Anthony Joshua's opponent Alexander Povetkin has two doping charges on his record and Russian president Vladimir Putin in his corner

With two doping charges on his record and Russian president Vladimir Putin in his corner, the 39-year-old’s story echoes that of Rocky IV arch-villain Ivan Drago.

Both Povetkin and Drago — the hulking character played by Dolph Lundgren — come from Russia, won Olympic gold thanks to state sponsorship and are linked to performance-enhancing drugs.

One was pumped full of mysterious injections in a movie and the other has twice failed tests on the brink of real-life fights.

A May 2016 bout with American Deontay Wilder was canned after Povetkin tested positive for meldonium, the drug Russian tennis ace Maria Sharapova was banned over.

The fighter insisted he took the substance while it was not on the ‘illegal substance’ list, but a court ruled against him.

Boxing politics is so askew that he was swiftly offered a December fight against Haiti-born Bermane Stiverne.

Yet just a day before the fight was due to take place, Povetkin failed his second drug test in seven months, this time for ostarine.

The 34-1 former WBA champion rejects both test results. He suggests he was spiked or contaminated both times and points to small traces found in his system — but the stigma follows him.

He said: “If you are doing anything, you are going to be criticised. There are people who like you, there are people who don’t. I’m not a $100 bill to be liked.

“I’m a fighter and on fight night I’m going to make sure the fight is exciting for the fans. That’s what it is all about.

“I wouldn’t talk about my reputation now because I know who I am and what I have done.

“There are people who will be rooting for me and they appreciate what I do.”

One of the people rooting for him is former training partner Putin.

The pair would hit the gym when Povetkin was a highly successful amateur, losing just seven times in 132 bouts, and the President was working on his judo.

In July, when Povetkin visited Wembley for a press conference to confirm the bout, he was asked if he had received a good-luck message from the Kremlin.

His media team replied: “Not yet but he [Putin] is definitely a big sports fan. He is a fan of Alexander and he helps with many things.”

British fans of Povetkin were treated to a mixed bag when he last boxed, on the Anthony Joshua vs Joseph Parker undercard at Cardiff in March.

Liverpool giant David Price was a 20-1 longshot but he gave the favourite a  serious scare at the end of round three when a left-hook sent Povetkin stumbling into a corner for a standing count. The bell saved him.

But nothing could save Price in the fifth, a scorching right-hand turned off the lights. All 6ft 8in of him remained upright, sickeningly spark-out on his feet.

A trademark Povetkin left-hook left chopped him down like a sapling and sent main-event AJ a warning that a tough test was to come.

With no social media accounts or camera-friendly promoter to boost his profile, Povetkin is focused only on  causing a huge upset in London.

The biggest stir his name caused on Twitter when he was announced as Joshua’s next opponent was an alleged resemblance to BBC host Clare Balding.

But now he has the chance to be a real-life bogie man — and rewrite the script where Drago failed.

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