It’s fight number 22 of world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s career on Saturday evening as the Londoner walks out in front of a packed Wembley Arena, risking his alphabet of titles against the challenge of Alexander Povetkin.
It may be the first of a double-header at a venue better known as the home of the England football team but no one in the undefeated Brit’s camp is looking past a dangerous opponent in Povetkin, who proved the raw power he possesses when knocking out Liverpool’s David Price inside five rounds earlier this year.
Will AJ get the desired result and move a step closer to a unification bout with WBC ruler and American knockout artist Deontay Wilder? The betting certainly believes so and the latest Joshua vs Povetkin odds from William Hill have a successful defence chalked up as short price favourite, 1/9 or tighter the feeling amongst traders.
We saw in Joshua’s last fight – a win over Joseph Parker – exactly why bookmakers are so keen to keep the 28-year-old from Watford close and the fact the Olympic gold medalist has continued to improve since making his professional debut in 2013 tells us that’s a shrewd move.
Despite being the poster boy for British boxing, Anthony Joshua has his fair share of critics who have accused him of everything from being fake – hiding his dark side behind a nice guy smile – to a muscle-bound brawler who’d be better served spending his time lifting weights.
None of it is true, of course, and with the passing of each fight, AJ continues to shut the doubters down. Those who suggested he was a one-punch KO king, a fighter who would struggle when an opponent stood up to his power, were left with egg on their face when he went the 12-round distance in a stunning win over Joe Parker in March.
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The 26-year-old New Zealander arrived at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium with the WBO strap in his possession and a pristine 24-fight card. He left with neither, suffering a first career defeat with plenty to spare, forced to hand over his trophy in the process.
6ft 4inch orthodox boxer Parker clinched his own little place in the history books by becoming the first man to take AJ the distance, but that’s about all he got out of the evening. He stood up to the power, yes, but he got nowhere near causing an upset, the scoring judges handing in cards reading 118-110, 119-109, 118-110.
That was no fluke, the victor boxing to instructions from the first to last bell. He had chances to get his opponent out of there early but seemed more than happy to showcase his boxing skills, landing the jab, moving his feet and handing out a bit of a lesson.
Perhaps there was a tinge of sadness in the camp they lost the 100% KO average, but they took much more from having the rounds under their belt, proving their big game tactics.