Anthony Joshua vs Alexander Povetkin: Joshua, not his promoter Eddie Hearn, must remind everyone why he is the best

Joshua needs to rip the microphone and remind everyone that he’s the best in the world, that he is not defined by his promoter, by money or fame, but by being the greatest

Anthony Joshua weighs in ahead of title fight against Povetkin

Watching sport is one of the most expensive habits to enjoy, but no group of fans are ripped off quite as much as boxing aficionados. With fights scattered across different television channels and two warring domestic promoters, fans are forced to subscribe to two expensive products merely to keep in the loop.

The monthly cost of Sky Sports and BT Sport represents over a daily wage for a huge number of people, but the quality of shows on those platforms have dipped massively over the past year. There is a myth that these channels are free-to-air, but they are nowhere near, and yet for the ‘big’ fights to happen, fans are often asked to fork out another £20 to watch it.

This is an unacceptable system which has been ruthlessly exploited in recent years by both Frank Warren and latterly Eddie Hearn, whose quotes about pay-per-view boxing recently verged on absurdity.

Hearn, the same man who promoted Tony Bellew vs Nathan Cleverly and Kell Brook vs Frankie Gavin as pay-per-view main events warned of the dangers of too many pay-per-view events and that ‘other fighters will take risks on pay-per-views that won’t work.’

The problem for Hearn is that you can’t serve up successful nonsense and not expect others to follow suit. Yes, there are far too many pay-per-view events scheduled until the end of the year from Sky, BT and ITV, but the recent phenomenon of fleecing fans on phony hype has been perfected by Hearn, who promotes his latest offering this weekend when Heavyweight supremo Anthony Joshua fights Alexander Povetkin.

Is this a big fight? Yes. Will the event look great on television, with close to 80,000 people sipping beers, wearing blue shirts and sneaking off to the toilets often? Perhaps. But do the public really need to shell out? Well, yes.

Even at the lowest level of boxing, a heavyweight fight remains one of the most intriguing sporting contests. What could be better? You take two big lads with power and questionable stamina and wait for the first oak to fall.

This fight adds a great deal of skill and swagger to those basic principles, but the allure is still the same. Two powerhouses, 12 rounds, and three of the four heavyweight title belts on the line. What’s not to love?

Anthony Joshua faces Alexander Povetkin at Wembley on Saturday

Joshua, who was the main event for his first pay-per-view event for the British title against Dillian Whyte in 2015, has become Eddie Hearn’s golden child, with a flawless professional record, three championship belts and a mass audience of adoring supporters.

Does he deserve it? On paper, absolutely. After out-scoring Joseph Parker in his last fight to add the WBO heavyweight title to his IBF and WBA belts, Joshua reaffirmed his status as the best heavyweight on the planet, and he will be aiming to exert even more pressure over the field against Povetkin.

For the first time in his career Joshua was taken the distance in a professional fight by Parker and failed to look spectacular, which will give Povetkin some confidence. Povetkin, like Joshua, is a former Olympic gold medalist, and the veteran Russian has lost just once in a 35-fight career against Wladimir Klitschko.

The former WBA champion failed a drug test in 2016 ahead of a potential bout with Deontay Wilder and has been tarred with the reputation of a cheat ever since. Victory over Joshua would give a semblance of redemption towards the end of a lengthy career which has seen significant natural talent regress as the ageing process constricts.

Povetkin was last seen in action against Britain’s David Price on the Joshua/Parker undercard, and though he stopped the Liverpudlian in the fifth round, he was given an almighty scare by the hard-hitting giant earlier in the bout. Price has always had power but has fought timidly in recent bouts, which made his huge shot all the more impressive.

The Russian escaped with a stoppage win, but it’s clear his best days are behind him. At nearly 40, it’s unlikely he’ll have the stamina to out-score Joshua, who looked durable and fresh against Parker.

Instead, Povetkin will be looking to enjoy similar success that his old rival Klitschko showed against Joshua – soak up the early pressure, time the punches and then hit hard and often. Does the Russian have the power? At one point he did, but the explosive surprise of his heavy shots have dimmed.

Joshua has spoken of nerves and rebuilding heading into this fight, and despite slower sales than usual for this Wembley bout, he is by far the biggest ticket seller in British boxing history. He’s tall, handsome and boasts a Herculean figure, but beyond the six-pack lies a complex character full of contradictions.

The heavyweight champ wants to extend his perfect record 

Is he the successful every man with celebrity mates and an easygoing face on chat shows, or is he, as some believe, a media creation who hides his genuine self through meaningless mantras and eyebrow raising social media activity? One thing is for sure, his personality inside the ring is far different to his public behaviour outside it. Once the bell rings, Joshua is a stalking machine, who is not shy at using the dark side of boxing to his advantage.

The WBA and IBF heavyweight champion is full of aggression and has been known to hit his opponents just after the bell or after they have been knocked down. They’re moves which are unseen by many eyes but happen with just enough frequency to be noted. The aggression is teamed with serenity, which makes him a highly dangerous foe at any stage in the fight. When Wladimir Klitschko knocked him down hard during their 2017 bout, Joshua, though ragged, showed huge amounts of calm to weather the storm, and take the overall victory.

That’s what he does, despite all the pressure and expectation. He just wins, over and over, then takes the microphone and talks in platitudes. That just won’t do this weekend though, not with the looming sight of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury both jostling for attention.

Like it or not, for the first time in years, the heavyweight division is buzzing without Joshua’s involvement in a fight. Though he’s still the main man, the critics are itching for weakness, while even his most ardent fans are beginning to beg him to shut up his giant rivals.

Beating Povetkin is a great achievement, but what would be even grander is what happens after. This is the moment Anthony Joshua needs to rip the microphone and remind everyone that he’s the best in the world, that he is not defined by his promoter, by money or fame, but by being the greatest.

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