By Keith Idec
Anthony Joshua didn’t quite seem like himself throughout the week before his fight against Alexander Povetkin.
According to promoter Eddie Hearn, the huge heavyweight champion had every reason to feel a bit off before beating Povetkin by seventh-round technical knockout at Wembley Stadium in London. Hearn told IFL TV during a post-fight interview that Joshua had a “horrific” training camp, during which he suffered undisclosed injuries, and battled the flu throughout fight week.
“I think even in his mind,” Hearn said, “I was talking to him then, and he was like, ‘What happens if I lose? You know, we’ve booked April, we’re talking about Wilder and I look like [a fool] if I lose.’ And it’s been a horrific camp, with injuries and he’s had the flu all week. And it was like, even this week I’m thinking, ‘This is just not meant to be.’ I wake up [Saturday morning] and it’s absolutely pissing down with rain. I get in the changing room, he’s put his glove on and the thumb’s gone.
“So he’s changing [gloves]. This is three minutes before the walk [to the ring]. Changing the glove, put it back on, re-taping. I’m just thinking, ‘This is destined to go wrong.’ And then, in the ring he’s so relaxed, like I just wanna say to him, ‘Switch on now.’ Because he’s just like [stone-faced]. And I’m thinking, ‘Is he just relaxed? Or is he just not with it?’ ”
The first round didn’t help put Hearn’s mind at ease. Russia’s Povetkin landed a sharp, three-punch combination that knocked Joshua off balance and bloodied his nose. The 28-year-old Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs) said after the fight that those shots didn’t hurt him, but Povetkin’s fast start made it clear their fight would be more difficult than the 10-1 odds suggested.
“And then after the first round, because I knew how tough this fight would be for him,” Hearn continued. “Regardless of his mindset, Povetkin, you seen it, he is one of the best heavyweights in the world. And they come absolutely desperate to win. And after that first round, my b*mhole was all over the place. But when you talk about a learning fight, it’s hard to talk about a learning fight in front of 80,000 people, like this. But he is learning.
“Look at his resume now. Povetkin, knockout, round seven. [Wladimir] Klitschko, knockout, round 11. Dillian Whyte, knockout, round seven. Joseph Parker, points win. [Carlos] Takam, stoppage, round 10. Dominic Breazeale, stoppage, round seven. Charles Martin, knockout, round two. He’s had 22 fights. He’s a puppy. But that was such a good, composed performance, people don’t realize. And yeah, he got hit a bit too much. But look at the way he broke him down to the body, tired him out and look at the finish. What a finish! Mate, unbelievable. A brilliant fight.”
By dropping Povetkin twice in the seventh round and stopping him, Joshua became the first fighter to knock out Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs). The rugged Russian’s first loss came against Ukraine’s Klitschko, who dropped Povetkin four times on his way to winning a wide unanimous decision in their October 2013 bout in Moscow.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.