David Price was laid flat out by Povetkin, Joshua’s opponent at Wembley tomorrow night, in the fifth round of their meeting in Cardiff last March and required assistance from medics in the ring.
Price believes Povetkin, the former WBA world heavyweight champion, will be fired up by the opportunity to claim back a major title at the age of 39.
The Liverpudlian said: “I would say this will be the hardest night of Joshua’s career so far. Povetkin is a top-class operator and a very accurate puncher with fast hands and power.
“He hit me right on the temple when he put me down for the first time in Cardiff and then he got me bang in the same spot when he put me out.
“The left hook was straight out of the textbook.
“The 80,000 crowd won’t worry him either. He boxed in front of a crowd that size in Britain when he beat me in Cardiff and he has been everywhere and done everything.
“When AJ beat Wladimir Klitschko last year, Klitschko was 41 and you have to think he was past his peak. Povetkin is 39 and has looked lately like he might have had enough of boxing after so many years as an amateur and a pro.
“But nothing will refire him like this opportunity to win four world title belts in London and get right back on top of the heavyweight division.”
Joshua is making a mandatory defence of his WBA title, with his IBF, WBO and IBO belts also on the line.
The winner could face the victor of the proposed clash between American WBC champion Deontay Wilder and Britain’s Tyson Fury, which promoter Frank Warren says will be officially announced imminently.
Povetkin, who held the WBA belt for two years, suffered his only defeat in 35 fights when beaten on points by Klitschko in Moscow in October 2013.
Povetkin, who has 24 wins of his 34 wins by knockout, has courted controversy, however, having been banned after twice failing a drugs test for performance-enhancing substances.
But his suspension was lifted in November last year and he has signed up to the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association’s testing programme ahead of this weekend’s fight, with Joshua insisting his rival “is clean”.
Wembley has already been booked for Joshua’s follow-up fight on April 13, with a rematch against fellow Londoner Dillian Whyte an alternative prospect.Against Povetkin, Joshua will be taking part in his fourth stadium fight in succession after his meeting with Klitschko at Wembley in April last year and two sell-out dates at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.
With 80,000 fans set to watch tomorrow night’s fight, it means more than 300,000 people will have seen Joshua box in the past 17 months.
Yet there is a slight pressure on him to deliver an emphatic knockout after a laboured 10th-round stoppage against Carlos Takam last October and a points win over Joseph Parker in March.
That was the first time that Joshua, who is unbeaten in 21 fights, had been taken the distance.
A more explosive contest is in prospect this time around and it is likely that Joshua, who has a four-inch height advantage, will be able to make the 11-year age-gap count over Povetkin’s initial threat.
Other than Klitschko, the two men share an opponent in France’s Takam. Povetkin knocked him out in the 10th round in Moscow in 2014.
The years appeared to be catching up with Povetkin when he was knocked down by Price in the third round of their fight last March before recovering to knock out the Englishman.
“He can be caught,” Price added. “He is open to the left hook. He gets caught with that more than any other punch and Joshua throws that well.
“I believe Joshua will take command in the later rounds and could win by the ninth or 10th. But nobody at all is expecting that he will have an easy night. This could be dangerous.”
Povetkin won gold in the super-heavyweight division at the Athens Olympics in 2004 — the same class in whuch Joshua triumphed in London in 2012.
Price added: “He’s technically brilliant like so many who come through the amateur system in Eastern Europe.
“I always remembered him from when I first began boxing for England. The Russians were more highly rated than the Cubans and Povetkin was feared.”