Joshua threatens to punish Povetkin

Anthony Joshua

Anthony Joshua

Unified world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua says he will not be ‘drained’ by criticism and has called on the public to support him as a person rather than a boxer.

Joshua, 28, defends his IBF, WBO and WBA world heavyweight titles against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

But some fans and pundits have been critical that a bout with WBC champion Deontay Wilder has not materialised.

“I can’t please everyone anymore, so I get that and so it’s my game now,” Joshua told BBC Sport.

“I’m having fun with it. I did 16 fights and went in for a world title, three years an amateur and went and won the Olympics, unified the heavyweight division, and it’s still not good enough.

“Either I get stronger from it or I get drained by it. I think I am getting stronger from it as it builds up a thicker skin.

“Get behind me as a person rather than a boxer. If you support me, support me as a person for life but if you’re with me just for boxing, when it’s going good you’ll be there but if it’s bad you will not.”

Of the failed Wilder negotiations, Joshua said the sport was now in an era in which fighters “know their worth” and where the teams around them “negotiate hard”.

But he pointed to the fact Wembley is already booked again on April 13 as an opportunity for him to face Wilder or Tyson Fury.

“We are in the same division, the same era, there’s no way we can’t fight,” Joshua added.

“Providing I beat Povetkin, April 13 is booked. Wembley is there – a date and a location – it’s just the person who wants to step up and fight me.”

Negotiations with Wilder have been going on since Joshua beat Carlos Takam 11 months ago but, in a recent interview, promoter Eddie Hearn said British heavyweight Dillian Whyte was probably favourite to be the opponent on April 13 because of his impressive form and the fact that a deal would be easier to make.

But Joshua must first deal with the threat of Povetkin in front of around 80,000 fans at the national stadium. Hearn himself has said he is “nervous” about an opponent who is arguably overlooked by the public while those involved in the sport know he brings experience, pedigree and threat.

The 39-year-old challenger – twice convicted of doping – has only been beaten once in his 35-fight career, and that loss was to Wladimir Klitschko in 2013.

Joshua rates the 2004 Olympic gold medalist as his third-toughest challenge as a professional, behind his own win over Klitschko and his last outing, a points win over Joseph Parker.

Parker is the only man to take Joshua to the scorecards and the champion is keen to be more aggressive this time out in what will be his fourth successive stadium contest.

“Parker came as a champion so I have to give him that champion’s respect, so I’d put him two and Povetkin three,” added Joshua.

“He’s a gold medalist, been in the game a long time, he’s very experienced and has a great knockout threat.

“I’m going in there to spark him out. Go in there, keep a tight guard, don’t give him any openings and then whip him around the head and body. He’s 39 so he won’t be able to take that pressure to the body.” -BBC

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