We all knew Anthony Joshua was on a collision course with Wladimir Klitschko, but now it’s official. With AJ’s laughably hollow title defense against Eric Molina out of the way, we can now look forward to an actual fight. On April 29th, 2017, this matchup won’t just be a mere step up – like a Bermane Stiverne or Bryant Jennings – it’ll be a giant leap for Matchroom Boxing’s golden goose.
Klitschko, even at 40, will come as a legitimate threat. This is a former world champion who also boasts a praised Amateur pedigree and one-punch knockout power. So, it’s plain to see why people will get particularly excited about this meeting. Hardcore fans will delight because it’s meaningful for the division, a young destroyer against a proven, still dangerous elite. Casual fans will be on board, and probably even more enthused since Klitschko is a name they’ll actually recognize.
The numbers for this pay-per-view dustup could well break some records, or, at the least, equal Matchroom’s past blockbuster ratings from sell-outs like Wembley-filler Froch vs Groves II. Now comes the big question: Is Joshua ready for Klitschko? Well, there’s no simple answer there, mainly because we don’t know how much of a role age and experience will play. Let’s break things down.
Record: 18-0, 18 KO … Birthplace: UK … Age: 27 … Height/Reach: 6’ 6”/82” … Stance: Orthodox … BB Ranking: No.5 … Last 5: 5-0, 5 KO … Latest Bout: Eric Molina (TKO 3) … Notable Bouts: Dillian Whyte (TKO 7), Charles Martin (KO 2), Dominic Breazeale (TKO 7)
Anthony Joshua is in the best part of his twenties, has built a formidable reputation, but only against made-to-order and fringe-level opposition (despite what sanctioning bodies might tell you). That’s not a dig at the big man – who’s only notched up eighteen outings – just a fact.
Dillian Whyte can fight, and did give Joshua something to think about last December, but isn’t really considered a big Heavyweight talent. A Split Decision over Dereck Chisora at the weekend proved that. Then there was Charles Martin and Dominic Breazeale earlier this year, two hyped challengers with plenty to say in the build up before getting surgically dispatched. Three ‘capable opponents’, you could say, but not scalps that make Joshua an elite just yet.
We still know a fair bit about Joshua, though, and probably enough to be sure there’s a good chance Klitschko will be toppled. Amateur Gold at the 2012 Olympics taught him key fundamentals, with balance, timing and patience undeniable strengths. Physically, Joshua is blessed. A giant of the division with scary TNT, this stalking destroyer can get a whole lot meaner if pushed, as witnessed against the game Dillian Whyte.
So, all in all, Joshua looks pretty frightening. The weaknesses column is kinda blank right now. We just can’t criticise the guy given he’s dominated and knocked every man he’s met in the ring. But we can speculate over how he’ll react to bigger, better opposition, like his upcoming April dance partner.
Record: 64-4, 53 KO … Birthplace: Kazakhstan … Age: 40 … Height/Reach: 6’ 6”/81” … Stance: Orthodox … BB Ranking: No.2 … Last 5: 4-1, 2 KO … Latest Bout: Tyson Fury (LOSS: UD 12) … Notable Bouts: Bryant Jennings (UD 12), Kubrat Pulev (KO 5), Alexander Povetkin (UD 12), David Haye (UD 12), Tony Thompson (TKO 6, KO 11)
‘Dr Steelhammer’ is a proud veteran of the sport who (without resorting to Google) must hold some kind of record for consecutive successful title defenses. Klitschko put together an incredible nineteen between 2006 and 2015, which means the WBA, WBO and IBF have been sending this man Christmas cards for a very, very long time.
Klitschko’s reign of dominance came about during a pretty weak decade of Heavyweights, however, so, despite his impressive slate, he has never quite captured serious appreciation. With all that said, his opposition level and victories – over guys like Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Povetkin, Lamon Brewster and David Haye – still eclipse the achievements of Joshua’s young career so far.
Klitschko lost his belt collection following a fight with the indescribable Tyson Fury in November 2015. The titles weren’t exactly beaten out of Klitschko, though. Instead, they exchanged hands in one of the meekest Heavyweight matchups in recent memory, a fight that could well enter a list of Top 20 Anti-Climactic PPV Fights. Klitschko, who seemed befuddled by the first ‘big man’ he had faced in years, lost by razor-thin scores, but basically left the ring without a scratch.
Against Joshua, the only reason for Klitschko to show signs of ‘losing something’ would be age and inactivity, but more likely doubt. Klitschko will be considerably older, yes. It’s the big 4-0, after all, so it will be discussed. But he’s not an old forty. Heavyweights tend to fight on a fair bit longer than boxing’s lighter men, and, besides some punishing early defeats to Corrie Sanders and Ross Purity, Klitschko hasn’t been in many wars. He’s nowhere near shot, which isn’t bad considering he’s entering bout sixty-nine.
On the activity side, Klitschko will have been out of the ring for seventeen months when April 29th arrives. October’s rematch with Fury fell apart, meaning that 2016 has been a complete no-show for Klitschko. Now, I don’t have eyes on him, but I’d be surprised if there’s any serious ring rust come April, mainly because Klitschko is known for keeping himself in the gym between fights. And what of the ‘doubts’? Well, it’s very simple. When a fighter has won twenty-two fights straight, a defeat to a self-proclaimed ‘non-athlete’, ‘disgrace’ and ‘fatty’, is bound to get under the skin.
In all honesty, I didn’t set out to write an extensive Preview, and now, Prediction. Ah well, it happened. For me, it’s hard to not envision Anthony Joshua conquering. He’s young, with no hard battles behind him, while Klitschko has a ton more mileage, a long spell of inactivity, and couldn’t pull the trigger against unfamiliar customer Fury last time out. Joshua and Fury’s styles couldn’t be more different, true, but Joshua still matches Klitschko for height, certainly strength and power, and is a more aggressive fighter than Fury. And better (not up for debate) fundamentals.
This pair of Brits do have steely confidence and mental strength in common, however. Now, how many of Klitschko’s previous foes have genuinely believed they could win? AJ will also have home advantage at London’s Wembley Stadium. The boos of a hostile crowd are unlikely to get to a sturdy, seasoned character like Klitschko, but away turf is away turf. The last time he fought in the UK was way back in 2000 against Monte Barrett.
Besides the fighters themselves, it’s Matchroom Boxing’s role that has me sold the most. Joshua is their top money-raker, so they must be particularly confident of his chances. For the big-time British outfit, this encounter might be all about timing, as is often the case in boxing when moulding upstarts. They believe in favourable odds, and are therefore willing to roll the dice. Joshua is obviously up for it, which, win, lose or draw, deserves respect.
Meetings of punchers don’t always end with someone on their back. But I can only see a conclusive knockout for Joshua coming. Klitschko has a tendency to break down opponents en route to late finishes, preferring safer, controlled fights. My guess is that Joshua and his team are aware of this, and will aim to make Klitschko uncomfortable in the early to middle rounds, forcing mistakes.
On the flip side, there’s every chance ‘Dr Steelhammer’ could have arrived too soon for Joshua, or, that Joshua just wasn’t as good as believed. Perhaps Klitschko simply lands that fight-ending blow first? We just don’t know. Klitschko could win. Win real big. And if he does, I’ll be kinda surprised. But definitely not shocked.
With so much to consider in Joshua vs Klitschko, it’s already one of the most intriguing matchups of 2017. What about you? Who are you favouring in this 2017 mega fight, and how does this meeting of goliaths unfold? Fire away in the comments.