Thursday, September 21, 2017  |

News

Joshua KOs Klitschko, rekindles heavyweight division as promised

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime
29
Apr

Much had been made of the fist-bumps and the winks and the private jokes and the big-bro-little-bro dynamic between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko ahead of their world heavyweight title fight this evening (April 29) in London. Too friendly, they said. Too respectful, too boring, they said.

But any fear this civility and decency would amount to a game of rock-paper-scissors rather than a championship prizefight was put to bed the moment Joshua and Klitschko decided to trade hard punches in the middle rounds of an incredibly dramatic encounter that culminated in the Briton retaining his IBF title (and claiming the vacant WBA title) with an 11th-round stoppage victory.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

The 90,000 fans – yes, ninety thousand – packed inside Wembley Stadium, England’s national soccer ground, turned up hoping, nay, expecting a blowout, a changing of the guard and the coronation night for their new fighting hero. What they got, however, was so much more. What they got was the type of event to make headline news and grind an entire nation to a standstill as well as the type of fight to restore one’s faith in the long moribund heavyweight division.

Took a while, mind. This was, admittedly, a classic of the slow-burning variety. Joshua, with his 100 percent knockout ratio, and Klitschko, with his 79 percent knockout ratio (from 64 fights, for context), seemed destined to send 90,000 spectators home early. Yet, spectacles such as these – grandiose in scale and importance – have a curious habit of flooding the bodies of two athletes with excess nervous energy and subsequently rendering even the most aggressive of men tentative and wary of putting a foot wrong.

Which is why four rounds of this high-stakes, ballyhooed matchup consisted of Klitschko taking the center of the ring, Joshua circling around him, and both poking and prodding with jabs and occasional right hands. It was respectful stuff. Aware of the repercussions of one false move, both were on their best behavior. If this was the courting period of some great romance, the pair were keeping their cards close to their chest and exhibiting admiration through their restraint. It was, taken further, all pick-up lines and no second base.

But then Round 5 happened and two men whose respect for one another had for 12 minutes been tangible now decided to do something about it. Specifically, Joshua decided to do something about it; he made his move.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Concerned by the way Klitschko had taken to marshaling the center of the ring and snake-charming him behind his low left hand, Joshua came out blazing to begin the fifth. He threw a combination, cuffed Klitschko around the top of the head and immediately sensed he’d made some sort of breakthrough. He then watched as Klitschko struggled to retain his form. He could see his legs were unsteady. More shots followed and this moment of mayhem was prolonged until Klitschko hit the deck for the first time in the contest.

It had all been so abrupt, so unexpected. Klitschko, up to that point, had appeared comfortable. Comfortable both with the surroundings – football stadium fights are, lest we forget, familiar to him – and comfortable, also, with the sight of Joshua doing what hardly comes naturally to him, which is to say giving ground and boxing on the back foot.

Now, though, Klitschko was down. Not only that, he had on his face the same look of bewilderment he had when hauling himself off the floor against the likes of Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster way back when. Caught in a storm, he needed to regain his faculties, his composure and then, finally, his form.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Klitschko, to his credit, did all three. He weathered this initial storm not by cowering or retreating or even trying to survive, but by throwing punches with Joshua and trying to connect with wild hooks in between the raids of a young champion certain he was on the cusp of victory. This approach, one totally unexpected, gave the frontrunner something to think about. It made him less inclined to just let his hands go with abandonment. It, this desire to fight fire with fire, was also so uncharacteristic of Klitschko.

Perhaps initially viewed as a ballsy last stand, Klitschko then started to reap the rewards in the second half of the round after noticing Joshua had punched himself out, depleted his energy resources and was a sitting duck for right hands, uppercuts and left hooks, punches Klitschko threw in a way he hasn’t done for years.

The disappointment of not finishing Klitschko coupled with the tiredness that stemmed from not being able to do so meant Joshua cut a forlorn figure to end Round 5. He’d won the round. That was never in doubt. But he’d also somehow finished it with his back against the ropes, taking shots, and witnessing a 41-year-old he believed was on the brink of being stopped now finding his range and his groove and popping punches like the Klitschko of old.

