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British boxing’s next big thing Joshua faces toughest challenge yet

Watford-born British boxing heavyweight giant, Anthony Joshua, is to face 34-year-old relatively diminutive (for his height) Russian Denis Bakhtov (5ft 11in) at the O2 in London on Saturday, October 11th live on Sky Sports 1. He will be aiming to take the WBC International Heavyweight title.

Olympic champion Joshua, 24, who has been compared to a young Lennox Lewis, goes into this encounter on the back of eight wins (all knockouts) from his first eight fights since turning professional in July 2013.

Bakhtov, a two-time WBC International Heavyweight champion, meanwhile, has a career record of 38-9. Both fighters share a recent victory over German Konstantin Airich, but it is Joshua who comes into this duel as overwhelming odds-on favourite at 1/50 to win. A draw is 33/1, and Bakhtov is 33/1.

Ahead of the battle, Joshua said: “It’s all going well. I got my sparring in yesterday (Tuesday) and I’m off to the gym now to put in some last sharpening work. Then it’s press conference, weigh-in and fight time.

“I’m not under-estimating Bakhtov, but the level of training and the experience I had as an amateur puts me in real good stead as a professional, and I feel confident in my ability with what I have learned in the last year. I want to put on a real good display of boxing skills as well as power.

“I’ve developed physically,” he added. “Early on, when I first started, my body was feeling it and mentally I was thinking ‘why is this training so hard?’ Now I am in the gym sparring 12 rounds, I’m fighting every month and my body is holding up well.

“I think Airich came along at the perfect time because I was more relaxed, I was confident and it’s put me in real good stead for the O2.”

While Joshua is expected to stop the Russian with relative ease, he has already been earmarked to fight the likes of fellow Englishmen David Haye or David Price in future.

But the youngster has played down talk of taking on those established stars for now, adding: “I keep the blinkers on and don’t buy into that yet. I’m someone who just likes to look at what is in front of me first and foremost and then we can talk about what’s next.

“The good thing about talking about Price and Haye is that it’s amazing these are the guys out there that I can be competing with.

“It’s not just one of them – there’s four or five of these guys at an elite level I am going to have to go through to get to a championship belt. It’s just really promising what’s ahead for the future.”