By Neil Leverett
- Britain’s Anthony Joshua defends his IBF, WBA and WBO World titles against Alexander Povetkin on Saturday
- 28-year-old returns to Wembley Stadium, the scene of his greatest victory over Wladimir Klitschko
- Joshua makes seventh defence in 22nd professional fight
WEMBLEY STADIUM, LONDON – As Anthony Joshua defends his World titles once again on Saturday, can the Briton conquer his dangerous Russian opponent?
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Eyes of boxing world on Wembley Stadium again
The boxing world has again arrived in London, as Wembley Stadium plays host to the good and great in the sport this weekend. As Britain’s Anthony Joshua makes his seventh defence of his IBF, WBA and WBO titles, the pressure has been ramped up on the Briton, as Alexander Povetkin stakes his claim to Joshua’s throne.
As the 28-year-old from Watford fights for the first team since he defeated New Zealand’s Joseph Parker in Cardiff to win the WBO belt back in March, the Briton steps back into the ring just 36 miles from his home town looking to add the Russian’s name to the list of conquered foes consisting of Carlos Takam, Wladimir Klitschko, Eric Molina, Dominic Breazeale and Charles Martin – who Joshua defeated to claim his first world crowd in 2016.
This weekend however, as he makes the ringwalk under the Wembley arch for the first time since his famous and thrilling 11-round stoppage over Klitschko last April, the task in front of him will be an altogether different proposition, against a man who himself took the big Ukrainian the distance in 2013 – losing by way of a unanimous decision in Moscow, his only loss to date.
Can Joshua conquer arguably his toughest opponent yet?
His opponent Povetkin on Saturday night, whilst 11 years his senior and having 14 more fights under his belt is not to be underestimated – something Joshua will undoubtedly not consider.
While ‘The White Lion gives away four inches in height and seven in reach, Povetkin is renowned as one of the more awkward fighters to land on. Despite the Briton likely set to dominate the weekend’s contest, as his the Russian’s record shows (35-34(24)-1) only Klitschko has been able to record a win.
At Friday’s weigh in, unified champion Joshua weighed in four pounds heavier than his previous fight against Parker at 17st 8lbs 5oz, whilst Povetkin tipped the scales at 15st 12lbs, one stone and 10 pounds lighter.
That will make the challenger the more mobile this weekend, adding a gradient of difficult to Joshua’s defence. The Briton has been unveiled as ‘new’ fighter for this battle, but with 24 knockouts to Povetkin’s card – most recently his explosive knockout win over David Price on the undercard of the Parker fight in March – this test will perhaps be an even bigger one than his win against Klitschko 17 months ago.
Will Wembley inspire Briton again?
Joshua’s assignment then is without a doubt one of his most daunting yet, so can the Wembley crowd again roar their favourite son home this weekend?
Winding the clock back to April of last year, the fight that had been years in the making of Joshua stepping into the ring against Klitschko – the two of which had sparred earlier in the Briton’s rise up the boxing ranks – was billed as the biggest fight in boxing in years. It did not disappoint.
Whilst the the prowling Joshua waited to strike in front of a post-war crowd of 90,000 fans, the Briton floored the Ukrainian under a barrage of punches in the fifth, before Klitschko roared back to put Joshua on the canvas for the first time in his career the round later.
Joshua held on for a round and then rallied in an all-out war, before a almighty uppercut stunned the former champion in the eleventh, as Joshua put Klitschko down twice more before a flurry of punches on the ropes brought the fight to a dramatic end.
Saturday evening’s battle is perhaps not set to eclipse the scenes of 2017, but Povetkin stands as a similar yardstick in terms of an obstacle to climb. Joshua may need the roar of Wembley to see him home again.
Anthony Joshua defends his IBF, WBA and WBO world heavyweight titles against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night, with ring walks at approximately 21.50 BST.
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