Photo / Esther Lin-SHOWTIME

The palpable unease at ringside, as a consequence of this turn, was only exacerbated in Round 6 when Klitschko, by now moving, feinting and posturing just like he did during a nine-year reign as heavyweight king, lined Joshua up for a right hand and let it go. He let it go, this punch, because his back was against the wall and he had no alternative option. He let it go for all those other times in the past when he second-guessed himself and refused to let it go. He let it go most of all, though, because he felt Anthony Joshua, the so-called savior of the heavyweight division, had produced his best work, flunked the exam and was now ready to be taken.

Off it went, then, that patented right hand, and the result of the punch was every bit as dramatic as it was inevitable: Joshua, caught on the sweet spot, knocked down to the canvas for the first time in his previously immaculate four-year professional career.

“AJ,” the golden boy, the primary reason for this new golden age of British boxing, shook his head clear and beat the count. He was then promptly lined up for more of the same. More punches, more punishment. So he clinched. He held on. He momentarily beat Klitschko at his own game.

It was a respite short-lived. Klitschko, fully in control, cracked Joshua with another right hand by the ropes and was now positioning him the way he had positioned many of his impotent title challengers down the years. He was doing a lot with very little; the mere threat of what was to come was often enough to maneuver his prey.

Indeed, by Round 7, Klitschko had taken full ownership of the center of the ring to such a degree that it could very well have been a snapshot from any one of his world title wins; there he was bouncing ever so slightly, his left hand low, often waved like a magic wand, with all his weight on his front foot, seemingly ready to uncoil his hook. It was retro Klitschko. Classic Klitschko. Joshua knew it, too. He was back to paying his respects. He pushed his jab, if only to offer something, and appeared content to just move, keep away and stay upright.

There was a feeling that by Rounds 8 and 9 the duo had got it out of their system. The nervous energy, the pretense, the tease. They’d both visited the canvas before a crowd of 90,000. They’d both been hurt. And with this realization that you’ve given all you have and presumably seen and experienced all you want to see and experience, there comes a slight lull. It’s then things are liable to get messy. Clinches ensue. Rounds start to drift by. Unofficial scorecards, those things deemed redundant at the start, are now suddenly being tallied. You know, just in case.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

Joshua had eaten a short, hurtful right hand in the closing stages of the 10th and, though the round had been close, may well have believed it to be a round he lost in a fight he also suspected was still up for grabs heading to the finish line. This, at least to me, is the most logical way of explaining why Joshua might have decided to start Round 11 with such vivacity and purpose and why, for essentially the first time in the fight, he made a point of striding to center ring and staying there. Ostensibly a power move, it immediately took Klitschko out of his comfort zone – had him back-pedaling on tired legs, in fact – and, lo and behold, it wasn’t long before Joshua did the very thing countless other Klitschko opponents had promised but ultimately failed to do: He bravely attacked the giant Ukrainian with designs on breaking the spell and putting him away.

As they traded punches, a trade initiated by the Londoner, a hellacious uppercut landed on Klitschko’s chin, triggering whiplash, and, just like that, momentum shifted yet again. Klitschko immediately looked disturbed by the power and the shot’s element of surprise and shortly after was bundled to the ground over by the corner.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

He beat the count and signaled his willingness to continue, but, at the restart, Joshua was back to clubbing punches in his direction, caring less about where they landed and more about simply capitalizing on this moment; an uppercut thrown mid-combination had the same impact as the first one and Klitschko was once again downed, this time on his back.

The image of the end many had forecast (albeit earlier in the contest), Klitschko, 64-5 (53 knockouts), nevertheless climbed to his feet for a second time, tried to escape and tried to spoil. But, alas, it wasn’t enough. Joshua continued his assault and wasn’t going to stop until the referee, David Fields, saved an old man with an old, bloodied face from further pain, which he did, at the 2:25 mark, thus heralding the arrival of a bona fide new star of the heavyweight division.

Anthony Joshua, 19-0 (19 KOs), to summarize, is a 27-year-old Brit who repeated the success of another Brit, Tyson Fury, in toppling Wladimir Klitschko, and did so in a manner far less dominant yet wholly more entertaining. Better even than that, though, is the fact Joshua, unlike Fury, is a man with his eyes wide open, a man savage in the ring and savvy away from it, a man who won’t make a mess of this.

