Poland. Whyte consistently landed his jab, as well as left hooks to the body — his best weapon — and head.

“I boxed nowhere near my standard,” Whyte said. “I’ve been off for six months, and people have been screwing me left and right. My mind hasn’t been in the right place, but I carried on training. I took this fight on three weeks’ notice, came in about a stone and a half overweight, but with my defense and stuff, I knew I could get through him. I wanted to stop him but he’s tough. It’s just good to be back in there. Everyone has been screwing me, apart from a handful of people. I’ve been through hell these past couple of months but we are here.

“I feel great to have even made it to the fight because where I was two or three months ago was a dark place. I thought about walking away from boxing. A few times I thought, ‘You know, I’ve made a bit of money, I can take it, run off into the night and live my life.'”

Whyte accomplished what he needed to in this fight — he got back into the ring and stayed on course for a likely title shot. He is expected to be re-installed as the mandatory challenger for titlist Deontay Wilder, now that the doping charge against Whyte has been dropped.

Wach and Whyte traded solid shots in the middle rounds when the action picked up, but Whyte appeared to have the edge. He also bloodied Wach’s nose in the seventh round.

Whyte tired in the later rounds and Wach had a solid ninth round. Wach stuffed his jab down the middle, swelled Whyte’s right eye and backed Whyte up as Wach rained shots on him as the round ended. Wach, who lost a near-shutout decision challenging then-world champion Wladimir Klitschko for the heavyweight title in 2012, landed a fight-high 36 of 81 punches in the ninth, according to CompuBox.

Whyte looked exhausted in the final round but was still able to land several solid punches to close strongly.

According to CompuBox, Whyte landed 198 of 635 (31%) and Wach connected with 167 of 555 (30%).

Whyte won his 11th fight in a row since a seventh-round knockout loss to Joshua for the British and Commonwealth titles in December 2015. Wach had a two-fight winning streak come to an end.


Hrgovic destroys Molina

Fast-rising heavyweight prospect Filip Hrgovic (10-0, 8 KOs), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist from Croatia, delivered a one-sided beating to former two-time world title challenger Eric Molina (27-6, 19 KOs), whom he knocked out in the third round.

Stepping up his competition level, Hrgovic appeared to drop Molina, 37, of Raymondville, Texas, late in the first round when he drove him into the ropes with a body shot and Molina fell into the ropes. Hrgovic followed up with shots that put Molina on the mat, but referee Ian John-Lewis ruled that Hrgovic had hit him behind the head.

Hrgovic, 27, who has sparred with Deontay Wilder, appeared to score another knockdown in the opening moments of the second round, but John-Lewis again ruled no knockdown, calling it a slip.

Molina landed a few wild right hands in the second round, but Hrgovic finally got credit for a knockdown when he nailed Molina with a right hand to the head and a left to the body that dropped Molina to a knee. Molina beat the count and spit out his mouthpiece to buy a few extra seconds of recovery time, but it did not help.

Hrgovic continued to pound away and eventually landed a right hand — it strayed behind the head because Molina leaned over — that knocked Molina down along the ropes. He tried to get up, but John-Lewis counted him out at 2 minutes, 3 seconds.

“I think I am ready for everyone,” Hrgovic said. “I want to fight the biggest names in the division. That’s my wish from the beginning. I hope these warriors will accept a fight with this young guy from Croatia. Everything can happen. I can be world champion in the next few fights. I’m very confident in my skills and my team.”


Majidov stops Little

Highly touted heavyweight Mahammadrasul Majidov had an easy time in dispatching veteran journeyman Tom Little, needing just two rounds to end things. Majidov (2-0, 2 KOs), a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, sent Little (10-8, 3 KOs) down in the second round with a chopping right hand. Then, later on, as Little rose he was hit with a barrage of punches from Majidov. Little tried to stave off the Majidov onslaught, but referee Steve Gray had seen enough and waved off the fight at 1:49.


Pacheco flattens Saidi

Super middleweight prospect Diego Pacheco (8-0, 7 KOs), 18, of Los Angeles, destroyed Selemani Saidi (20-16-5, 15 KOs), 31, of Tanzania, in the first round.

Pacheco rocked Saidi twice with right hands that sent Saidi backward, and then flattened Saidi with a clean right hand on the chin that dropped him spread eagle near the ropes. Referee Steve Gray called off the fight at 1 minute, 38 seconds without completing the count. Saidi was down for a couple of minutes as he received medical attention.


Price wins handily

Junior featherweight Ivan “Hopey” Price (2-0, 1 KO), 19, a seven-time English amateur national champion and gold medalist at the 2018 Olympic Youth Games, dominated and stopped Swedi Mohamed (12-7-2, 3 KOs), 25, of Tanzania, in the third round.

Price, a southpaw, landed a clean straight left hand to Mohamed’s mouth that sent his mouthpiece flying out in the first round, and continued to do as he pleased.

When Price landed clean 1-2 combinations that rocked Mohamed in the third round, referee Ian John-Lewis stepped in and waved it off at 2 minutes, 22 seconds, eliciting complaints from Mohamed.