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Joshua vs. Povetkin: A Breakdown

Thomas Peter John Penney

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Heavyweight boxing is back on DAZN this Saturday in Wembley Stadium, as mostly unified champion Anthony Joshua looks to bump off one of the ghosts of the previous generation of big men in Alexander Povetkin. 

Povetkin last fought on the undercard of Joshua’s unanimous decision victory over Joseph Parker…

..surviving a third-round scare against David Price and eventually knocking out the game Englishman.

This fight represents an apparent march toward full unification – a likely fight between Deontay Wilder and Joshua – which you already know about if you are reading a detailed breakdown of a heavyweight boxing match, but it’s worth mentioning.

Joshua, for all his charisma and power and boxing acumen, still has questions to answer. He’s been rocked badly a few times – most recently in his King-making performance against Wladimir Klitschko – and has looked more reserved lately as a result. He controlled nearly every second of the fight against Carlos Takam, though found himself unable to actually knock the tough Frenchman out and the fight was stopped in the tenth because there was no reason to continue watching Takam be assaulted.

Then against Joseph Parker, who I tried to tell you was a mediocre fighter, Joshua won nearly every round while staying behind his tremendously long arms. Preferring to box, Joshua won a canyon wide decision but also looked flat-out reluctant to engage with Parker.

Some would call that being scared, whereas I would call it being smart, but there’s no denying that as his level of competition has risen Joshua has certainly buttoned down his aggressive style. Part of that has to do with Joshua being such a latecomer to the sport – he’s only just now figuring out how to box – but it’s hard not to question if Wlad asked some questions Joshua would prefer not to answer again.

And if anyone can ask those questions again, Povetkin is surely among them. Past his best years, no longer on PEDs, and no longer hiding in Russian territory with a belt no one cared about until he lost it, Povetkin is still a blistering puncher. Drugs or no, Povetkin can crack with anyone in the division, and his sound if simple technique has generally provided him a sure-fire delivery system over his career. 

Until his entertaining fight with and eventual destruction of David Price, Povetkin had only fought outside Russia and Germany once, making a trip to Finland to knock off Cedric Boswell. This is now his second fight in the UK, and while fans were on their feet after his win over Price, he will not have many friends in Wembley on Saturday night. Povetkin has the kind of history that fight fans will always malign, and he’s an old Russian guy fighting the most popular British boxer in the world; the boos are already echoing across the ocean.

Joshua is the obvious favourite coming in; he has youth, home turf, and frankly talent on his side. Joshua is a -2000 favourite, so if you want to make a little cash for the weekend you can go ahead and loan your next two mortgage payments to a sportsbook for the night. Yes, I’m picking Joshua, big shock there. The value is in betting on Joshua to knock Povetkin out in the first three rounds, where you can find Joshua at +450. 

Coming off a strong but uninspiring performance against the most uninvolved heavyweight champion of this era in Parker, Joshua will surely be looking to make a statement on Saturday and Povetkin’s fight against Price might be an indication of what is to come. 

Price put Povetkin down in the third round, and while the Russian came back to erase the Brit, it inspires little confidence against a younger, more dangerous, less tread worn fighter in Joshua. 

I’d wager that, in front of 90,000 or so screaming and chanting and singing fans, Joshua will land something enormous early in the fight. It will then be a question of how long it takes him to get Povetkin out of there. With another fight already scheduled against the always dangerous To Be Announced, I can’t imagine Joshua does anything besides running his man out and stokes the fires of a potential unification bout against Deontay Wilder once again. 

But just for the sake of it, let’s break this one down, as Kent Murphy says, from a fundamental standpoint.

Joshua has two glaring attributes that make his job as heavyweight kingpin much easier for him. He has tremendous power in both hands, and he is tremendously large. His body seems able to handle the weight fluctuations he has put it through, going from 254 against Takam back to 242 for the speedier Parker, and he appears to retain most of his power at whatever weight he feels like coming in at. The delivery system for this power is his six-foot-six frame, and six-foot-eight wingspan. His straight right hand is world ending, and against most fighters he will be able to land it from an absurdly safe distance. 

Povetkin is a relatively small heavyweight, at six-foot-two with a matching reach. He is giving up tons of height, tons of reach, and probably a ton of weight to the Champ – Povetkin has never weight more than 230 on fight night. Povetkin has sound form, but not so sound that he’s going to be able to mitigate an enormous reach advantage like this. Remember, Povetkin was largely shutout by the similarly proportioned Wladimir Klitschko (in one of the most aesthetically dissatisfying performances of the last 20 years) when he tried and failed to get inside and roughhouse with the larger man.

Joshua is not the technician Wlad was, but I expect him to keep Povetkin at the end of his longer, sharper punches en route to an early stoppage. 

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