Opening Bell: Don't get your hopes up
Unified heavyweight world titlist Anthony Joshua did what he was supposed to do. He drew some 80,000 to Wembley Stadium in London on Saturday, put on a show, scored an exciting seventh-round knockout of Alexander Povetkin, retained his three major belts and kept alive the prospect of an undisputed championship fight with Deontay Wilder.
Just don't count on it being next.
Although Joshua is scheduled to return on April 13, back at Wembley Stadium, do not -- I repeat -- do not get your hopes up for a Wilder fight. We've all been down this road before, and I don't want anyone to be too disappointed when it doesn't happen. Of course, I hope I am wrong.
Over the next couple of months you're sure to hear about negotiations for the fight. It will be a roller coaster. Sometimes it will look close to being made, other times it won't. It will be an excruciating process and probably will result in disappointment as it did when they got close to a deal for this fall but it didn't happen.
Joshua (22-0, 21 KOs), 28, of England, instead elected to face Povetkin, a mandatory challenger. Although AJ retained his title for the sixth time, he didn't just walk through aging former secondary titlist Povetkin (34-2, 24 KOs), he of two previous failed tests for performance-enhancing drugs. In fact, Joshua had a lot of problems with Povetkin, 39, of Russia, who got dropped four times in his previous loss, a shutout decision to then-world champion Wladimir Klitschko in 2013. Since then, Povetkin had won eight fights in a row, but he was stepping up in class again to face a fellow Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist.
Povetkin damaged and bloodied Joshua's nose in the opening round and rocked him. Although Joshua opened a cut over Povetkin's left eye in the fourth round, he never looked comfortable in the fight despite being ahead 59-55 (an absurd score), 58-56 and 58-56 going into the seventh round. But in the seventh round, Joshua badly hurt Povetkin with a right hand and eventually floored him with a left-right combination. Povetkin nearly fell between the ropes but was able to continue, but only briefly as Joshua unloaded on him and dropped him again as referee Steve Gray waved it off at 1 minute, 59 seconds.
The talk after the fight was more about what would be next than what had just happened.
"April 13 is what I'm really interested in, what's happening here in Wembley Stadium again," Joshua said.
He knows what should be next. It should be the showdown for all the marbles against Wilder (40-0, 39 KOs) and Joshua said that is what he wants.
"We both done a lot of talking. Look, I'm not into the blame game. It was him, it was me, tit for tat," Joshua said of the failed talks for a Wilder fight. "We both done a lot of talking. And I'm here now. I had a good fight. I got my knockout streak back (after outpointing Joseph Parker in a March unification fight). I found my right hand. It went missing for a little while. I found it and it's lining up April 13."
Even if making a fight with Wilder was easy, there is another obstacle. Wilder on Friday signed for what looks like a tough fight on Dec. 1 with lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury (27-0, 19 KOs), who has won two fights since returning from a 31-month layoff due to personal problems.
Joshua says he wants Wilder next, and promoter Eddie Hearn said once again also wants to make the fight.
"I want Deontay Wilder because that is the biggest fight in world boxing," Hearn said. "It would be the biggest fight in all-time British boxing history."
But saying it and making it are entirely different. Hearn said any deal must be done before Wilder-Fury on Dec. 1, which is going to make things even more difficult given that Wilder (and Fury, also a possible foe for a huge all-British showdown) will be focused on the task at hand. There's really no need to line up an April fight in December, so it seems like an artificial deadline that will cause the fight not to happen.
But Joshua, boxing's biggest global star, can tell Hearn what he wants. There is no need for such a deadline, and everyone knows it. Still, Joshua at least said the right things.
"My No. 1 [next opponent] would be Wilder. That's it," he said. "That's it. Let's not talk about No. 2, No. 3, Wilder that's all. ... The venue's booked. The date's booked. He needs to win in December and then we need to sit down and get the little bits out of the way."
Joshua said he's not picking a winner between Wilder and Fury but that he wants the winner in April.
