Anthony Joshua will defend his WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO heavyweight belts against Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium on September 22.
There were rumours Joshua could take on American juggernaut Deontay Wilder in a back-to-back series, but the Mirror's Jack Rathborn confirmed Joshua will instead take up his mandatory defence of the WBA crown. Joshua said of his return to Wembley:
"I can't wait to get back in the ring, the end of March feels a long time ago now. 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 on September 22nd.”
Povetkin, 38, has won his last eight fights in succession and most recently knocked out his first British opponent, David Price, in the fifth round of their meeting at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff on March 31.
The "Russian Vityaz" had his chance to assess his upcoming opponent's skills that night as he fought on the undercard of Joshua's decision win over Joseph Parker, and Sky Sports Boxing posted Povetkin's highlights:
Joshua hasn't fought at Wembley since he beat Wladimir Klitschko to take the WBA and IBO heavyweight straps in April 2017, since going on to beat Parker and Carlos Takam in successive wins in Wales.
Former undisputed heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis bemoaned the length of time it's taken for Joshua and Wilder to agree their seemingly inevitable clash, adding that the possibility isn't off the table just yet:
Lennox Lewis @LennoxLewis
Promoters have their own interest in making most money they can but fighters also carry weight in who they fight. If both sides wanted this fight, it would be happening. End of story. AJ taking povetkin fight first isn’t a deal breaker 4Wilder tho. Just don’t like the 2yr talk!
Joshua will fight once more at Wembley next April in the second of his back-to-back bouts in his hometown, London, and he'll do so with a 22-0 record provided he can make his way past Povetkin in two months' time.
Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn spoke to Sporting News regarding the complexities of securing an agreement between Joshua and Wilder, discussing the location of the fight as a particular sticking point:
Povetkin boasts a 34-1 record, and although the mandatory challenger will be seen as a stepping stone for Joshua by some, it's important to note his only defeat came against Klitschko in 2013, by unanimous decision.
Joshua could make a statement by becoming the first fighter ever to knock the Russian out, which is plausible considering his unanimous-decision win over Parker in March was the first time he's gone the distance.
That victory over Price in Cardiff was Povetkin's first fight in the United Kingdom, and the underdog will hope to keep a 100 per cent record against British opposition in their own backyard come September 22.