Aftermath: Joshua vs Povetkin
Lee Gormley, Callum Rudge, Shaun Brown, Luca Rosi, Craig Scott, Paul Zanon, Andrew Harrison, Tom Craze, Anthony Cocks, Peter Shaw and Chris Williamson analyse the aftermath and main talking points surrounding Anthony Joshua's 7th-round stoppage of Alexander Povetkin...
BM: What was your take on the fight, the finish and what we learned about AJ?
LG: The fight played out as expected, Povetkin looked dangerous early on when landing some big shots before Joshua took over and got the finish just after the midway point. AJ looked a little bit awkward at times, being the one boxing on the back foot but he's proved he can do that now too. His body jab worked very well and it wore Povetkin down later on. The first knockdown came from an impressive burst and finishing a guy who hadn't previously been stopped has to be applauded.
CR: I thought Povetkin started well and definitely hurt AJ but he slowed down after four round and by then had been worked out by the champion. Joshua was tentative in the early going and has been since being dropped by Klitschko. But after three rounds he had worked Povetkin out and established his jab to head and body. AJ has underrated ring IQ and isn’t the Frank Bruno clone some thought him to be in his younger years.
SB: I thought AJ was cautious, respectful and then in a shell when Povetkin caught him with an overhand right. I think things like his balance and footwork have improved but offensively he's much more cautious because the opposition has been stepped up. The finish was brilliant and ruthless. He's improving but the sound bites from fight week are a bit worrying. If he wants to be 'the man' he needs to deal with everything.
CS: Thankfully, it was an entertaining fight. Povetkin deserved to be level on the cards at the end of the sixth round, if not narrowly ahead, but AJ pulled it out the bag with a composed and clinical finish. He took Povetkin's shots well, but was hit clean a few too many times. Overall, a good scalp and a lovely highlight-reel knockout.
LR: It was a very clinical performance by AJ. Povetkin on paper was a very difficult test. Joshua is still a work in progress (his hands were very low, especially his left) but he's passing every test with flying colours.
PZ: If memory serves me correct, I predicted AJ by stoppage, on rounds four to seven, or a 10 per cent chance that Povetkin would win with an overhand right. I'm not a betting man. Maybe I should start? In the first couple of rounds AJ was in plenty of bother. The speed and accuracy of Povetkin's combos were something the Watford man hadn't encountered before and he looked a little lost. However, he composed himself behind the jab, found his feet by the sixth and executed in the seventh. Hats off to AJ and his get out of jail right hand - he did it again. Another opponent, another style, another victory.
AH: Another good heavyweight fight that again highlighted Joshua’s inexperience, intelligence and show-stopping power. Povetkin had the better of things initially. His speed and jack-in-the-box tactics, attacking from out of a crouch, gave Joshua something to think about. Joshua looked one-paced and robotic at times. I was impressed, though, with the finish. Joshua had been thumping away at the Russian’s body all fight. He then quickly switched upstairs with a sneaky right to set the ball rolling on Povetkin’s demise (perfectly called by Paulie Malignaggi). And when he has a man going, there isn’t a better finisher in the sport than AJ.
TC: Povetkin proved what a quality heavyweight he is, and those who dismissed him as a no-hoper prior to Saturday might - or at least should - have revised their opinion of him now. His stock diminishes little after a game effort and his variety, movement and aggression gave Joshua much to think about. In the early stages, Joshua looked nervy and very apprehensive about what would likely be coming back from the Russian, but the finish, when it came, was as efficient as it was brutal. Joshua should learn plenty from a fight that turned out to be as tough as it looked on paper.
