It is not the fight most wanted to see Anthony Joshua in next, but the WBA-IBF-WBO world heavyweight champion will defend his titles against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium, London, on Sept. 22. What does the announcement mean for Joshua, his rival world champion Deontay Wilder and others?
Joshua to take care of business
There has been a sense of inevitability about Joshua facing Povetkin next, despite the discussions for Joshua-Wilder that were played out in every detail on social media.
And it makes perfect sense for Joshua to fight Povetkin rather than Wilder next.
Fighting Povetkin means Joshua can — provided he wins — keep his three major titles intact and fulfil a mandatory defence, clearing the way for a possible world heavyweight title unification clash with Wilder in April next year.
Being stripped of the WBA belt would torpedo the chance of Joshua and Wilder meeting for the chance to become undisputed world heavyweight champion and the holder of all four major titles.
Leaving aside all the bickering and claims as to who was to blame for Joshua-Wilder not being made next for October or November, Joshua needed to make an announcement in order to keep hold of the WBA belt.The WBA had already granted Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn an extra month to negotiate with Povektin and Wilder before demanding a resolution with “with immediate effect” on June 27.
Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), 28, from England, has always strived to keep the titles intact, as well as facing WBC champion Wilder.
This way, he (hopefully) gets to do both.
Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs), of Russia, will be 39 by the time he fights AJ.
But Povetkin will still be Joshua’s most significant opponent after Wladimir Klitschko, the former world No 1 who the Briton knocked out last year. Povetkin challenged Klitschko in October 2013 and lost a heavy points decision to the Ukrainian after suffering four knockdowns.
Since that defeat for the WBA, IBF and WBO belts, Povetkin has twice failed drugs tests that ended a shot at Wilder.
And yet Povetkin escaped punishment to maintain his lofty position — the WBA and WBO No 1, WBC No 3 and IBF No 4 — before a vicious knockout of England’s David Price on the undercard of Joshua’s last fight against Joseph Parker at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on March 31.
Joshua will still start a red-hot betting favourite after signing for a fight that gives him the chance to keep hold of all the titles, rather than lose one before he gets into the ring.
Wilder must revert to plan B(reazeale)
Just as Joshua is looking to take care of his mandatory challenger next, Wilder may now do the same against Dominic Breazeale.
By pushing the unification fight back to next year, it gives Wilder the chance to face Breazeale (19-1, 17 KOs), who is the WBC No 2. Breazeale, 32, suffered his first professional defeat by stoppage to Joshua two years ago and since registered stoppage wins over Izu Ugonoh and Eric Molina (in a WBC title eliminator) on Wilder’s undercards.
It is a fight that can be marketed well too after the two Americans clashed in a hotel lobby last year.
Breazeale wants to wreck the Joshua-Wilder plans.
“I’ve paid close attention to Deontay’s last three fights, and I’ve seen a lot more weaknesses than I’ve seen strengths, particularly when he has someone hurt,” Breazeale told Premier Boxing Champions.
“When you smell blood, you’re supposed to go in for the kill, but his fundamental skills aren’t there and he falls apart.
“I won my last fight to become the WBC’s mandatory. Deontay Wilder has the WBC title, and that’s the one that I want.”
Is Joshua-Wilder EVER going to happen?
Don’t give up hope yet of seeing Joshua face Wilder — just see their next fights as part of the process for it being made.
A clash with American Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs), 32, would be the first for all four major world heavyweight titles and is the biggest fight in boxing waiting to be made. There is too much money to be made for it not to happen. Expect it to happen at Wembley Stadium on April 13 as Joshua looks unlikely to yield on his insistence he gets home advantage.
“We’re ready to make this fight,” Hearn said.
“It’s very frustrating for me, fight fans we spent three months negotiating trying to make the fight.
“It’s not over. The date is 13th April at Wembley Stadium. We need a response.” Wilder is now insisting on a 50-50 split to make the fight happen but there is plenty of time to iron out any contractual differences, TV deals and ramp up publicity for pay-per-view sales. Hearn is unlikely to ever accept a 50-50 split and if Wilder does not yield, it would end hopes of the fight happening.
Parker-Whyte winner, Fury in line for AJ
If negotiations with Wilder have gone down a cul-de-sac, Hearn and Joshua have other options for April 13 (should he prevail against Povetkin). Tyson Fury (26-0, 19 KOs), also of England, has the second fight of his comeback on Aug. 18 and is a while off challenging Wilder or Joshua.
But the former WBA-IBF-WBO champion, who last month fought for the first time since beating Wladimir Klitschko for the titles in December 2015, may be ready for April 13.
A more likely scenario sees Joshua face the winner of England’s Dillian Whyte versus New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, who clash at London’s O2 Arena on July 28. Jamaica-born Dillian Whyte (23-1, 17 KOs), 30, who has lived in London since childhood, was stopped by Joshua in seven rounds in December 2015 while Parker (24-1, 18 KOs), 26, became the first professional boxer to go the distance with Joshua in a points defeat on March 31.
Defeat to Joshua in Cardiff cost Parker, who trains in Las Vegas, his WBO belt but his trainer Kevin Barry is hopeful victory over Whyte leads to a rematch.
“Last year, I went on record to say that I didn’t think Joshua and Wilder would fight in 2018 and now we are talking about them fighting in the first quarter of next year,” Barry said.
“It has taken so long to get any sort of negotiation that all parties can agree upon and the fact Eddie Hearn has now got the next two fights at Wembley, that has given him the upper-hand in those negotiations.
“Eventually the unification with Wilder has to happen and I’d like to think a rematch with Joe has to happen.
“The winner of this fight between Parker and Whyte, if they don’t make Joshua-Wilder, is probably going to be the opponent for April.”