Rest assured, the heavyweight division is in safe hands. Powerful, exciting ones, too.

Struggling to locate a copy of THE RING Magazine? Try here or…

SUBSCRIBE

You can subscribe to the print and digital editions of THE RING Magazine by clicking the banner or here. You can also order the current issue, which is on newsstands, or back issues from our subscribe page. On the cover this month: Canelo vs. Chavez Jr. – Mano A Mano.

  • Mitchell Nelms

    Joshua fought a more alert and hungry Klitchko. Joshua showed heart and courage, but his inexperience showed in the middle rounds. If Klitchko landed any body punches, the fight would have turned out very differently.

  • Giuseppe

    I repeat KLIT KO R3

  • The Immortal S-Hop

    Are we sure that Barley didn’t write this article?

    • Charlie U.

      Are you aware of what happens to him when you bring up his name? Not just anyone, YOU.

      • The Immortal S-Hop

        Ummmmm…no. Explain please

        • Charlie U.

          He loses his shit.

          • The Immortal S-Hop

            I just meant to say that the sesquipidalian nature of the prose sounded somewhat familiar.

          • Stephen M

            Don’t you just love it when you can slip in “sesquipidalian”?

          • The Immortal S-Hop

            I was trying to find a fitting word but not insult the actual author of this piece.

          • Stephen M

            Hey, well done.

          • Ewan Leaper

            Did you google “Speaking shite at length”?

          • The Immortal S-Hop

            Indeed.

          • Ewan Leaper

            Did you google “Speaking shite at length”?

          • maxx

            “Sesquipidalian” I had to look it up you cheeky rascal.Kudos

          • The Immortal S-Hop

            What a fight on Saturday, Maxx! I’m still excited. Kudos.

          • maxx

            Indeed it was kid, Wladimir should walk away from the sport with his head held high,,,,in regards to the fight Wladimir imposed his style on Joshua for the majority of those rounds and if he would have really let his big hands go in rounds 6 and 7 I believe he would have put Joshua to sleep yet his cautious nature got the better of him, “who dares wins”, but then and again Wladimir may have felt that his boxing skills were doing the job rather effectively.Kudos kid

          • Mauro Hermida

            I was glad to see AJ mix in more hooks when he needed it and that uppercut was nasty. He really spent too much time with jab right hand mentality. He needed to mix up the shots more, keep Wlad guessing.

          • maxx

            I concur, Wladimir anticipated that right hand of Joshua’s all night long, that is until the start of the 11th round were Joshua landed a big right which rattled Wladimir.Kudos Mauro

          • Koninbeor

            If Wlad had fought like that for his entire reign then he’d be one of the most adored champions in history.

          • maxx

            Absolutely pal.Kudos

          • maxx

            I concur, Wladimir anticipated that right hand of Joshua’s all night long, that is until the start of the 11th round were Joshua landed a big right which rattled Wladimir.Kudos Mauro

          • Pietey Trenton

            I havent seen him around these parts for quite some time, any news?

          • Barney mcgrew

            Hey!!!!!

    • Barney mcgrew

      Well spotted, although I, sorry I meant he, had to tone down the xenophobia so as not to encapsulate the alias, no fooling you though, even if you aren’t a world class journalist.

      • IanF69

        He He that’s 3 times you’ve called him Xenophobic…twice as Barney and once as….ahhh hell I won’t spoil your fun.

      • IanF69

        5 mths for an upvote ??…Fecking hardass

  • Mike M.

    Fantastic fight.

    Kinda of a dick move to call ole Wladdy an old man. He’d have had anyone else out for the count.

  • Joey Junger

    I’ll admit, as the fireworks were going off in the run-up to the fight and three or four pop tunes played one after another, I had a sinking feeling that this was going to be all smoke and no fire, like Mayweather-Pacquiao. It was an entertaining scrap, though, with nice ebb and flow. I think if Klitschko had made it to the final bell it would have been a minor victory for him even if he lost, but at least he didn’t go out on his head like Hopkins, complaining of being pushed and behaving in an unsportsmanlike way. He really shouldn’t exercise his rematch clause. He was the most dominant man in his division for a decade, saved his earnings, has a beautiful wife, a PhD, and probably a political future if he wants it. He has too many prospects to endure more needless punishment, and it was a punishing night for him.

