Anthony Joshua admits he has one eye on future fights against the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury ahead of his world heavyweight contest against Alexander Povetkin.
Joshua will be defending his WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO belts against Russian Povetkin when the pair meet at Wembley Stadium on September 22.
It will be Joshua’s first fight at Wembley since he stopped Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017 and the 28-year-old has his sights set on more clashes against the biggest names in the heavyweight division.
He has long been linked with clashes against Wilder and Fury but is aware that mandatory challenger Povetkin is a threat.
“Povetkin is a massive threat because he wants to be in the position that I’m in,” Joshua told Sky Sports News.
“I’m not here to prove that I’m a prospect, I’ve proved myself and it’s hard to stay here now. I’ve got to be wary but he’s got to be wary of what I bring to the table as well which will make it a good fight.
“This is world level boxing, elite boxing, world championship boxing.
“Povetkin is a real game challenger but he’s got to come across myself, I’m game as well.
“It will be a good fight, it’s not going to be a quick one. We can both take a lot of punishment and dish out a lot of punishment and it’s the first one to go.
“I’ve always been looking for the big, big fights and putting names on my record as well, building up my record. I have good opponents on my record so far – Povetkin is a good one.
“I’m at that stage where I do want to look past Povetkin because the division is alight, it’s amazing, there’s some real good challenges out there. But at the same time you do have to focus on the opponent in front of you.”
Those future challenges will almost certainly be a high-profile clash against American WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder and possibly fellow Brit Fury.
Wilder and Fury announced that they have agreed to fight each other, although a date is yet to be set for the clash.
Joshua was asked if he was surprised the pair were set to meet, replying: “Not necessarily.
“I think because they both need that fight. They are at that stage of their career, 10 years in, where they need meaningful fights as well. They are both building up their records, they’ve been in the game a long time.
“Good luck to them, it’s good for boxing as well.”
Joshua doesn’t feel that fight, or his clash with Povetkin, will have an impact on any future fights he may have against them, believing the public demand would still be there.
“I think regardless, we are always going to have to fight. Same weight category, in the same era and it’s the fight people want to see, so yeah we are going to fight each other.
“It’s interesting because, say the worst happens with Povetkin, it doesn’t stop me having to fight them anyway. They will still want to fight me because we are big in the game.
“So that fight will happen regardless of who wins. If Wilder gets beat in that fight with Fury, I’ll still fight Wilder down the line. There will always be interest around the name of heavyweight boxing.”
Tyson Fury will challenge WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in Las Vegas in November after easing to a 10-round victory over Francesco Pianeta at Belfast’s Windsor Park.
The 30-year-old needed only to defeat his little-known opponent to secure the ambitious fight, which will represent only the third since his comeback began in June, and was afterwards joined in the ring by the powerful American where both fighters and promoter Frank Warren confirmed they will meet.
Crucially for Fury, after the disappointment of his four-round victory over Sefer Seferi in June, in being taken the 10-round distance he was given the chance to shift much of the ring rust that would have developed during his near-three-year absence.
He will have to lose further weight and continue to rediscover his sharpness following an unremarkable performance in which he rarely hurt his opponent, but standing opposite Wilder, he vowed: “I’m going to win this man’s belt and bring it back to defend right here in Belfast.
“You can’t knock out what you can’t hit. This man (Pianeta) couldn’t land a blow on me.
“This was the performance I needed to prove against a tough opponent that I can move and box again at the best level.
“It was a calculated boxing performance as promised. Working on my boxing, get the rounds in. I’m very happy with my performance. It was a step up in opponent; I needed to box and move and still show I can go 10 rounds.
“We are two men that will fight everybody; they called, I answered, I said ‘Send me the contract’ and they sent it, I signed it. One thing I promise is that I’m knocking you out, boy.”
— DON TYSON FURY (@Tyson_Fury) August 18, 2018
Wilder, 32, and who clashed with Fury at Friday’s weigh-in, then told the former WBA, WBO and IBF champion: “It is one thing that Tyson Fury has never had. He had many belts, but he’s never had the WBC belt.
“If he ever thinks about having this belt, he better wake up and apologise to me because he’ll never have this.
“I can’t wait to fight you because I am going to knock you out. I promise you. You’ve never been knocked out but you’re going to feel the experience, what it feels to get hit by the ‘Bronze Bomber’.
“I’m happy to be here but I’m sorry to tell you that Fury will not be bringing the WBC belt back here. This fight we are having is on; it’s official, it’s on, baby.”
Warren, who has overseen Fury’s comeback, added: “All (a date and venue) will be revealed next week, but the fight is on.”
IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington similarly travelled from Leeds to join Carl Frampton in the ring after the latter stopped Australia’s Luke Jackson in nine one-sided rounds, and Warren confirmed that they will also fight before the end of the year.
“We’re now going to make the dream fight,” he said. “It will happen, definitely this year. It’s on.”
The 31-year-old Frampton, who defended the interim WBO title, said: “I’m not a world champion, Josh is a world champion. I’d love to be a world champion again.”
Warrington, 27, responded: “He performed well, but listen I’m looking to get the fight, I beat (Lee) Selby and I’m still ranked behind Carl.”
On Thursday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board revealed that national captain Asghar Stanikzai had changed his name to ‘Asghar Afghan’ after the 30-year-old batsman registered it for the new Electronic National Identity Cards.
He joins a growing list of sportsmen to have changed their names during their playing careers. Here, we look at five famous sports stars who completed all the legal paperwork in order to be known by a different name.
Sugar Ray Robinson, previously known as Walter Smith Junior
Ahead of his first bout in 1936, Walter Smith Junior borrowed the Amateur Athletic Union card of another boxer, whose name was Ray Robinson.
He loved it so much that Smith didn’t go by his birth name for the rest of his career. Once described as ‘sweet as sugar’, Robinson said: “Sugar Ray Robinson had a nice ring to it. Sugar Walter Smith wouldn’t have been the same.”
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, previously known as Lew Alcindor
Just after getting his hands on the 1971 NBA championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, Lew Alcindor converted to Islam and adopted the name Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
It translates as “noble, powerful servant. The name change didn’t have any impact on his talent as the star went from strength to strength, winning six NBA championships including five with the Los Angeles Lakers over his epic 20-year playing career.
Muhammad Ali, previously known as Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior
Named after his father Cassius Marcellus Clay Junior, it was in 1964 that ‘The Greatest’ revealed he wanted to be known as Muhammad Ali.
He had already made a name for himself as Cassius but the decision came after he converted to Islam and affiliated with the Nation of Islam (NOI).
“I am Muhammad Ali, a free name – it means beloved of God, and I insist people use it when people speak to me,” the late boxing star said at the time.
Metta World Peace, previously known as Ronald William Artest
Having made a name for himself with the LA Lakers, the American forward ensured he would no longer be called Ronald William Artest when he changed his name in September 2011.
Instead, people would have to get used to calling him Metta World Peace after he wanted to inspire the youth to get together in peace. The word ‘Metta’ was chosen since it meant kindness and friendliness.
Asghar Afghan, previously known as Asghar Stanikzai
The most recent sportsman to change his name. The Afghanistan cricket captain has played an integral part in the national team’s journey as they qualified for the 2015 World Cup and achieved Test status.
On Thursday, the 30-year-old batsman changed his surname to ‘Afghan’ to ‘honour of protecting the national identity of Afghan citizens’.