At the conclusion of round one from Saturday night’s heavyweight championship contest between Anthony Joshua and Alexander Povetkin, the former went to his stool with a gushing bloody nose. The damage came courtesy of a Povetkin uppercut, signaling to Joshua that he was in a real fight. Unlike his recent outings, Joshua responded with killer instinct and became the first man to stop Alexander Povetkin over seven tension-filled rounds.
On paper, the 39-year old Povetkin wasn’t viewed as a serious threat. But for observant fans, Povetkin giving AJ problems and arguably being ahead at the time of stoppage wasn’t surprising. In his extensive ring career, Povetkin had suffered only one defeat to then division kingpin Wladimir Klitschko (in a bout where Klitschko’s holding bordered on criminal). Outside of Klitchcko, Povetkin is the most experienced and accomplished fighter on Joshua’s resume.
Povetkin’s savvy showed quickly. He surprised Joshua with his timing on overhand right counters and nimble footwork to get inside with quick, short hooks. Those attributes had Joshua perplexed to conclude round one. From then on, Joshua fought off the backfoot and established distance with his longer reach. Still, Povetkin continually breached Joshua’s range with the overhand right.
Gradually, Joshua began to read Povetkin’s tendencies. He would anticipate the overhand right and slip the shot or turn his head enough to blunt the impact. By the middle rounds, Joshua was controlling the distance and keeping Povetkin on the end of his jab and straight right.
In the seventh, a short right hand stunned Povetkin. Joshua pressed the action, landing sharp left hook followed by another straight right for the first knockdown. Povetkin rose but was quickly pummeled into the ropes for a simultaneous referee and corner stoppage.
Joshua has already booked April 13 at Wembley for his next fight. The only fight that makes sense from a fan perspective is the winner of the December fight between Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury.
Business-wise, it may be a different story. Wilder and Joshua’s negotiations have been contentious over the last year. Should Fury win, the animosity between Frank Warren and Heard is well documented. And it stretches the imagination to believe Joshua vs. Wilder or Fury, our first heavyweight superfight in ages, would get the necessary buildup in a mere three months where rival promoters would need to coordinate.
The safe bet is we won’t see it summer 2019 at the earliest.
In the meantime, let’s see how Wilder and Fury hold up their end of the bargain.