You don’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you might just get what you need.
Michael Jagger and Keith Richards (c) 1968
Dominance is an elusive quarry. And in boxing, I maintain, it is unwelcome. I’ve struck upon the notion that only in equality can greatness be forged; Ali needed Frazier, Holmes needed someone he didn’t have. On Saturday night, Anthony Joshua, the type of gentleman champion British fans so adore, emerged victorious from a difficult heavyweight defence with his titles in tact and most of the adoration suckled. The fight revealed a relative equality with his contemporaries that will suit his own quest for historical significance.
For those of us commenting and watching from the safe side of the ropes, his pursuit of that legacy will be all the more enjoyable for the competition.
Entering the seventh round, I had Povetkin ahead 58-57; the sum of winning three rounds and sharing a fourth with two rounds for the WBA, IBF, WBO and IBO champion with the busted proboscis. There have been many alternative narratives published on the merit of Alexander Povetkin as a challenger, a hearty meal for any heavyweight diner but not the chef’s special we’d sat down in anticipation for. He fulfilled the more positive spins put on his current status as well as reassert the truth about the consensus number one; that he isn’t unbeatable.
Historical and hysterical comparisons
His performance in defeat fell short of heroic, Joshua is too decisive a puncher to create heroes of opponents. Once Joshua lands, the punches keep coming. Few things he does merit the hyperbolic hot-air balloons of comparison to by gone greats that the SKY team are eager to release but he does finish fights definitively. Mercilessly.
In advance of the Saturday’s conclusion, Povetkin, despite his advancing years, he celebrated 39 years of squinting up at the world he inhabits recently, provided troublesome and occasionally dangerous challenge. His ‘pet’ left hook and feinted left to the body followed by an overhand right landed successfully and on one occasion rendered Joshua motionless, if only momentarily. The foot speed he never really had remains absent and as such he cannot get in close as much as his natural deficits of height and range would encourage him to. However, he was a threat for the first four rounds as Joshua, wrestling with a cold in fight week promoter Eddie Hearn would later reveal, took time to adapt his tactics and adjust to the power and hand speed Povetkin brought.
History continues to be made in every event Joshua creates. That the long bows of the cynics have been drawn and loosed for the first time in the past few months unfathomable to those of us who recall too easily the abyss of the domestic scene in the late 1990s. That said, Tyson Fury’s willingness to accept terms with Deontay Wilder so swiftly has proven sufficiently disturbing to the division’s equilibrium to stimulate questions, sarcasm and criticism of Joshua’s intentions and those of his promoter of record. There has been evidence of an unease in the fighter, and in the aftermath of this victory, as there had been in the pre-amble, a need to dissuade those who revel in the notion Joshua is avoiding the strongest of the available challenges.
Hearn’s pragmatism is becoming a brittle defence
Collecting £30-50 million a year in fight purses and sponsorship has made Joshua both wealthy and perhaps numb to the figures attached to prospective fights with either Wilder or Fury. The condescension in Eddie Hearn’s response to post-fight queries about Joshua’s need to fight his two totemic rivals; “Joshua could do 80,000 fighting you!”, remains the most luminous of the more subtle deflections of the question.
Regular, explicit and subliminal, references to Dillian Whyte serve only to restock the quiver for those pointing their arrows. Good fight though it will be. As enduring and fertile as Joshua’s appeal remains, there is a sense, woven from the various lines the vested parties have offered, and my own instinct, that the ‘edge’ will be worn from the good will he enjoys if Whyte is in the other corner on April 13 when the show returns to Wembley.
Alas, he won’t be. Whatever Anthony’s own Twitter poll suggests.
Oh, and did I mention, the IBF’s mandatory is due on October 28th 2018? Hughie Fury travels to Kubrat Pulev’s Bulgaria to help the IBF decide which one of them should hold the golden ticket.