It is just after 8:30 a.m. Thursday September 13th.
The eerie quiet of my normally busy neighborhood is off putting. Of course normally I would be at work anyway.
However, since Monday a state of emergency has been declared in the Carolinas and my hometown of Charleston feels like a ghost town. My office and that of my wife will beclosed all week as hurricane Florence, the most powerful cyclone to ever venture this far north of the caribbean takes aim at us I was inspired to examine the storm that Anthony AJ Joshua is about to enter when he faces perennial heavyweight contender Alexander Povetkin.
As any meteorologist, they will tell you the eye of the storm is the safest place to be when a hurricane crashes inland. That analogy fits preceisely into how AJ can beat arguably the most dangerous opponent he has faced in his campaign to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
An ocean away from me, it is easy to imagine AJ walking through the doors of Finchley ABC in North London right now to continue the groundwork for this important title fight scheduled to take place in Wembley Stadium in little more than a week.
Likely another sell out, AJ has single handedly put British boxing on the map and though he struggles for name recognition in The States the 28 year old Joshua is the perfect fighter to return Heavyweight Boxing to a position of primacy.
Thanks in large part to promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing, the youthful promoter has managed to reinvigorate world wide interest in boxing largely on the broadshoulders of Mr. Joshua. Eddie’s new streaming service DAZN will feature AJ vs Povetkin as the first of many major fights to air exclusively on the platform.
It is the perfect match; the 21st century fighter merging with 21st century technology.
In any event, AJ and his team skippered by longtime trainer Robert McCracken are not
filling sandbags or buying up gallons of water like many in my community are. They are bunkered in at Finchley ABC, where AJ has trained since his days as an amateur, to formulate how they will beat Russian puncher Alexander Povetkin.
A professional boxer since 2005 Povetkin, who just turned 39 this month is arguably themost successful ethnic Russian heavyweight fighter of all time. His record is exemplary, currently standing at 34W-1L (24 KOs). The one loss coming via decision to former undisputed champion Wladimir Klitschko all the way back in October of 2013.
Since then, Povetkin has been within inches of ascending the heavyweight thrown himself, collecting wins against the best available competition, he has stopped Mike Perez, Manuel Charr and Carlos Takam. However, Povetkin’s legacy and resume have come under scrutiny since a rash of violations for performance enhancing drugs (PEDs)since 2016.
In May 2016 Povetkin had a shot against reigning WBC champ Deontay Wilder scuppered due to a banned substance violation and after serving a brief suspension was caught with another PED violation only months later in December 2016 when he was scheduled to face Bermane Stiverne for the interim WBC heavyweight title.
The entire Russian sporting apparatus has faced scrutiny going back decades but has been amplified over the last several years thanks to wide spread corruption and cheating that lands right at the very doorstep of Russian “president” Vladimir Putin himself. Povetkin will have a hard time washing off that stink, Russia is run by KGB strongmen and gangsters and even if Povetkin is now clean there will be an asterisk next to his name and every single win on his record.
A true skeptic might ask how this two time drug cheat has served almost no suspension and managed to find himself once again in a mandatory challenger position for the heavyweight title, but I digress.
That said, Povetkin is a very credible and dangerous challenge to AJ’s titles.
Firstly, Povetkin has the ultimate “puncher’s chance” out of all of AJ’s previous opponents Povetkin’s power is the greatest he’s faced since beating Klitschko. It will be essential that AJ deny Povetkin the space to allow him to generate the leverage he needs to throw his best punches.When a hurricane forms, the northeast corner of the storm is the source of its greatest destructive energy.
For Povetkin, he possesses a crushing overhand right which he likes to throw in the middle distance. He has a very obvious ‘tell’ when he prepares the punch. Sometimes off the jab he then feints left, dipping his head and shoulders left then suddenly closing the distance with the overhand right. The whole motion looks a bit like the end of a whip snapping. That dip to the left which was so obvious in his recent win over David Price for example is something AJ and his team could exploit.
Povetkin’s second best punch is the left hook. Again, thrown in the middle distance, it’s a wide hook that he throws often after catching his opponent’s hook on his own glove. He throws it off of the jab as well, again with devastating effect.
Never hook with a hooker as they say, so AJ needs to avoid this in between space where Povetkin gets his bet work done.
Where Povetkin really struggles is in close, right in the eye of the storm, there Povetkin possesses the least power. Again in his fight with David Price this was obvious. Conventional wisdom would be that Povetkin would need to get inside the long limbs of the 6’7” scouser from Liverpool and so he did, but once there he slapped with his punches though some shots to the body were thudding. But for Price’s glassjaw, an effective inside fighter may have fared better.
When facing down a natural disaster like a hurricane it’s best to obviously be far enough away that its remnants may only be a few waves lapping on the shore, or right in the eye, close enough to avoid its destructive shearing winds.AJ will benefit, as Klitschko did from a seven inch reach advantage, the improved jab of AJ will be highly effective against Povetkin who lacks the mobility and deft footwork to insinuate himself in to a distance where he will be most comfortable.
When Povetkin tries to dip left to deliver that overhand right, AJ can fire a straight right hand to the side of the Russian’s head, when Povetkin comes up AJ could have a left hook waiting for him.
If AJ ends up inside, he will have to be intelligent but Povetkin lacks true power at this distance, he needs to generate massive leverage launching all 230 pounds behind his punches. Inside, AJ can use his height and strength advantage to wear down the older fighter in the clinch and set up the rear right hook, the same punch that landed so dramatically on Klitschko and set up the Brit’s legendary win.
When the storm warning goes out you either shelter in place or evacuate. In the boxing ring there is nowhere to go and nowhere to hide. No first responders
coming to save you, unless you are being scraped off the canvas like six of Alexander Povetkin’s last eight opponents. Next week, September 22nd, the clouds will roll in to Wembley Arena but AJ has been here before. He will weather the storm.