TODAY at Wembley Stadium, Alexander Povetkin sat cold-faced and stared into thin air, and looked every inch the Russian villain he will no doubt be marketed as in the build-up to his September 22 showdown with Anthony Joshua.
“I’m very happy to be here,” he said through a translator without showing any signs of being happy to be here. “Joshua has proved he is one of the strongest fighters around.”
“This fight will all be about experience. We have been training hard,” said the 38-year-old, who will train in the Russian mountains. “The best motivation for me is that he’s world champion, and I will be fighting him very soon.”
Indeed he will and, due to his significant ring achievements and the infamy achieved by failing multiple drug tests, he comes into the bout with a fearsome reputation.
“We believe this is the toughest test of Anthony Joshua’s career,” said promoter Eddie Hearn before reeling off Povetkin’s lofty rankings with each of the sanctioning bodies, and his Olympic gold medal but there was no mention of the Russian’s two failed tests in 2016.
Hearn should not be blamed for not talking about the unsavoury ingredient in this promotion. Yet fans – craving a showdown with WBC champion Deontay Wilder for all the belts instead of this dastardly Russian – expected more from the promoter.
“It seems that there’s always a lot going on around all of my fights,” Joshua responded. “There’s always another fight to talk about. With [Eric] Molina it was [Wladimir] Klitschko and now it’s Wilder. But Povetkin is the first on my list. It doesn’t bother me.
“I was always worrying about what was next, I was boxing within myself. But not now. This isn’t about anyone else, it’s about me, it’s about my legacy.
“I’m not to interested in praise or criticism, I’m just interested in myself. You will find all the answers you need about yourself in the mirror.
“I think I have 10 years left in boxing, and I want to cement my legacy. Science is different now, boxers last a lot longer.
When asked what kind of fight it would be Joshua said, “Riddick Bowe versus Evander Holyfield. With our two styles and mind-sets, it will definitely gel.”
Unquestionably, drugs and Wilder withstanding, Joshua-Povetkin is tremendous matchup.
“Povetkin has unbelievable pedigree and I’ve watched him for a long time. The fan base is a lot different these days, they expect people to talk English, they expect them to be vocal on social media,” Joshua said.
And perhaps we should be grateful for that. There will be no chairs flying, no tasteless insults, no nonsensical grudges. Russian villains have never been particularly vocal, after all, but they’ve always been pretty good at putting up a fight.