News April 2017

The Champ Is Here. Joshua Arrives.


By @John_Evans79

The world should know when the champ is fighting.

People in pubs and barber shops should tell tall tales and make wild predictions. Kids should wrap their mothers’ tea towels around their fists and play out the fight. People who know nothing about the sport should write high horse articles about its barbaric nature. Eventually, the eyes of the world should focus on a square of canvas. It should be a happening.

On Saturday night, Wembley Stadium played host to a happening.

The novelty of being at a fight in such a huge stadium never really wears off. As much as the boxing fan in you wants to pay attention to the intricacies of the undercard, your eyes inevitably wander. The size and scale of the event never quite seem real. There is always something new to look at or unusual to notice.

But at 10pm nothing else mattered. As the lights dimmed and Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko stood alone in their respective corners even the most ardent selfie hunters put away their phones. Those who had underestimated just how cold London can be in April forgot about their decision to leave a jacket at home. Regardless of their vantage point, everybody seemed to stare intently at the ring rather than the huge screens relaying the action to the rafters. And then the bell rang.

The fight was more thriller than action flick. Explosive sequences erupted in between moments of high tension. Both men picked themselves up from the depths of despair and both stood on the edge of momentous victories. It was as exciting a heavyweight title fight as we have seen in 15 years. Eventually, it was 27 year old Joshua who unified the heavyweight division with a stirring eleventh round technical knockout.

We didn’t see the untouchable Joshua who has laid waste to the heavyweight division’s wannabes. The quality of the man in front of him magnified his flaws. The problems he encountered with range against the statuesque Dominic Breazeale were amplified. He was falling inches short at times. The stamina issues he experienced against Dillian Whyte resurfaced after the fifth round barrage that saw him drop Klitschko for the first time and he was shaken on more than one occasion.

Every boxer has imperfections but the aim is for them to evolve into the most well rounded fighter they can be. Joshua’s high points and strengths have been eulogised over endlessly, but on Saturday night he showed that he has the heart, the mental toughness and the fight ending power to smooth out the blemishes. Joshua’s faults may have been brought to bear but he was able to call on hereto unseen qualities. He is developing into quite some package.

The sharp intake of breath which met Joshua’s first public trip to the canvas nearly sucked the air out of the vast stadium and Joshua spent the next ten minutes desperately searching for every available molecule of oxygen.

“It’s just a fight” is one of Joshua’s favourite sayings. Forget the money, the adulation and the title belts on offer last night, between rounds six and eight Joshua was fighting for his entire future. Amidst the tumult surrounding him, he managed to keep his nerve and - most importantly - his shape. Unlike many modern super heavyweights who lose all tension in their knees and necks when exhausted, Joshua held himself together. He was able to retain enough menace to prevent Klitschko from piling in unabated.

The time he spent desperately battling to regain any kind of foothold in the fight was the most significant of Joshua’s entire career.

Of course Klitschko isn’t the fighter he was five years ago but he was still in a different league to anybody Joshua had faced previously and one of the top three heavyweights in the world.

The Ukrainian has been fighting in stadiums for years but despite his longevity and ability, his procession of title defences never grabbed the attention of a public obsessed with instant gratification. With entertainment available at the click of a button or the swipe of a thumb, Klitschko’s methodical rule alienated fans.

Three early career stoppages altered Klitschko’s aggressive mindset and he became more psychiatrist than surgeon. The doctor who would only get his hands dirty when absolutely necessary.

As he looked up at the division’s most devastating finisher with half of the fifth round still left to negotiate, blood pouring into his left eye, Klitschko’s stake in the fight had gone. The doctor returned to his instincts and gambled, winging in left hooks and right hands. As Joshua pushed himself up from the canvas in that chaotic sixth, Klitschko had his chips back. The house edge had gone. With a further role of the dice, Klitschko could have taken the house. Instead, the steel hammer went back in the tool belt and he began to analyse the data. Klitschko will rue that decision - involuntary though it may have been - forever and the tantalising thought of what could (should?) have been will probably drive him into exercising a rematch clause.

Klitschko fought as well as he possibly could at this stage of his career and earned more respect in a single shootout than he has accumulated over years of dominance. Sad but true.

“I’m not perfect, but I’m trying,” said Joshua after the fight. Just how perfect he will have to be to deal with he likes of Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker, Luis Ortiz and Kubrat Pulev remains to be seen but given his attitude towards the sport, it seems likely that we won’t have to wait too long to find out.

Until Tyson Fury returns to action Joshua stands as the leading heavyweight in the world and although his only 19 fights into his career, he seems certain to become the face of the sport.

From now on, the world will know when the champ is fighting.

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