Record: 21-0 (20 KO) ... Streak: W21 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’6” / 82” ... Age: 28
Thoughts: Big, strong, charismatic, a knockout puncher — Anthony Joshua ticks every box to become a superstar heavyweight, and he’s become one already, with some steps left to climb in terms of international stardom.
Joshua is probably underrated as a boxer, because he started his career with 20 straight stoppage wins, but he had to go a full 12 with a cautious Joseph Parker in March, and he did so quite capable. Parker’s no pushover opponent or anything, but Joshua shut him down and while he wasn’t able to do exactly as he pleased, he won clearly and cleanly.
Joshua clearly loves the knockout, though, and knows that’s the surest way to fight fans’ hearts. So he’ll probably be hunting for one against the shorter, older Povetkin on Saturday. I’d look for a bit more aggression from Joshua, but he and his team aren’t dummies. Povetkin can fight and has some power and real skills, so they won’t be reckless. Don’t expect to see any Deontay Wilder-like punches where Joshua literally leaves his feet. (I don’t mean that to say Deontay or his team are dummies, either, for the record.)
If Joshua can win impressively, a fight against the theoretical winner of Wilder-Fury looms for April 2019, at least in our hopes. Perhaps more likely it’ll “just” be a rematch with Dillian Whyte, which isn’t bad fight, but like this matchup, would feel like a letdown since it’s not the other fight. We got teased with Joshua-Wilder, which was ideal, but instead we have Joshua-Povetkin. So instead of facing the No. 2 heavyweight, Joshua is facing the No. 3 or 4 heavyweight. It’s not really a bit step down, but I understand it feels like one, and that has dampened enthusiasm about this fight a little bit, I think.
Record: 34-1 (24 KO) ... Streak: W8 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’2” / 75” ... Age: 39
Thoughts: A skilled boxer, a former amateur standout, long been in the game as a top level pro heavyweight now, Povetkin is nearing 40 and still a serious contender. His lone loss came to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, which doesn’t particularly bode well for his chances against Joshua, another tall heavyweight with a big reach and height advantage, and worse still, if Povetkin fights the way he did against Klitschko, we could be in for a bowling shoe ugly snoozer.
But let’s be optimistic and say he doesn’t, that Povetkin knows this is probably his last shot at a real heavyweight title, which it very likely could be. That he’s going to go for broke in this fight and, if the early strategy doesn’t work, he’ll unleash whatever fury he can in an attempt to take the win. That’d be great, but I don’t know if that’s the kind of fighter Povetkin is, even if/when facing a certain defeat.
So I’m not terribly enthusiastic about this being an entertaining fight. Povetkin is going to be very cautious of Joshua’s power, perhaps especially coming off of a fight in Cardiff where Povetkin got a little lazy and was dropped by David Price, sort of a very poor man’s Joshua. He went on to knock out Price, but who worth their salt doesn’t?
Since losing to Klitschko, Povetkin has won eight straight. He beat Manuel Charr, Carlos Takam, Mike Perez, Mariusz Wach, Johann Duhaupas, Andriy Rudenko, Christian Hammer, and Price. Not a bad run at all, but Joshua is at least a step up from all of those guys. Povetkin’s had a fine career, but he’s faced a real serious true top level guy once. He lost, badly.
Matchup Grade: B. Povetkin is a good opponent for Joshua, but I don’t think he’s a particular threat to him at the same time. But you can’t ask a lot more of Joshua, either. They tried to make a Wilder fight. It didn’t happen at this time. And with that, Povetkin, the WBA mandatory, became the opponent. Again, Povetkin’s at worst the No. 4 heavyweight in the world right now. This isn’t a bad fight by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not a great one, but it’s a good one.
- Yvan Mendy vs Luke Campbell: A rematch of the fight Campbell (18-2, 15 KO) stunningly lost in 2015. I was impressed by how quickly and seriously Campbell rebounded from that loss, coming back as if he’d actually learned his lesson from the defeat, and didn’t let it get to him much. Mendy (40-4-1, 19 KO) has done basically nothing with the momentum gained from upsetting Campbell. He’s fought regularly and won everything, but all at home in France against mediocre competition. Honestly, I’ll be as surprised this time as I was the first time if Mendy gets the job done again, but you never know — maybe he’s just a bad style for Luke. Grade: B
- Matty Askin vs Lawrence Okolie: Askin (23-3-1, 15 KO) is a fine domestic cruiserweight, the British champion at the moment. But Okolie (9-0, 7 KO) has legitimate world level potential. The challenger is the bigger talent. The only question is if Askin, a young veteran, may be a bit too much for a 10th pro fight. Grade: B-