Alexander Povetkin was close to being shunned from the world heavyweight title conversation, but he ends the year with a win and a likely title opportunity against unified champion Anthony Joshua.
Povetkin defeated Christian Hammer in Povetkin's native of Russia in a very one-sided affair, securing the win via unanimous decision (120-108, 119-109, 120-107) and retaining his WBO International heavyweight title.
With the win, Povetkin now becomes the mandatory challenger to Joshua's WBA heavyweight title. The governing body made the news of Povetkin's title shot soon after Povetkin got the win on December 15.
Joshua needed a new WBA mandatory challenger after the governing body announced that Luis Ortiz, who was Joshua's original WBA mandatory, failed a VADA drug test and had his status stripped. Ortiz keeps his ranking in the WBC rankings and still eligible to challenge for Deontay Wilder's WBC heavyweight title.
Povetkin faced similar issues because Povetkin also failed a drug test earlier this year and was suspended by several of the sport's governing bodies until being reinstated and eligible to challenge for titles. Since being reinstated, Povetkin won the WBO International and WBA Continental heavyweight titles back in July.
Povetkin's title shot against Joshua may take some time to make. Joshua, who is the unified WBA and IBF champion, is currently in talks with WBO champion Joseph Parker to further unify the division and a fight against Wilder also looms on the horizon. Back in November, Povetkin's promoter said the fight against Hammer would also be a WBO heavyweight eliminator, but the governing body has yet to formally announce Povetkin as its mandatory challenger.