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From Gold Medals To Drug Scandals: Who Is Anthony Joshua's Opponent Alexander Povetkin?

Anthony Povetkin is getting ready to fight Anthony Joshua this weekend at Wembley
Anthony Povetkin is getting ready to fight Anthony Joshua this weekend at Wembley

A familiar face in the heavyweight division over the years, Alexander Povetkin’s profile has never been bigger in the UK, with the 39-year-old set to face Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night.

But what do we really know about the Russian and what sort of threat does the 2004 Olympic gold medallist pose to Britain’s very own Golden Child?

Let’s first address the elephant in the room; the drug scandals. Povetkin has failed two drugs tests in as many years and as a result was handed an indefinite ban from boxing last year.

Doping in the vast majority of competitive sport is considered a sin, but in boxing, a sport where the athletes actively target an opponent’s head, and therefore the brain, it means taking any illegal advantage to win makes you a real piece of sh*t - in this writer’s opinion anyway. 

As the old adage goes, “you don’t play boxing.”

Povetkin had been on course to fight WBC king Deontay Wilder in 2016 before the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) found traces of the banned substance meldonium in a random test - ‘postponing’ the fight a mere nine days before it was set to go ahead.

Despite protests from Povetkin’s camp that the substance was consumed before it was placed on the banned list, a federal court in New York in 2017 ruled that was not the case. 

A combination of that failed test and a Wilder injury meant the fight would never come to fruition. The WBC, seemingly undeterred by Povetkin’s dirty deed, then ordered Povetkin to fight Bermane Stiverne for the interim heavyweight title.

In a farcical chain of events, Povetkin would test positive once again, this time for a substance called ostiary - only this time he wasn’t alone, with his opponent also failing a pre-fight drug’s test.

Both episodes cost Povetkin a few hefty fines and a couple of missed fight purses, but very little else - a sad statement on boxing’s fight against drugs cheats. 

Now we find ourselves days away from a showdown with Anthony Joshua, and Povetkin, scandals aside, has proven to be quite the operator in boxing’s marquee division and is someone Joshua can’t take lightly.

With a stellar amateur background which saw him collect an Olympic gold, the gold at the 2003 World Championships, and consecutive golds at the 2002 and 2004 European Championships, one thing is clear, Povetkin can box.

The Russian has lost just once in his professional career, a 2013 unanimous points decision defeat to Wladimir Klitschko - a loss we can all agree there’s no shame in. 

Granite chinned, Joshua will have his work cut out if he’s looking to stop Povetkin this weekend and it would be no surprise if AJ is taken to the scorecards for just the second time in his career.

Joshua is the much bigger man and that certainly plays to his advantage, although as David Price found out (with a wallop), the Chekhov native won’t be intimidated by size difference.

The next advantage is that the Russian is very much in the twilight of his career, and the March clash with Price certainly showed signs that Povetkin was starting to slip even with the fight’s emphatic conclusion. 

Anthony Joshua should come through this fight without too many problems providing he pays his ageing opponent the respect he deserves - we’ve already seen the problems a particularly game Carlos Takam gave AJ at the tail-end of last year.

Ultimately, however, in the context of the failed drugs tests leading to this event, the fixture this weekend will leave a sour taste in mouths across the boxing community. Regardless of your thoughts on Anthony Joshua, a win for him this weekend is a win for boxing. 

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