By Keith Idec
Odds-makers, most fans and the vast majority of experts don’t consider Alexander Povetkin too big of a threat to upset Anthony Joshua on Saturday night.
Povetkin’s promoters get the sense, however, that Joshua’s handlers and Joshua himself realize the danger Povetkin presents.
“He is being underestimated, but Joshua and his team understand,” Vadim Kornilov, a representative for World of Boxing’s Andrey Ryabinsky, told Sky Sports on Thursday. “They realize what they’re up against.”
Russia’s Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs) also knows what he is up against at Wembley Stadium, where a crowd in excess of 80,000 is expected for his 12-round heavyweight title fight against England’s Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs).
The former WBA heavyweight champion has boxed before big crowds, including when he scored a fifth-round knockout of huge British veteran David Price in last fight, March 31 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. A crowd of nearly 80,000 attended that card, which was headlined by Joshua’s unanimous-decision victory over New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (24-2, 18 KOs) in their heavyweight title unification fight.
“Flying into London from Moscow, there were a bunch of people in Povetkin t-shirts coming to the fight,” Kornilov said. “Povetkin feels more motivated and stronger when he fights on the opponent’s field. He feels more pressure in Russia. Here, he feels like he’s up against everybody and that motivates him.”
Povetkin, the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s WBA title, hopes to deliver a better performance for his supporters than in his last world title fight. Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko knocked him down four times in that title unification fight, a 12-rounder Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) easily won by unanimous decision nearly five years ago in Moscow.
“Povetkin is the most popular fighter in Russia today,” Kornilov said. “He lives there, trains there, fights there. He hasn’t fought outside of the country much. He is a patriotic fighter, who the people respect. I do believe that, now [that] the World Cup is over, this is the next big thing for Russia.”
Joshua-Povetkin will be the main event of a Sky Sports Box Office show in the United Kingdom (£19.95). Their fight for Joshua’s IBF, IBO, WBA and WBO titles also will headline DAZN’s inaugural live boxing stream in the United States ($9.99 per month).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.