"I only concentrate on myself, but good luck to both of them," he said. "I wish them well and may the champion bring himself to the U.K., and let's have a good dust up."
Wilder, however, remains his goal. It's a way bigger fight than one with Fury.
"We've been negotiating after the [Carlos] Takam fight last year so it's been a long time negotiating," Joshua said of Wilder. "There's a lot of back and forth, but ultimately we're two fighters, two champions in the same division at the same time. So at the end of the day we have to fight each other. It would be silly of us not to. Wilder will step up, Fury will step up. So it's just a matter of time."
A matter of time indeed because it says here it won't be next. We'll be waiting once again, until at least the fight after Joshua faces somebody else -- Dillian Whyte? -- on April 13.
Revenge of the weekend: Luke Campbell
In 2015, England's Luke Campbell, who won a 2012 Olympic gold medal and was tabbed for pro stardom, faced Yvan Mendy, of France, and suffered his first pro defeat as Mendy pulled a major upset. He dropped Campbell in the fifth round and won a well-deserved split decision. Three years later, Campbell (19-2, 15 KOs), a 30-year-old southpaw, avenged the loss by outpointing Mendy (40-5-1, 19 KOs), 33, in a lightweight world title elimination bout on Saturday's Joshua-Povetkin undercard by convincing scores of 119-109, 118-111 and 116-112 and ending Mendy's 10-fight winning streak.
In his first fight under trainer Shane McGuigan, Campbell's speed, elusiveness, counterpunching and accurate straight left hand did the trick in a performance far superior to their first encounter.
The next step: With the victory, Campbell earned his second shot at a world title. Last September he lost a spirited split decision challenging then-lightweight champion Jorge Linares in Inglewood, California. The victory over Mendy makes Campbell a mandatory challenger for unified titlist Mikey Garcia, who is looking at bigger fights and could vacate. Either way, Campbell will get a shot at another world title.
Fights you might have missed
Saturday at Potsdam, Germany
Middleweight Jack Culcay (25-3, 13 KOs) TKO10 Rafael Bejaran (25-3-1, 11 KOs)
Former interim junior middleweight titlist Culcay, 32, of an Ecuador native fighting out of Germany, won his second fight in a row after competitive decision losses to top opponents Demetrius Andrade and Maciej Sulecki. He stopped Bejaran, 36, a Dominican Republic native fighting out of Germany, in the 10th round when Bejaran's corner threw in the towel because he was taking too much punishment.
Super middleweight Tyron Zeuge (23-1-1, 13 KOs) KO8 Cheikh Dioum (11-3-1, 8 KOs)
On July 14, Zeuge, 26, of Germany, lost his super middleweight world title by fifth-round knockout to Rocky Fielding in an upset. In his first fight since, Zeuge got back on track by dropping and stopping Dioum, 26, a Senegal native fighting out of Spain, in the eighth round.
Friday at Shawnee, Oklahoma
Junior lightweight O'Shaquie Foster (14-2, 8 KOs) W10 Jon Fernandez (16-1, 14 KOs), scores: 98-92 (three times)
Foster, 25, of Houston, pulled an upset in the main event of Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" card on Friday night in Shawnee, Oklahoma, by easily outpointing red-hot prospect Fernandez, 23, of Spain, in a shocker. Foster, who was a top amateur one win away from making the 2012 U.S. Olympic team, has been a bit of disappointment as a pro, having suffered both losses on "ShoBox" in fights that many expected him to win. But he totally shut down the Fernandez, a protégé of former middleweight world champion Sergio Martinez, who was never in the fight. Foster used superb movement and counterpunching to befuddle Fernandez, who never got his usually impressive offensive arsenal going.
"This was the best fight of my career," Foster said. "I knew I had it in me, I just never put it together. I knew he was a puncher and he'd come forward the whole fight. I knew I had to work off my jab and use my lateral movement. He had a little power, but he never got me clean."