The expected fight is now official: Unified heavyweight world titleholder Anthony Joshua will face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin on Sept. 22 at Wembley Stadium in London, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn announced Monday.
Hearn had been in talks with the camp of world titleholder Deontay Wilder for a fall fight to produce an undisputed world champion -- a showdown that looms as perhaps the biggest in boxing. But even after Wilder agreed to a flat fee of $15 million rather than a percentage split, and also agreed to fight Joshua in his home country of the United Kingdom, they elected to go with Povetkin, a dangerous opponent who could ruin the possibility of a Joshua-Wilder megafight.
If Joshua, who will be making his sixth title defense, defeats Povetkin, April 13 is the next date on which he intends to fight, also at Wembley, as part of a two-fight deal he recently entered into with the stadium. Joshua drew a British boxing record crowd of 90,000 for a sold-out fight in April 2017 against former longtime unified world champion Wladimir Klitschko. Joshua stopped Klitschko in the 11th round in the consensus 2017 fight of the year.
Now Joshua (21-0, 20 KOs), 28, will take on Povetkin (34-1, 24 KOs), 38, of Russia, a former secondary titleholder whose lone defeat came against Klitschko, who knocked him down four times in a shutout decision in Moscow in 2013.
Povetkin has won eight fights in a row since, including a fifth-round knockout of David Price on March 31 on the undercard of Joshua's decision win over Joseph Parker to unify three world titles. But Povetkin has twice failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs and gotten off with little more than slaps on the wrist.
"I can't wait to get back in the ring; the end of March feels a long time ago now," Joshua said in a news release. "Povetkin is a serious challenge that I will prepare meticulously for. He has serious pedigree, and only a fool would underestimate what he brings to the table.
"Training hasn't stopped for me, but the next 10 weeks ahead will be intense both mentally and physically. I will push myself to breaking point to make sure I am in peak condition for another huge night for British boxing at Wembley Stadium."
The fight will be a rare matchup of former Olympic super heavyweight gold medalists. Joshua won his gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012, and Povetkin stood atop the podium at the 2004 Athens Games.
Povetkin was a mandatory challenger for Wilder's belt and the fight was scheduled for May 2016 in Moscow, but it was canceled due to one of Povetkin's failed drug tests.
Povetkin is looking forward to getting another title opportunity.
"The battle for the world title has always been my goal," he said in the news release. "I fought for the moment to face the strongest in the world, and on Sept. 22, I get my opportunity. Anthony Joshua has [three major] belts, and I want them all. I'm glad that our fight will finally take place. The meeting of two Olympic champions in the ring is destined to be a breathtaking event."
The fight will headline a Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view card in the U.K. Broadcast plans for the United States have not been disclosed, though many expect that one of the announcements Hearn will make Tuesday at a news conference in New York is that the fight will kick off his eight-year, $1 billion deal with the all-sports streaming service DAZN, which is available in several countries but won't launch in the U.S. until the fall.
"I can't wait to return to Wembley on Sept. 22 for what I believe will be one of the biggest tests of AJ's career," Hearn said. "Last time he was there he produced one of the most dramatic fights and endings in the history of the sport, and I expect this fight to be full of energy and drama. Povetkin is a top-three heavyweight and extremely dangerous, but in AJ I see the best heavyweight in the world today and I think we will see a major statement.
"It will be another huge night for British boxing with major championship fights on the card and another one of those special nights and atmospheres that will be watched by millions all around the world."