Commentary: Anthony Joshua proves he’s the real deal
Heading into Saturday’s anticipated heavyweight showdown between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko there were many intangibles that left this writer pondering the outcome.
Most were in agreement that youth would be served and Joshua would win. In RingTV’s Fight Picks poll, 29 of the 30 experts sided with the 27-year-old Brit.
I believed both had the power to hurt and take the other out and each had the boxing ability to take the fight into the later rounds. It was the type of match-up where anything could happen. What I and many other pundits didn’t expect was the memorable fight that took place.
Entering the bout, we wondered if Joshua was able to take a shot from a proven heavyweight commodity with genuine power. Until Saturday, “AJ” hadn’t been past seven rounds, so we wondered about his stamina. And though he had dealt with lofty expectations without an issue throughout the first 18 bouts of his meteoric rise, he’d never been involved in an event this magnitude, beamed across the globe and in front of 90,000 patrons.
To his enormous credit, Joshua showed that when hurt and dropped – as he was from a hellacious right hand in Round 5 – he could recover. He showed considerable heart to gut out the end of the fifth and large parts of Round 6, and he did so while gassed, his mouth noticeably open sucking in air.
Joshua struggled to catch a second wind after putting in a huge effort to get the KO in the memorable Round 5, but he was able to slowly but surely work his way back into proceedings and at the time of the stoppage was two points up on two of the officials scorecards.
Just as he had during the fight-week build-up, Joshua kept his cool. He dealt with adversity in the same manner he had handled expectations, like a guy headed for stardom.
Klitschko, despite the loss, is headed to the hall of fame.
We weren’t sure what the veteran had left after a bemusing effort last time out, 17 months ago in his forgettable snoozer against Tyson Fury when he lost his titles and recognition as the heavyweight champion.
But at 41, Klitschko proved he is still more than capable of matching any heavyweight on the planet.
Had Klitschko landed that right hand on any other heavyweight, it’s likely he’d have scored a highlight-reel knockout. It was in many ways the perfect shot. Instead, somehow Joshua rose and was able to hang in there.
That ability adds a lot of promise to his career.
It’s worth noting that British star Frank Bruno, a body beautiful type like Joshua, often struggled with fatigue during his career. Though the former heavyweight beltholder was stopped five times, he actually had a solid chin. Once clipped he wasn’t able to tie his opponent up and regain his senses. His powers of recuperation failed him and he was stopped on his feet in four of his five loses.
Hall of famer Lennox Lewis holds the distinction of being the best heavyweight from the U.K. Joshua has a considerable way to go before he can be mentioned in the same breath as Lewis. However, in both of Lewis’ loses, he was dropped and stopped soon after. He was knocked down and deemed in no condition to continue versus Oliver McCall, and against Hasim Rahman, he was rescued as he tried to rise.
Joshua was able to navigate the rough moments Bruno wasn’t and when dropped, he was able to get up and continue unlike Lewis.
We’d long known he was a terrific offensive force, now we know he can also catch pretty well and even if someone is able to hurt him they still have a long way to go to beat him.
There are other challenges ahead, possibly a rematch with Klitschko. They have an agreement in place and after the drama of Saturday night, with the boat loads of money on offer, it would seem the obvious choice.
Other notable and intriguing options would be undefeated WBC titleholder Deontay Wilder, who was in attendance and working for TV, Joseph Parker, Joshua’s one-time IBF mandatory challenger until he won the WBO title, and waiting in the wings is Fury, still the lineal and RING magazine champion. Joshua called out Fury after the win but it won’t be next. Fury would have to be licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control and win a tune-up or two, shedding rust and also tens of pounds, first. Joshua would likely be favored in each bout but all are big fights.
Joshua knocked on the door and whilst initially refused entry wouldn’t to take no for an answer.
The future is bright for Joshua. Yes, if he’d blown Klitschko out in a few rounds (as many believed he would) he’d have been lauded, however, this examination will doubtlessly better serve him. He answered all the questions in the affirmative and can have few doubters left.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright
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