Chris Oliver fancies Anthony Joshua to stop Alexander Povetkin on Saturday while he also has a confident selection for the undercard in his in-depth preview.
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Boxing loves a good guy versus bad guy match-up and casting the roles for Saturday’s heavyweight title clash is pretty straightforward.
Anthony Joshua returns to Wembley Stadium to take on Alexander Povetkin, a Russian who looks like a villain from a Bond film and has twice tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. The golden boy of British boxing will be doing the sport a favour by beating the rulebreaker and the betting suggests he will do so comfortably. Joshua is a best price of 1/8, with 15/2 available about the visitor, but those odds do not reflect the underdog's excellent career so far.
Like Joshua, he's an Olympic gold medallist but he also topped the podium at the World and European Championships and is a former title-holder in the paid ranks. Boasting an impressive record of 34-1, his sole defeat came against a prime Wladimir Klitschko in 2013, and he went the distance on that occasion.
Povetkin is small for a modern-day heavyweight at 6'2" but uses that to his advantage with his bob-and-weave style and launches flying left hooks and big overhand rights from low positions. Possessing good speed of hand and foot, he can also bang and 24 of his wins have come early.
Joshua v Povetkin: Fight details
- Fight night: Saturday September 22 (Weigh-in, Friday at 1230pm)
- TV Channel: Sky Sports Box Office (£19.95)
- TV Start time: Undercard from 6pm, main event approx 10pm
- Radio coverage: BBC Radio 5 Live
- Venue: Wembley Stadium, London
- Sky Bet odds: Joshua 1/9, Povetkin 8/1, Draw 33/1 (Click to bet)
On paper, he is Joshua's toughest opponent, apart from Klitschko, and is in with a real shot of upsetting the home fighter if at his best. However, that is a very big if. Povetkin is now 39 years old with plenty of miles on the clock and, following the failed drug tests, it's not unreasonable to question if he held an unfair advantage over some of his opponents.
There were signs in his last fight that his once rock-solid chin may not be what it was as David Price hurt him badly with a left hand and he would have been in serious danger of being stopped if the bell for the end of the round hadn't saved him. His trademark engine also showed signs it wasn't purring like it once did as he was blowing hard before removing the Liverpudlian from his senses in the fifth round.
Joshua is unlikely to let him off the hook if rocking him in similar fashion and could make a real statement by becoming the first man to stop Povetkin. If the latter is on the decline, 'AJ' could still be improving and while his victory over Joseph Parker in March lacked the violence and excitement we have become accustomed to with the Watford banger, he showed another side to his game by winning the fight behind his jab in going the distance for the first time.
The 3/1 available for this to go the full 12 rounds makes little appeal as Povetkin knows he isn't going to win a boxing match here and needs to turn this into a fight. A Joshua win by stoppage is much more likely, but priced accordingly, at 4/11.
While the unbeaten champion has promised a more aggressive approach this time, Joshua knows Povetkin will be dangerous early doors and would be playing into his hands by engaging in heaving artillery in the opening few rounds. The challenger will be looking to get inside to land his big shots so there is every chance AJ will begin with a more cautious approach, aiming to keep the smaller man on the end of his jab. Once the sting has been drawn out of the Russian's attacks, Joshua can step it up and begin to go through his offensive gears.
Povetkin can use all of his experience to take it into the second half of the fight but at some point he's expected to wilt under the heavy hands of the younger man, and the 2/1 available for Joshua to win in rounds 7-12 is well worth taking.
A good undercard is topped by another gold medallist from the class of London 2012 in Luke Campbell, who bids to gain revenge on Yvan Mendy in a WBC lightweight title eliminator.
Mendy sprang a surprise when handing Campbell his first defeat as a professional via a split decision in December 2015 and is 100/30 to repeat the dose, despite winning all seven outings since. However, they have been against moderate opposition in his native France, whereas the Hull southpaw has rebuilt in fine style and tested himself at the highest level. His only defeat in his subsequent seven fights came in a world title tilt against Jorge Linares and his stock rose anyway as he pushed the brilliant champion all the way to a split decision.
Campbell (2/7) struggled to keep the relentless Mendy off in the first fight and the latter will be pressing the action all night once again. However, the favourite looks a much better fighter now and, in his first bout under the guidance of top coach Shane McGuigan, can box his way to a comfortable points success. Those who find the 4/5 about that outcome a bit skinny can bump it up to 5/4 by going for a unanimous decision.
Rising cruiserweight star Lawrence Okolie challenges Matty Askin in a fascinating British title bout, with the former 4/11 to take his record to 10-0. However, the champion (5/2) is on a roll at present and can give the 2016 Olympian a real fight. It's a stern test the favourite can overcome, but maybe not by stoppage as the odds of 10/11 suggest, and the 7/2 about him having to do it on the cards is a much more attractive proposition.
Posted at 1150 BST on 21/09/18.