    • Kathia Hernandez

      All Mayweather fights were all smoke and no fire

  • ozzy

    Both fighters were great last night and AJ’s recovery from a seemingly losing position was something I certainly didn’t expect and shows he’s got a champion’s character – imo he’ll be better because of this experience and will hopefully continue to improve.

  • ciobanu catalin

    Greatest fight of wlads career. Congrats and hope he hang them on this hi note

  • Teddy Reynoso

    Joshua’s upper body stiffness reminds me of Frank Bruno who did not have much success because of that physical inflexibility which made him easy target for faster opponents. What makes Joshua different is his comparatively stronger taking and dishing out power. But if his camp wants Joshua to last long as champion and top flight fighter, they better do something about this upper body stiffness if they can.

    • Kathia Hernandez

      How you dare to compare Joshua with Bruno?, Bruno always was unable to compete with the top fighters

    • 90s swagger

      He still reminds me of Bruno but he proved last night he can recover from being in real trouble, big frank couldn’t. – although the bell saved him against Jumbo Cummings.

    • Julio

      I think the Bruno comparison is warranted to a degree. Both HW’s are of the muscle bound variety which definitely hampers the necessary flexibility to get off shots effectively. Joshua certainly has a better chin and more recuperative powers. But I am not sure if Joshua would have survived had he faced a younger, fresher foe. But Wilder is no Wlad by any means. Wilder doesn’t possess the necessary boxing IQ to set up Joshua the way Wlad did, not even close.

  • ciobanu catalin

    No 1 here comes haye saying he could knock aj out, cause hes got no chin and he is the only one that can do it
    No 2 why no news on quigg simion??? That was an awesome fight!

  • Michel Desgrottes

    Showtime smart that they invested in AJ early, they are going to get access to all those future match ups with wilder fury parker Ortiz

    • Kathia Hernandez

      Hope Fury to not return. Although he is big, his attidude is a shame for boxing, he is a clown

      • Pete

        Just shows that even though it was a “boring” build up… as long as you deliver in the ring, nobody cares… and Joshua v Klitschko delivered.

        Fury v Klitschko was the opposite of that.

  • Ewan Leaper

    I’m not sold on Joshua in the way the casual fan is but I was impressed with his guts and powers of recovery, which I had doubted. The big fat Gypsy King can take him if he manages an ideal world recovery but that aside I’m not sure if there’s anyone else- he’ll get to Wilder before Wilder gets to him I think.

    If that was Klitschko’s swan song then I thought it was a dignified and heroic way to bow out, the proverbial gunslinger’s last stand- the powers may have waned but there was a fire burning in him that I couldn’t help admire. That wasn’t a Joe Louis or Ali style ending in my eyes.

    He’d have taken Joshua out in the 5th had he been just a bit younger and that’s the biggest concern for Joshua going forward, he gassed badly and Klitschko just wasn’t fresh enough.

    Big respect to both of them.

    • Stephen M

      I’m thinking Fury can beat him as well. But styles make fights, so we’ll see.

      • Barney mcgrew

        The only thing that fat slob Fury is beating is his meat.

        • Ewan Leaper

          Probably at the sight of all the flaws he saw in Joshua last night

      • Kathia Hernandez

        I hope Fury to not return. He is a shame for boxing

        • 90s swagger

          He’s great for boxing, he’s unique not everyone can be mr perfect?
          AJ v Fury will be a mega event.

          • Son Lyme

            Not if Fury keeps meddling with steroids and coke it won’t.

          • 90s swagger

            Very true.

          • Julio

            It will be a mega circus, I’d say.

        • Stephen M

          He is certainly a big idiot.

          • Ewan Leaper

            He is but I like him, funny as hell!

          • Stephen M

            I can’t say I find him funny. He is kind of entertaining.

