In March of this year undefeated unified IBF/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua took one step closer to becoming the Undisputed Heavyweight world champion by scoring a twelve round unanimous decision over previously undefeated WBO world champion Joseph Parker. Although Joshua successfully defended his crown for the fifth time and added the World Boxing Organization (WBO) world championship to his unified crown, the victory over Parker also marked the first time the twenty-eight year old native of Watford, England was extended to the full distance of a fight as a professional after scoring knockouts in his first twenty bouts.
As is usually the norm following a unification bout, the unified Heavyweight world champion will make the sixth defense of his crown against a mandatory contender on Saturday night against longtime top Heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium in London, England. This figures to be another test for Joshua in facing Povetkin, the current World Boxing Association (WBA) number one contender, who is a former world title challenger that also held Interim/Regular champion status in the WBA Heavyweight ratings for a lengthy period in his career. Some may recall Povetkin's decision loss in his one previous title shot against former longtime Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in October 2013. Despite suffering his only career loss in that fight, Povetkin made a good account of himself in going the distance with Klitschko under circumstances where due to being at a size and weight disadvantage he was simply not able to get off with much of his offense as Klitschko used his bigger size to consistently tie Povetkin up and also used his weight to his advantage by leaning on the shorter Povetkin.
While clearly the bout between Klitschko and Povetkin was not the most entertaining to watch, the native of Kursk, Russia earned respect for the effort he put forth in that fight. Since suffering the setback Povetkin has won eight straight fights. The challenger however, has also been the subject of controversy in his career. Some may recall that Povetkin was at one point also rated as the World Boxing Council’s (WBC) number one contender and was due to face undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder in May 2016 in Moscow, Russia, but that fight was cancelled only days before it was to take place after it was revealed by the WBC that Povetkin had tested positive for the banned substance Meldonium.
This was followed by a second positive test for Povetkin later that year prior to his scheduled fight against former WBC world champion Bermane Stiverne, when it was revealed that Povetkin tested positive for the banned substance Ostarine. Povetkin however, faced and scored a knockout win over former world title challenger Johann Duhaupas. Although Povetkin has fought three times since those two positive tests and his victory over Duhaupas, it is understandable how some may be critical of the WBA for mandating Anthony Joshua to face Povetkin given what has happened in the past. It can and perhaps should be pointed out that the subject regarding the use of performance enhancing drugs and/or substances that are deemed by regulators to be illegal and subsequently banned is an epidemic throughout all of sports much less combat sports.
Even though that by no means creates grounds for justification of a positive test or in this case tests, there should also be a point where an athlete has an opportunity at redemption. In this case, Povetkin’s opportunity at redemption will come in two parts. The first is a second opportunity at a world championship that he failed to win when he faced Wladimir Klitschko nearly five years ago. The second, which should be obvious to most is to show that the two positive tests that have led to much criticism is a low point in a solid career and should not ultimately define that career. In fairness to the challenger, he has fought three times since this second failed test for a banned substance and to this observer’s knowledge he has tested clean in both pre and post-fight testing since then.
Stylistically, this should be a fight of a fighter known for his punching power in the champion Anthony Joshua against an opponent known as a boxer/puncher, who has also shown the ability to get an opponent out of there should the opportunity arise. As has been the case in most of Joshua’s recent fights, he will be going up against a fighter with more professional experience as Povetkin has fought thirty-five bouts in his career compared to the champion’s twenty-one.
When discussing a fight like this it can be all too tempting to discuss every imaginable statistic and give subsequent analysis.
Out of respect for the reader, yours truly will try not to dive too deep into a statistical breakdown of the two fighters even though I have made a career examining such statistics. There are however, a few key statistics that do stand out that one, whether a casual fan, a hardcore enthusiast, and the expert should consider as this fight approaches.
The first of these numbers is the total knockouts of the two fighters and subsequent career knockout percentages. In this category, the theoretical edge goes to the champion Joshua, who has only gone the distance in a fight once in his career and has what some might consider an intimidating career knockout percentage of 95%. This differs from the challenger Povetkin, who has scored knockouts in twenty-four of his thirty-four career wins registering a career knockout percentage of 69% heading into this encounter.
