ROBERT McCRACKEN reckons Alexander Povetkin is second only to Wladimir Klitschko in the pantheon of Anthony Joshua heavyweight opponents and admits it’s a fight they could probably do without.
Having worked his way to the number one spot with the WBA, Povetkin has forced the hand of Joshua and the pair are set to meet next Saturday (September 22) at Wembley Stadium. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a fight Joshua (owner of WBA, IBF and WBO heavyweight titles) would take if given the choice, McCracken explains.
“He’s the mandatory,” McCracken, Joshua’s head coach, told Boxing News. “You wouldn’t choose him, would you? He’s a good fighter, he knows what he’s doing, he’s an Olympic champ, world champ, and only lost his world title to Klitschko. He’s from the top tier of boxing and is very dangerous and well-schooled.
“You fight him because he’s the mandatory. Otherwise, you don’t choose to.
“But, saying that, Anthony has accepted any challenge since he’s worked with me and in eight years he has been very diligent, and he’s looked at opponents and said, ‘Yeah, let’s go.’ He doesn’t doubt himself. He believes in himself. That’s been a big part of him being fast-tracked. He understands the sport, understands how difficult it is and he understands how dangerous Povetkin is.”
Despite the fact he’s now 39 years of age, Povetkin, a former WBA heavyweight champion, is considered dangerous for a number of reasons. He’s dangerous, first of all, because he was once an elite-level amateur, one good enough to secure an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and a World Championship gold in 2003. He’s dangerous, secondly, because he is 34-1 (24) as a pro, has lost only to Wladimir Klitschko, and boasts stoppage wins against the likes of Carlos Takam, Mariusz Wach, Manuel Charr and, more recently, David Price.
“He feints and goes to the body and then comes over the top with hooks,” is the McCracken assessment. “You can prepare as best as you can. He knows what he’s doing and he’s good at it. But AJ is the bigger man, he’s younger, he has a bigger reach, and he can use that reach and his legs.
“You’ve either got to meet Povetkin or go to the one side. One of the two. If you sit there and let him tuck up and hook away, he’s very, very effective.
“Anthony has got to get out there and apply himself. He’s got good momentum in his career. He’s fought some good fighters of late and done some good rounds. This should be another good test for him where he’ll learn a lot against a solid fighter.”
Of course, it’s difficult for anyone preparing to fight Alexander Povetkin to discern the clean performances from the dirty ones and therefore get a clear picture, in the mind’s eye, of the Povetkin they can expect to face on fight night. This will be no different for McCracken and Joshua. Aware that some of Povetkin’s prior performances have been aided by substances deemed illegal according to rules and regulations, they will have prepared for every eventuality.
“You kind of simplify it in boxing gyms – you simplify everything,” said McCracken. “Basically, he’s an Olympic champ, he’s a world champ, he’s very dangerous, and he’s a top-end fighter. That’s how we’ve approached it.”
In addition to all of that, Alexander Povetkin is also, on paper at least, the second-best opponent Anthony Joshua will have faced so far as a five-year pro. That, McCracken believes, isn’t even worth disputing.
“Without a doubt,” he said. “It’s not even close, in my opinion. But, at the same time, he has never fought anybody close to Anthony Joshua. And that will be the difference.”