          • Mauro Hermida

            His mental instability is what makes him up and down and so goofy. He is bi-polar through and through. I cannot say I find it funny to see him act like as ass hat. He needs to be put on meds. I cannot favor him against Joshua. The Wlad he fought was a much different fighter than the one AJ fought. Im not sold on him and I think he gets taken out.

    • Son Lyme

      I’m not sold on calling those who hold an alternative viewpoint to one’s own, casual fans.

      • Ewan Leaper

        I’m not talking about balanced alternative viewpoints, Joshua might be very good, I’m talking the kind of people who think Golovkin could beat Hagler and Monzon on the same night. I like Golovkin and I like Joshua but I don’t believe anybody is Superman- Joshua has big flaws but he might just be in a division where they won’t matter.

        • Julio

          Joshua has indeed some noticeable flaws, but it took a savvy, former long time world champ to expose them. I am not sure a guy like Wilder for instance can both expose those weaknesses as overtly as Wlad did and take full advantage.

          • Ewan Leaper

            I think Joshua’s got enough to get to Wilder first based on skill sets but if he gassed out like he did against Klitschko in the 5th then he’d be in a world of shit with him or any other fresh puncher out there. Joshua has answered questions I about his chin and heart for sure, the guy will probably grow from conquering the nerves he was clearly feeling too- unfortunately he’s got a gas tank that’s more David Price than Rocky Marciano, Klitschko was hurt and probably just a little too far past his best to make the most of it

          • Julio

            If Wilder were to hurt Joshua with the same level of effect, I think he should finish the job. But, it most be noted that Wlad connected with several more hard punches that Joshua (reeling and everything) took them well all things considered. He showed the savvy of a wily veteran holding on to Wlad and moving around to clear his head. That is something pretty unusual in a fighter with such limited experience.

          • Mauro Hermida

            Joshua flattens Wilder early.

          • Julio

            Well, Joshua is certainly a tad more polished than Wilder to keep it simple. But in a battle of power punchers, it is usually about who blinks first to end on your back looking at the bright lights.

  • stafano

    Absolutely fantastic to see boxing on such a huge stage deliver the goods.

    Wladimir Klitschko can hold his head high, he’s been a terrific champion in and out of the ring. What a marvellous preformance he gave last night.

    Anthony Joshua is still learning on the job, and as a long way to go but his heart and desire have been proven beyond dispute.
    I don’t know how long the AJ journey will last ( there are glaring weaknesses ) but it’s certainly going to be exiting too watch his career unfold.

    Both men are a true credit to our sport.

  • 90s swagger

    Great advertisement for the fight game.

  • Ultimate sceptic

    Everyone has forgotten about the Quigg Simion fight. That was an absolute non stop slugfest in its own right, but the epic that followed overshadowed it.

    • IanF69

      It was a good old fashioned punch up, but what has Quigg learned from Roach? He seemed easier to hit than before.

      • Ultimate sceptic

        I think he just decided to throw caution to the wind and attack non stop, Mexican style.

        • IanF69

          Yea it made for good viewing and considering he’s had his jaw broke it showed balls….usually after such an injury a fighter protects himself more…not Scott….Hats off to him….He deserves a title shot….and against Selby who imo lacks any sort of power I’d give him a chance.

          • Ultimate sceptic

            Yes but maybe one or two tune ups before Selby, who has a better skills set.

          • IanF69

            Definitely…I don’t think he could outbox Selby who is talented but he has the power as he showed against Kiko to take him out..

          • Ultimate sceptic

            Actually he may not be able to have another tuneup as that was a title eliminator, my mistake. Selby it is then.

          • Ultimate sceptic

            Actually he may not be able to have another tuneup as that was a title eliminator, my mistake. Selby it is then.

        • Orca

          Yeah and he looked relatively fresh afterwards. No questioning his conditioning. His skill set in the other hand could be found wanting against Selby as it was against Frampton.

  • KUSH

    I have more respect for Klitchko now than I ever had before. He went out on his shield

    • Ewan Leaper

      Definitely, there were articles about guys like Louis and Ali that went out badly in “changing of the guard” fights prior to this but it wasn’t undignified even though he was stopped

  • KUSH

    I have more respect for Klitchko now than I ever had before. He went out on his shield

  • Pete

    Good breakdown of a great fight. Yes, Fury made beating Klitschko look easy, but Joshua’s win was a lot more entertaining. It was one of best heavyweight fights I’ve ever seen.