Perhaps the challenger’s most significant advantage is the fact that he has more professional experience as compared to the champion having fought fourteen more fights and accumulated a total of 225 rounds fought inside the ring compared to the champion, who has only fought a total of 77 rounds in his twenty-one professional fights. While this may not appear to some to be a major statistic, which could tilt the fight in the challenger’s favor, what it does suggest is Povetkin is a fighter that knows how to go into the deep waters of a fight and it certainly should not be dismissed that taking the champion into the late rounds of the fight as Joseph Parker was able to do is part of his strategy, which in this observer’s eyes would be smart if he can execute it.
The most significant statistic that some might point to is the difference in age between the two fighters, which in theory does favor the champion of eleven years. Although Povetkin will turn forty years old in 2019, one might argue that he has not had the grueling effects of a long career. It will nevertheless be interesting to see if Povetkin’s age does become a factor in this fight.
In his last bout, Povetkin overcame a knockdown in the third round to score an impressive stoppage of former Olympic Silver medalist and British and Commonwealth Heavyweight champion David Price on the undercard of Joshua-Parker earlier this year. While Povetkin’s bout with Price can best be described as an exciting slugfest and the challenger has shown a willingness to engage and exchange with his opponents throughout his career, I would not necessarily expect Povetkin to take a similar approach in this fight against Joshua. Although Povetkin’s fight with Price was the type of encounter fight fans love, he did dodge a bullet for lack of a better term as he was caught, knocked down, and hurt by a fighter who a few years ago was touted by some experts including this one as one of the rising stars in the Heavyweight division.
While David Price is a fighter also known for his punching power and some might say had a similar rise early in his career as Joshua before suffering some career setbacks, Joshua is the type of fighter who can end a fight with one punch and if Povetkin gets caught as he did against Price it could well lead to his downfall. How can Povetkin pull off what some would call an upset?
The challenger is a solid combination puncher, who is capable of executing his offense in compact spurts. Although Povetkin also has punching power, I believe it will serve him well to use lateral movement and attempt to establish himself as an elusive target and look to out box Joshua over the course of the twelve round world championship bout. In contrast to what I feel will work well for the challenger, it would be logical to expect the champion Joshua to implement a gradual pressure approach as he has done against previous opponents in the past.
What makes the fight more intriguing is both fighters have styles that more often than not creates entertaining fights and both fighters have been caught before. Both men have also shown the ability to get off the canvas to win fights by knockout. An intriguing encounter between two of the best the Heavyweight division has to offer.
In terms of what the outcome of this fight could mean for the rest of the talent-deep division, most would probably assume that the winner of this fight will be in line to face the winner of the potential bout between WBC champion Deontay Wilder and undefeated former unified Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury. Something Joshua-Povetkin also represents in terms of the landscape of how the sport overall is televised is the fight as well as the full undercard will be televised as the first major Boxing event on the recently launched DAZN subscription-based streaming service in the United States.
Although readers are familiar with this observer’s point of view in regard to the realm of Over The Top (OTT) digital distribution as well as the recent column discussing DAZN’s entrance into the United States, this event does indeed represent the changing times in the sport. In my eyes, in time the content in terms of the amounts of Boxing content that will be available to the consumer from digital networks like DAZN and ESPN+, will represent a greater value to that consumer as compared to paying a pay-per-view fee where only a portion of a single card is televised. What it represents should ultimately be beneficial to both the sport of Boxing, the athletes who compete in the sport, and the fans who support it.
As the Boxing world focuses it’s attention on the legendary Wembley Stadium for the latest in a long line of marquee events in the sport, if the intriguing fight Joshua-Povetkin appears to be on paper turns into an entertaining encounter once the fighters are in the ring, some may look back on September 22, 2018 as a day in the history of the sport where an event headlined by a World Heavyweight championship fight not only ushered in a new era for Boxing on television, but more importantly elevated the sport. If that indeed happens, it will be a win for the sport of Boxing.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
Joshua vs. Povetkin takes place on Saturday, September 22nd at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The full card can be seen in the United States and Canada on DAZN beginning at 1PM U.S. EST. In the United States, DAZN is available online as well as mobile and connected streaming devices for$9.99 per month with a 30-day free trial. For more information about DAZN in the United States and to subscribe please visit: www.DAZN.com. For more information about DAZN in Canada including subscription plans please visit: www.DAZN.CA.
In the United Kingdom, the card can be seen on a pay-per-view basis on Sky Box Office for £19.95. To order please visit: https://www.sky.com/boxoffice/Joshua-Povetkin. Check your local listings internationally.
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