Russian president hovers over Joshua soapie
London — Chelsea and Liverpool are unbeaten after five rounds of the new Premier League season and Liverpool pipped Paris Saint-Germain in a five-goal‚ 90-minute thriller of a Champions League game on Tuesday.
But Wednesday’s sport sections in some of the most football-focused newspapers in the world saved a big chunk of space for an even bigger bloke.
He will be in action at Wembley on Saturday‚ but there will not be a football in sight. There also will not be any diving to try to con the referee.
“Anthony Joshua slackens timekeeping after 200 rounds of boxing‚” was Wednesday’s headline in the Guardian. “How Joshua creates his knockout power‚” quoth the Times.
But you are not going to keep football out of the picture for long in this country‚ as the Daily Telegraph reminded us: “Anthony Joshua studies Cristiano Ronaldo’s training regime to try and extend his career.”
The tabloids trained their long lenses and short sentences on what Joshua eats — “five eggs in the morning‚ among other food… two chicken breasts at lunch and two fillet steaks at dinner” along with a “morning and bedtime snack” — the fact that he has shared snaps of his trainers‚ and a warning that he will concentrate on “winning rather than being entertaining”.
You had to pick fairly carefully through all that to discover Joshua would not be trying to live up to Alex Ferguson’s view on Dennis Wise: “He could start a row in an empty house.”
For one thing‚ the house will be anything but empty‚ with a crowd of 80,000 expected.
For another‚ the row will be about nothing less than the International Boxing Federation‚ International Boxing Organisation (IBO)‚ World Boxing Association and World Boxing Organisation versions of the heavyweight championship … “of the wooooorld!”
Thank you‚ Michael Buffer. Who will‚ of course‚ be in attendance. The presence of the outrageously tanned‚ silver-haired‚ jut-jawed ring announcer who might have happened off a soap opera set is the seal of authenticity for any fight that hopes to pass itself off as a big deal.
For still another thing‚ there will be someone else in the ring. And we do not mean the ref. Alexander Povetkin‚ who is 10cm shorter than Joshua‚ loses out by 17cm in reach‚ and has knocked out 26% fewer of his opponents‚ will also turn up.
Amid all the hype over Joshua‚ a Watford lad‚ in the British papers it is easy to forget that Saturday’s shindig is a contest‚ not a coronation. And that Povetkin will not come to the ring as fodder for Joshua’s booming punches but as the IBO champion and a boxer who has lost only one of his 35 bouts.
According to promoter Eddie Hearn‚ the Russian represents plenty more than that: “Povetkin has got not just his team but the country and‚ dare I say [Vladimir Putin’s] government behind him. They are all involved”.
This is like a mission from them to beat Britain and for a Russian to become the world heavyweight champion. “He and his team know how important this is for them and for Povetkin nationally. This is not just about him personally winning a title; this is a major‚ major thing if he could stick one on a Brit.
“You know that level of government is involved in Povetkin so there will be plenty of instruction‚ well wishes and calls of intent from them saying: ‘Come on‚ this is important for our country’.”
All that said — way too much by Hearn — Povetkin is not expected to win. Instead‚ he is placeholder for a far more eagerly anticipated‚ as yet uncertain showdown between Joshua and Deontay Wilder.
Wilder‚ an American‚ holds the World Boxing Council title and negotiations for a fight with another Brit‚ Tyson Fury‚ tentatively set for November or December‚ will start next week.
So a lot needs to happen before the posters for “Joshua vs Fury” go up around London. But what a prospect that would be; the “Battle of Britain”‚ and all that. We will all be ready to rumble‚ won’t we‚ Mr Buffer.