LONDON (AFP) – Anthony Joshua has set his sights on joining boxing’s all-time greats as the heavyweight champion builds up to his title defence against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin.
Joshua, the reigning WBA, IBF and WBO champion, faces mandatory challenger Povetkin at Wembley on September 22 amid mounting expectation the British fighter will then get in the ring with WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Negotiations between Joshua’s camp and Wilder’s team are still on-going and the unification clash could be lined up for April 13, with Wembley reportedly booked for that date.
Before that, former Olympic gold medallist Joshua must put his belts on the line when he tangles with Povetkin.
Joshua isn’t over-looking the 38-year-old Povetkin, also a former Olympic champion, but he has reached the stage in his career where it is his legacy that motivates him rather than emerging unscathed from individual duels.
“It’s not just about Povetkin and Wilder. It’s about proving my worth as a heavyweight champion It’s about me, my legacy and achieving my potential,” Joshua told a press conference at Wembley on Wednesday.
“Now it’s more, I know I’m good at this. I’ve built my mindset over the last 10 years.
“I’ve got 10 years left in boxing and I want to cement my legacy.
“(George) Foreman, Bernard Hopkins, (Wladimir) Klitschko went on until 40. I believe I can do that with the advances in sports science.
“I’ve been 12 rounds, I’ve been dropped, I’ve put on weight, I’ve lost weight, I’ve learnt boxing specific training.
“I think back to the gold medal. It was a tournament I had to get through. I’m back in the tournament. It’s great. It resonates with people.”
Promoter Eddie Hearn agrees that Joshua is more than capable of adding more polish to his already glittering CV.
“The pace that this young man is moving at and the challenge he is wiling to take is fantastic for the sport of boxing,” Hearn said.
“Anthony wants to create a legacy and the only way you do that is by fighting real fighters.”
Joshua won his first world title in 2016 and has made five defences, taking his record to 21-0 with 20 knockouts. The 28-year-old beat Joseph Parker of New Zealand by unanimous points decision in Cardiff on March 31.
Povetkin knocked out David Price on the undercard of Joshua’s victory over Parker. He previously fought for the titles Joshua now holds in a 2013 defeat by Klitschko.
“He’s got an unbelievable pedigree. I’ve watched him for a long time,” Joshua said of Povetkin.
“People should never underestimate a fighter if he doesn’t have a big social media fanbase.
“Hes one of the best fighters I will face on my record. I look forward to it.” Povetkin, who was the super-heavyweight champion at the 2004 Games in Athens, is relishing the chance to take on Joshua in front of a full house at Wembley after a tarnished career.
He twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs in 2016, costing him fights with reigning WBC champion Deontay Wilder and former champion Bermane Stiverne.
“Anthony Joshua has proved he’s one of the strongest fighters. I’m very excited for this fight,” Povetkin said.
“The best motivation for myself is knowing he’s a world champion.”