This Saturday sees a semi final of sorts, as 2012 Olympic Champion and current WBA (Super) IBF, WBO and IBO World Heavyweight Champion, Anthony Joshua meets the former WBA Champion, and fellow Olympic Gold Medallist (2004) in the Russian, Alexander Povetkin. The end game, or final, one hopes, is a meeting for undisputed status with the winner of the mooted late 2018 WBC Title clash between Champion Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury, the Lineal Champion. Days we haven’t seen since the days of Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield. Sky Sports Box Office pick up the UK rights, with Showtime airing the action across the pond in the USA.
Anthony Joshua (21-0, KO20) v Alexander Povetkin (34-1, KO24) – 12 Rounds WBA (Super) IBF, WBO & IBO Heavyweight Titles
Alexander Povetkin is the final hurdle in the way of Heavyweight supremacy, and so confident are Team Joshua in victory, that Wembley is already booked for April 2019 in anticipation of the above mentioned Heavyweight super fight taking place. Povetkin is a live hurdle though, and will be coming to London intent on derailing any future plans the Watford man may have.
Anthony Joshua needs little introduction. After sweeping all before him in such a short space of time in the Amateur code, Joshua struck Gold at the 2012 Olympics in London, beating the Italian Amateur great Roberto Cammarelle in the final. Rather than defending his Title in Rio, Joshua turned professional, making his debut in October 2013 with a first round stoppage of Emanuele Leo at the O2 in London. After thirteen straight knockout wins, including over former British Champion, Michael Sprott (TKO1), former WBA Title challenger Matt Skelton (TKO2) and WBC Title challenger Kevin Johnson (TKO2), Joshua challenged for the Commonwealth Heavyweight Title. Unbeaten Scot, Gary Cornish was to be his opponent for the vacant Title, and it took Joshua just 97 seconds to put Cornish down twice, and out.
It has been a remarkable journey for Joshua
From there, in December 2015 Joshua picked up the British Title in a grudge match at the O2 against Dillian Whyte. Whyte had his successes, but ultimately Joshua overpowered the Brixton Jamaican, stopping him in seven. It would then be right place right time five months later, as Joshua benefitted by being new IBF Champion, Charles Martin’s voluntary challenger. Martin reportedly received £6 million for the gig at the O2, and meekly surrendered his Title in two one sided rounds. Two defences saw out 2016. Dominic Breazeale was beaten in seven rounds at the O2 in June, and Eric Molina was chopped down with a right hand at the Manchester Arena in three.
This set up a fight with Heavyweight great, Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017. 90,000 would pack Wembley Stadium to see a modern day Heavyweight classic. Joshua knocked down Klitschko in the fifth, only for the Ukrainian to score a knockdown of his own in the sixth, with Joshua close to the brink. With the fight swinging back and forth, Joshua eventually caught up with Wladmir, and scored two knockdowns in the eleventh, before stopping Klitschko with less than a minute to go in the round to add the WBA (Super) and IBO Titles to his IBF belt.
Kubrat Pulev was to be the next opponent, but the Bulgarian pulled out with just over a week to go. The tough Cameroonian, Carlos Takam would take the fight at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, and was a tougher than expected assignment for Joshua. Though well behind on the cards, Takam put up a spirited display, but was eventually stopped, possibly prematurely, in ten rounds.
Joshua’s most recent fight in March this year saw him add another piece to the Heavyweight pie, as he was forced to go the distance for the first time. Cardiff would again be the setting, and “AJ” picked up the WBO Title by widely outpointing New Zealander, Joseph Parker. He must remain focused on the job in hand this Saturday, rather than look ahead toward Undisputed greatness, and in Alexander Povetkin, its a tough a road block as he could have expected.
Povetkin was a Olympic champion
Povetkin was a stellar Amateur. A World and two-time European Champion, as well as 2004 Olympic Champion, the Russian did it all in the unpaid code.
Povetkin would turn over in July 2005, stopping Muhammad Ali Durmaz in two rounds. After thirteen straight wins, Povetkin would form part of a four man IBF Title tournament. He stopped former Champion Chris Byrd in eleven and outpointed Eddie Chambers to win a shot at Wladimir Klitschko. Povetkin would be forced to pull out of the fight however, due to an ankle injury. It would take another six fights before Povetkin landed a shot at the vacant WBA “Regular” Title following Klitschko’s elevation to “Super” Champion staus after his victory over David Haye in 2011. Povetkin handily outpointed Ruslan Chagaev to lift the belt in Germany.
After defending the belt against Cedric Boswell in Finland (KO8), Povetkin squeaked past Marco Huck who was still reigning as the WBO Cruiserweight Champion at the time by majority decision. Two stoppage defences followed, before Povetkin finally met Klitschko in October 2013 at the Olympic Stadium in Russia, with the winning purse bid in excess of a whopping $23 million. Klitschko manhandled Povetkin in a maul fest, sapping the Russian’s energy, leaving him taking a count four times during the fight. This lead to a 119-104 victory on all three cards for the Ukrainian, handing Povetkin his first career loss.
Povetkin has rebounded impressively since that 2013 reverse, although he has also had his fair share of controversy along the way. Manuel Charr, Carlos Takam, Mike Perez, and Mariusz Wach were all stopped, leading to an opportunity to take on Deontay Wilder for the WBC Title in May 2016. This fight never materialised however, as Povetkin failed a drug test for Meldonium.
Povetkin carried on regardless, and staggeringly, failed another test, this time for Osterine, prior to an interim WBC Title fight with Bermane Stiverne in July 2016. Alarmingly Johann Duhaupas still stepped in for Stiverne in a non title match, and was promptly stopped in six rounds. Despite being banned by the WBC until January 2018, Povetkin gained rankings elsewhere, easily out scoring both Andriy Rudenko and Christian Hammer in June and December 107 respectively. His shot at the Titles Anthiny Joshua owns is as a result of his appearance on the Joshua v Parker undercard in March.
Povetkin brutally knocked out Price
Povetkin dropped Liverpool’s David Price in the third round, before only the ropes held the Russian up at the end of the same round. Price’s chance to pour on the pressure at the start of the next round quickly came and went, and Price succumbed to a highlight reel knockout in the fifth, setting up Saturday nights’ meeting.
Povetkin is a great technician, but Joshua is a rangy, spiteful puncher, and it’s difficult to see how the Russian gets inside Joshua’s massive reach. I think Povetkin will keep coming forward and will try to mix things up, but will eventually become frustrated and will be forced to retreat. My feeling is that Povetkin will be dropped during the fight, and pulled out by his corner late on, leaving the road clear for all of the marbles to be on the line in an April 2019 super fight.