PS: I take a pragmatic view on whether this fight teaches us anything new about AJ. The seven rounds conformed to a predictable pattern, which indicates that AJ, good as he is, is not learning anything new nowadays as he undoubtedly has done from the beginning. I’m referring to his defence and his ability to deal with a spoiler whenever he meets one. Does this mean that his mental ability to improve has peaked? If it has, it means that we may have to wait a while longer to have ourselves a clear ‘undisputed’ heavyweight champion, in anything other than name. The likelihood of him becoming the peerless, supreme ringmaster of a bloodthirsty chasing pack faded with this fight. I seriously doubt it will happen now. A latter day Jack Johnson he will never be. He may keep his titles and reign for quite a while, making shed loads of money in the process, but that would simply mean that the crop of contenders are not quite what we’d like to think they are. The route this fight was likely to take, going on AJ’s form and Povetlin’s history, was that Povetkin would come out fast, strong, and dangerous for a while, and it would likely take the nation’s favourite boy some rounds to really assert himself. Any seasoned observer might have written his report before they even got into the ring. It did not take Nat Fleischer to tell us that the weight advantage Joshua carried, in the hands of an athlete-cum-puncher of the champion’s ilk, would equip him to bash the daylights out of a man whose true past form and ability was still questionable. The fact that Golden Boy got repeatedly caught by the flailing left hand of someone who with his height and reach disadvantages, would be lucky to land at all on the true greats of yesteryear, disappoints and worries me. What would have been the effect on our guy, had it been the bigger, stronger, unpredictable pugnacity of Deontay Wilder in there with him during those early rounds?
AC: I was shocked but not surprised by the official judges’ scorecards for the fight: 58-56 twice and 59-55, all for Joshua. I had the fight 58-56 for Povetkin and wouldn’t argue too much with anyone who had it a draw, but I simply can’t see how Joshua was ahead. The knockout finish shouldn’t diminish the fact the judging was suspect. The knockout itself was a thing of beauty against the second-best boxer Joshua has faced in his five-year pro career. Povektin has always been susceptible to the left hook and it was no surprise to see AJ use this punch to good effect to set up the first knockdown. It’s hard to tell if Joshua’s hard-fought win over Wladimir Klitschko 18 months ago took something out of him; but it’s fair to say it’s changed him as a fighter, one way or another. He is more cautious now, more measured and less inclined to climb into the trenches. How well that approach serves him for the rest of his career remains to be seen, but he is still an excellent finisher who knows what to do when he has his man hurt.
CW: The wildly exciting main event saved what had been an underwhelming show at Wembley, delivering precisely what the public love about competitive heavyweight title matches. The dangerous, motivated challenger generated a tense atmosphere around Wembley when his superb left hook, right uppercut, left hook combination landed at the end of the first round. It was clear from the offset that the champion was in a real fight and this version of Povetkin - presumably clean - remained a force to be reckoned with. The finish was classic Joshua and brutally efficient, with a three punch combination having the challenger reeling before a straight right, left-hook floored the Russian. The champion was in no mood to extend the fight any longer than necessary with the final right hand, left-hook landing more or less as Steve Gray was calling the bout over. (As traditionalist Mark Butcher was at pains to point out, the finish was therefore not technically a “knockout” as announced.) We learned that Joshua remains vulnerable defensively and is still a work-in-progress champion. He also demonstrated his grit once more and ability to adapt quickly - becoming much smarter defensively against Povetkin’s left hook for example - and reminded us what a devastating finisher he is.
BM: What's your best guess for who AJ fights in April and what will unfold when he does?
LG: Based on what's happened up to now in terms of 'negotiations' and what was said post-fight in London, I feel like we're headed for a Joshua vs Whyte rematch at Wembley next April. Then, all going smoothly, the 'big one' against the winner of Wilder vs Fury will finally happen in the summer.
CR: I think he fights Dillian Whyte. I still don’t see a huge desire from AJ and Matchroom to make the Wilder fight. Whyte is at his highest point right now but the feeling is should he face a Luis Ortiz or Wilder, he would get found out quickly. Because of that I think Matchroom wants to make that fight ASAP.
SB: It'll be the Whyte rematch. It will be closer than the first fight but I can't see anything different than a scrap and Joshua coming through.
CS: Dillian Whyte. This Wilder fiasco has grown arms and legs and I reckon will be harder to make now than it was in the summer.