    Fury toyed with Klitschko but at no point could he knock Klitschko out. He even had a free shot on him !!! Imagine if that was Joshua with a free shot.

    Fury doesn’t have the power to intimidate Joshua. And I think Joshua would find a way to stop him. It wouldn’t be an easy fight for Joshua at all, but as long as his stamina holds then I see him flattening the big gypsy.

    • Julio

      I don’t think the plan was for Fury to get Wlad out of there, but just to outbox him to prove that he was better than Wlad.

      • Pete

        That was definitely the plan. I’m just saying he is not known for his KO power, so Klitschko should’ve been more ambitious… he only seemed to come alive in the final 2 rounds v Fury.

        Joshua would take more risks and I don’t see Fury being able to keep him off

        • Julio

          He wasn’t trying to knock him out. Fury fought from the outside and simply out-jabbed Wladimir to death.

      • Mauro Hermida

        I think Fury lacked the power to take Wlad out. The way he beat Wlad was the epitome of unimpressive. AJ took the fight too him and made an emphatic statement. More of that please.

        • Julio

          Fury and Joshua are obviously not cut from the same cloth. Fury just try to stink out the joint as much as possible. And he certainly takes a lot of pride on it. Joshua has some decent tools, but that power certainly won’t let him try to impersonate Chris Bird in there.

        • Ewan Leaper

          I wouldn’t say unimpressive, uninspiring is maybe a better word. I don’t think Klitschko improved at 2 years older and after 2 years of activity unless he’s defied time in a way like no-one else before him- Joshua’s level might be lower than people are thinking, allowing Klitschko to compete in a way he wasn’t able to against Fury. The speed, ring IQ and skills didn’t blow me away. We’ll hopefully find out.

  • Bar Kokhba

    Astonishingly overlooked in the wake of a dramatic, convincing victory is the fact that Anthony Joshua now joins Jess Willard, Joe Louis, Ezzard Charles, Pinklon Thomas, Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Lennox Lewis, plus BOTH Cassius Clay AND Muhammad Ali in the long, prestigious line of heavyweight champs with two first names.

    Congratulations, Joshua! Or Anthony!

    Honorable mention: Floyd Patterson, Hasim Rachman.

    • Bar Kokhba

      Oops, sorry, meant ‘Rahman’. Which might not be a first name after all.

      • Matt

        He was a champion before the fight though…

        • Bar Kokhba

          Good point.

          Nevertheless, it doesn’t undermine the earth-shattering importance of my discovery.

  • himmler adams

    From 2005 on the fraud Wlad fought nobodies and bums making a false record and a fake reputation as a heavy champion. What a hoot.
    2005-Peter-Bryd -Brock-Austin-Brewster-Igbragimov-Thompson-Rahman-Chageav-Peter again- Mormeck-Haye-Thompson again-Wach the robot-Pianeta-Povetkin-Leapea-Pulev-Jennings- pretty much all bums with 2 peter wins and 2 tony T wins. Who the hell was any good. Wlad is a fake champ who was never really tested till the end. Wlad was an average tall gangly heavy with average skills beating on bums making a fake rep. FACT. So glad to see Fury and Joshua pop that fraud’s fake phony bubble of pseudo greatness and bring that communist back to reality and then shame. WlaD WILL now go down as a stiff who fought nobody good. :poke:

  • Colnef

    Both these guys are a credit to the sport. Their conduct before and after the fight was exemplary. A couple of thoughts: Is Joshua getting too muscular? Joshua’s chin is strong because there was one flush Klitschko right-hand (not the knockdown) that would have ko’d just about any heavyweight out there.

  • Mauro Hermida

    Both guys showed mad grit, really thought Joshua was going to lose after Wlad made that comeback and dropped him hard. It looked like he was gassed. Its too bad Wlad doesn’t know what a body shot is because it would have helped him greatly. He allowed Joshua to get back into the fight and paid for it.

  • KUSH

    I got one word…UPPERCUT lol. Klitchko gets mad respect from me forever for this fight tho