News May 2017

Heavyweight Epic: Joshua-Klitschko Post Fight Analysis & Verdict


By Michael J Jones

NOW WE KNOW. So many unanswered questions surrounded IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua before Saturday night’s clash with former champion Wladimir Klitschko. In one of the best world heavyweight title bouts of the last thirty years, AJ ticked most of the boxes and proved beyond doubt he is a force to be reckoned with in the heavyweight ranks.

In stopping Klitschko at 2:25 of the eleventh round, Joshua not only retained his IBF title and added the WBA (Super) and IBO straps to his ever-growing collection, he also sent out a message to the world of boxing; he is no protected paper champion but a class fighter with skill, heart and desire.

What did the unbeaten Watford ace prove? He proved he could soak up punishment and return with better, he proved he has the conditioning to go deep into fights and still be able to perform and he proved he could take on a high calibre of opposition and overcome them.

At 41-years-old, many speculated what the aging former champion had left entering the contest but Klitschko didn’t come to lay down or be dominated. Although the reflexes and accuracy are dimmed from four or five years ago, Klitschko made up for that with his vastly superior ring intelligence and experience of some 68 pro bouts and very nearly pulled off the upset.

Through four rounds Joshua, a career high 250lbs, edged the fight by being a shade more busy and landing the more eye-catching punches. Klitschko, who entered the contest at a chiselled 240˝lbs, stalked, feinted, but couldn’t quite get his shots off as his 14-years-younger opponent could.

The fight certainly began as expected but nobody could have predicted what was to follow…

The IBF ruler started the fifth quickly and jarred his Ukrainian foe with a sharp right-uppercut. A follow-up flurry of leather put Klitschko down as AJ scored first blood. The stricken fighter, now 64-5, rose unsteadily as Joshua pounced. The fired-up Brit tried to finish it there and then but walked onto a big left hook-right-hand and suddenly it was he who lurched back hurt.

The bell came to Joshua’s aid to end a sensational round of heavyweight boxing but the fireworks were not to end there.

Early in the next and shortly after the contest was delayed to replace Joshua’s mouthpiece, Klitschko stepped in with a classic one-two. The latter punch sailed straight through Joshua’s guard to land flush. When the force of the booming right-hand exploded into AJ’s face he crashed to the canvas for the first time in his professional career. Up at seven, Joshua took a few more licks as Klitschko couldn’t quite land another meaningful blow in the following minute and a half.

After two consecutive rounds of toe-to-toe mayhem, the pace of the contest understandably eased.

Through rounds seven to ten, Klitschko boxed solidly behind his jab. Following the carnage of rounds five and six, Joshua was more hesitant to engage which enabled Wladimir to settle into a nice rhythm to dictate from ring centre.

After ten pulsating rounds, the fight appeared to be very close as reflected on the scorecards. Two judges had it 96-93 and 95-93 to Joshua while the third scored the latter score to Klitschko*.

Everyone wondered in unison what could possibly happen next?

*I had it all even at 95 points apiece.

As in the fifth, the muscular Joshua started the round quickly and again jarred the older man with that monstrous uppercut…but this time he wasn’t about to let his opponent back into the fight.

A thumping combination dropped Klitschko, but again, showing the heart of a lion, he got up to face the violent music once more. A brutal right uppercut and left hook floored him a second time in the round. He arose once more but was soon backed into a corner with Joshua throwing damaging shots from either hand. The ref waved it off as AJ scored his nineteenth consecutive knock-out and scored by far the finest victory of his career.

For Joshua, who had been heavily criticized for the quality of his opposition before this fight, he answered his critics in style on Saturday night. Yes there are still things to work on but all of the raw materials are there and he will exit his bout with Klitschko a higher level of fighter.

It was sink or swim entering the bout but, after nearly drowning, swim he did.

While the general public laud Joshua as the second coming of Muhammad Ali (the ones that watch boxing approximately once every two years), and the critics continue their negative throw away remarks (“Joshua nearly got thrashed by an old man”), realistically, AJ, as he himself would probably admit, is still a work in progress who has far to go to cement his legacy.

There are further obstacles standing in the way of his goal to become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Ringside observer Deontay Wilder, the WBC champion, would be an interesting fight as would a clash with WBO king Joseph Parker. Also lurking in the wings are former world champion Tyson Fury and top contenders like Luis Ortiz, Andy Ruiz Jr and Alexander Povetkin.

Klitschko has a rematch clause in the contract for meeting Joshua again but it would be no surprise if that were not to occur. Can Klitschko perform like that once more? Maybe, but then Joshua will probably be an even more dangerous animal in six months with the added big-fight experience thrown in.

Wladimir can retire with immense pride following a fierce display which made this writer forget the Ukrainian’s last drab performance against Fury. Klitschko is an intelligent man and now is the time to prove it rather than risk spoiling his legacy by suffering a more devastating loss to the rapidly-improving winner of Saturday’s bout.

For now though the man of the moment is Mr Anthony Joshua MBE. The unified world heavyweight champion who has just injected a massive dose of excitement into the long-dormant heavyweight division.

We don’t know how the heavyweight puzzle will unfold but it’ll be fun watching it take shape.

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