LR: If it is the Whyte fight, then as much as I like Big Dill, there's only one outcome. A Joshua win.
PZ: I hope it's Wilder. Honestly - whoever lands BIG first wins that showdown.
AH: Joshua will fight Whyte. That appears to have been the plan all along. Everyone at Sky will want that in-house production. It’s the reason they’ve pumped so much into building up Dillian and fits their MO for creating WWE-style 'bad blood' storylines. It will also sell incredibly well.
TC: I’ll say Whyte. It’s a fight that will have its critics, but it’s an obvious fall back should the Wilder (or Fury) saga drag on. Whyte proved he can sell a PPV on the strength of his own name earlier in the year, and with the rematch angle and a long-standing rivalry, it’s a huge fight in Britain that sells very well indeed. As for the outcome, Whyte’s got a lot of momentum at the moment, but it’s hard to see past a repeat: a Joshua stoppage in another highly entertaining scrap.
AC: We will see Dillian Whyte in the opposite corner to Joshua at Wembley Stadium in April, of that I have no doubt. The Brixton ‘Body Snatcher’ has improved since their first meeting almost three years ago, but so too has Joshua. It might go a few rounds longer, but Joshua finishes a brave Whyte off inside the distance.
CW: By and large the great fights are happening in this era of competition but I’m not optimistic that the full (ignoring the WBA regular) unification we all desire will happen next and expect Joshua vs Whyte II to fill the 13 April date. Joshua has demonstrated a new ability to box with discipline since the first, wild meeting and although Whyte has himself improved I’d expect a similar result second time around.
BM: Who’s the best heavyweight in the world? AJ or the Wilder vs Fury winner?
LG: Joshua has to be the number one heavyweight in the world right now. The division's current era may not be great but his resume is probably the best at the moment, having beaten Klitschko, Parker and now Povetkin. Back-to-back wins over Ortiz and Fury would put Wilder right in contention for that spot too though.
CR: Probably just AJ. While Fury has the best win (2015 Wlad), he hasn’t looked amazing since coming back and Wilder’s record isn’t littered with elite fighters either. Those three are the best in what is a poor division but for me AJ is just about number one.
SB: I'll see how the victor of Wilder vs Fury performs first.
CS: Whoever wins December's fight would be a slim favourite when fighting AJ, in my opinion.
LR: It's got to be AJ. I say he goes in as the clear favourite, no matter who comes through Wilder vs Fury.
PZ: At present, with his CV, you have to go with AJ.
AH: A lot depends on what happens on 1 December but for now, Joshua looks the best heavyweight in the world. He’s beaten the better fighters. Unless Wilder and/or Fury can produce something that they haven’t previously, the most likely result is that either Wilder chins Fury, or Fury nullifies Wilder over 12. You suspect that whichever of those scenarios materialise, we’ll end up talking about the deficiencies of the loser rather than the qualities of the winner. Joshua, though, needs to fight both of them for peace of mind.
TC: On the eye test, it’s Joshua, and you have to say his record backs that up. Klitschko, Povetkin, Parker, Whyte, and Takam is a very solid body of work, and while Wilder and Fury both have one excellent win to their name, there just isn’t the evidence there to convince otherwise. There’s one way to find out for sure, of course...
AC: If Fury defeats Wilder I think you have to consider him the best heavyweight in the world. He defeated a better version of Wladimir Klitschko – who had barely lost a round in over a decade, let alone a fight – and travelled to Germany to do it. Now he is looking at another smash-and-grab job abroad against the most dangerous puncher in the division and one who doesn’t know how to lose. That pair of victories, along with the prestige of the lineal championship, would give Fury the edge in my book. If Wilder defeats Fury, there will always be questions about whether Fury was ready for the fight after his two-and-a-half year layoff. If the American wins, I would have to consider Joshua the best heavyweight in the world.
CW: With the quality of his competition he’s faced and beaten, Joshua has earned the right to be considered the current top dog.