You could argue it wasn’t worth the risk, even in hindsight, but Eddie Hearn’s biggest fears didn’t pan out after all. Hearn gambled, placing Anthony Joshua in a dangerous mandatory defense against Alexander Povetkin, in lieu of the career high payday on the table to square off with Deontay Wilder. And on Saturday, September 22nd, the ruler of 3/4ths of the heavyweight division put his promoter’s mind at ease with a 7th round stoppage in an affair that scarcely could’ve been more competitive. The clash took place exclusively on DAZN, in front of more than 80,000 at Wembley Stadium in London, England.
It took less than three full minutes for Povetkin to justify the level of risk he presented, landing a left hook-right uppercut-left hook combination which busted Joshua’s nose at the end of the 1st. Blood poured like water from a faucet, for the remainder of the evening. A pissed off Joshua came out seeking payback in the ensuing round, but his advances were thwarted by jabs and counters from Povetkin; if it hadn’t sunk in already, “AJ” now knew he was in a fight. As has become his norm, Joshua remained engaged and firing jabs to the body, but Povetkin was considerably quicker in his delivery. He drilled Joshua with an overhand right to the head, making the bigger man hold. Povetkin leaped in with two left hooks, sending Joshua back to his corner, down 2-0. A winging right to the dome warranted a flurry from the 2012 gold medalist, but then Joshua ate another dose of leaping left hooks from the 2004 gold medalist. Getting the worst of the exchanges, he continued to stab jabs into Povetkin’s mid-section, from his low hanging left hand.
Joshua responded to a looping shot with a right uppercut of his own in the 4th, which cut Povetkin over his left eye. Beyond that “AJ” persisted in keeping his left by his side, occasionally stabbing the torso. By now the focus of each man’s attack was clear, though it’s rare to see a 6’6 fighter investing as much in body shots. In the 5th, Povetkin just missed a left, then a hook-uppercut combo forced his foe into retreat, fresh stream of blood flowing from each nostril. After a series of stabbing jabs down low, Joshua surprised Povetkin in the 7th, coming over the top with a flush right cross, buckling Povetkin. Sensing his moment, Joshua pursued, flurried and dropped Povetkin on his side, courtesy of a big left hook and follow-up cross. Badly hurt, Povetkin nearly fell between the ropes and out of the ring, as he attempted to regain his footing. The ref granted Povetkin a second chance, but it’d be short lived as another flurry, punctuated by a long, brutal right cross deposited him back on the canvas.
It was an impressive finish to a fight that hung perilously in the balance, up until it ended; a substance win with a spectacular conclusion. Joshua answered more questions about the quality of his chin, shook off the damage and breathing difficulties related to his nose and illustrated the elevation of his boxing IQ with a series of shots he was setting up all fight long. Not bad for a 28-year-old in just his 22nd bout, especially considering heavyweights are notorious for maturing later in their careers. All that said, Team Joshua has April 13th, 2019 penciled in for Wembley Stadium. The Povetkin win was an obvious step in the right direction, but if “AJ” isn’t sharing a ring with the Wilder-Fury winner on that date, he’ll have summarily shat away every remaining morsel of good will he’s earned.
It was Hearn who cost Boxing fans Joshua vs. Wilder in 2018, instead looking out for his own financial interests striking up a partnership between Matchroom and DAZN. Hearn’s now already on record saying he wants Joshua-Wilder to be signed and finalized prior to Wilder’s bout with Tyson Fury, slated for December. Just more bullshit from Hearn, who knows full well it behooves Wilder to proceed with the Fury fight and count up the ticket sales and pay-per-view numbers before committing to any fight slated for 7 months down the road.
If Joshua really wants to unify the division, it seems he’ll need to instruct his promoter to step aside and allow it to materialize.