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Photo / Esther Lin-SHOWTIME
01
May

HEAVYWEIGHT DRAMA!

Doug! What a heavyweight fight! Those rounds 5 and 6 were some of the best rounds I’ve seen in boxing, let alone heavyweight boxing, all year. Something about the stakes of a title fight always amplify the in-ring drama, and when it delivers like this fight did boxing is unmatched. What a year it’s been! Anyway, I had a few thoughts:

  1. Joshua showed tonight that he has all the tools to be the king of the division for years to come. The skills have all been there for a while, but he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chin and heart are as well. That right hand that put him down in Round 6 was brutal. To not only get up from that, but to survive the round and come back to win the fight shows what kind of warrior he is. His recuperative ability is elite. This is why fighting top competition is more important than that glossy undefeated record: Joshua now knows he has that extra gear in championship fights and that he has the character to dig deep when things get hard. Also, hopefully he learned not to punch himself out! Be more deliberate when looking to finish your opponent.
  2. After the fifth round, I was rooting for Wladimir. After he got knocked down, he didn’t just survive the round, but fought back and changed the trajectory of the fight. He refused to simply stay down, or get a moral victory by going 12, but came to win. I had nothing but respect for the man coming into the fight, and afterwards it has only been amplified. If he does decide to retire, going out on a performance like that does nothing but enhance the all-time great reign he had for the decade prior. Also, much respect to him for not taking any wind out of Joshua’s sails by retiring on the spot, which always annoys me.
  3. As much as I wanted to see Wladimir win, with Joshua’s emphatic victory I think the heavyweight division can make some amazing fights. To paraphrase Joshua, you can’t win if you don’t get in the ring. I took his talk about showing up as a subtle dig at Deontay Wilder and his awful title reign to date. After this fight, I’d favor Joshua over every other top heavyweight because of his combination of skill, power, heart and character. Wilder is nothing but a big right hand, I think AJ would take him out in 2 or 3 rounds. I’d favor him by KO over Joseph Parker as well. Luis Ortiz and Tyson Fury would provide much sterner tests and perhaps allow us to see Joshua dig deep and find yet another gear he didn’t know he had. That being said, I would much rather see the fights with Wilder and Parker, because having undisputed champions in weight classes is good for the sport, and because that big right hand Wilder has really is a gamechanger, so you never know what might happen!

Hope you enjoyed another great weekend of boxing, and hope the big fights keep delivering like they have been all year. – Tom, PA

I think most of the big fights/events will deliver (and no, I do not count Mayweather-McGregor as a real boxing event in case you were wondering). This year has already far surpassed 2016 in terms of significant matchups that also delivered entertaining/compelling/dramatic fights. If there’s one thing I hope the self-defined “hardcore” fans take away from this year, so far, is that just because a fighter is the perceived “underdog” according to oddsmakers and the media it doesn’t mean that fighter doesn’t have a chance to win or that he can’t make for a competitive or entertaining fight.

Klitschko was almost completely counted out by the vast majority of interested observers going into Saturday’s heavyweight showdown, just as Miguel Berchelt, Leo Santa Cruz, Tony Bellew, Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and Daniel Jacobs were generally dismissed or overlooked going into their major fights/title bouts. It’s sad when media and fans are so jaded that they can’t recognize a good fight that’s right in front of them. Please, folks, pull your pessimistic heads out of your asses and don’t sleep on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.’s chances against Canelo Alvarez this Saturday. I’m not saying Junior’s going to pull the upset special, but it’s far from impossible for that to happen, and the likely scenario is that we get a good fight.

Anyway, I agree that it’s good for boxing to have undisputed champions in its glamor divisions – such as welterweight, middleweight and heavyweight – so I also hope that Joshua targets Wilder and Parker this year and next. (But keep in mind that each of those alphabet straps have mandatory challenger obligations attached to them, so AJ will have to face IBF No. 1 Kubrat Pulev, and though Luis Ortiz should be the WBA’s mandatory, I wouldn’t be shocked if the Shannon Briggs-Fres Orquendo winner supersedes the Cuban – yuck!)

You know what’s even more important for the sport’s health? Good fights! And Saturday’s heavyweight crossroads clash was better than good. It was sensational. (It didn’t hurt that it was witnessed live by 90,000 and televised globally.)

Joshua showed tonight that he has all the tools to be the king of the division for years to come. To borrow a line from Timbuk 3, AJ’s future is so bright he’s gotta wear shades, but let’s not coronate him as the next Muhammad Ali just yet. He passed his first real test as a professional in gutsy and dramatic fashion, but he’s got a lot more to do before we can call him “the king.”

The skills have all been there for a while, but he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the chin and heart are as well. The heart is definitely there. The chin isn’t made of paper mache but it’s not cast from the mold of George Chuvalo or even Oliver McCall. It can be dented, which should make for many thrilling moments in the future.

His recuperative ability is elite. He definitely has recuperative ability, something not all fighters (especially heavyweights) possess, but I wouldn’t fault a born-puncher like Wilder for believing that he could put AJ down and keep him down before that ability kicks in. Klitschko didn’t jump on Joshua after scoring his knockdown. Wilder, Parker and Ortiz certainly would.

This is why fighting top competition is more important than that glossy undefeated record: Joshua now knows he has that extra gear in championship fights and that he has the character to dig deep when things get hard. And now WE know.

After the fifth round, I was rooting for Wladimir. It was hard not to, even though I knew that it was in the best interest of the sport’s health if the younger man won. Klitschko showed uncommon grit in getting up from the Round 5 knockdown, firing back enough to possibly drop the 10-8 score to a 10-9, dropping to AJ in Round 6, and taking control of the fight for a stretch. I like it when veterans who should be respected (but often aren’t) exceed expectations.

I had nothing but respect for the man coming into the fight, and afterwards it has only been amplified. Anyone who can’t respect Klitschko after Saturday’s performance is just a d__k.

As much as I wanted to see Wladimir win, with Joshua’s emphatic victory I think the heavyweight division can make some amazing fights. We’ve got a sweet round robin on deck between Joshua, Wilder, Parker, Ortiz, Klitschko (if he decides to stay in the game), and of course the wild card (or king if you’re a purist) of the bunch Tyson Fury, provided the Powers That Be can get along and do business.

After this fight, I’d favor Joshua over every other top heavyweight because of his combination of skill, power, heart and character. I would too, but I wouldn’t count the top dogs out. Wilder has the power to down AJ and though the American is not the cleanest finisher in the game, he will go for it. Parker may have better whiskers than AJ. Ortiz can show the 27 year old what inside combinations look like. And Fury can give anyone fits when his mind is right.

 

KLITSCHKO LET AJ OFF THE HOOK

Hi Dougie,

Immediate reactions after the fight… Wlad let Joshua off the hook in round 7 and paid for it. I genuinely think he had him and let him recover. Shame on him (and on me as I was rooting for him), but good for boxing.

Would be a liar if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed by the way it played out, but I also like Joshua and think it was a very good, back and forth, heavyweight bout; the fans won. Also good for the future of the division; a lot of great potential match ups. Thoughts?

Respect for all your great work, read your mailbags religiously. – Paul, UK

Thanks for the kind words, Paul.

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

I agree that Klitschko allowed Joshua to recover after dropping (and hurting) him Round 6, but hindsight is always 20-20. In real time, Joshua appeared to be a spent bullet, and given his history (having never been past Round 7), it seemed a safe gamble for Klitschko to take the younger man deep and drown him there (which was probably his original game plan). In retrospect, the former champ should have taken the more risky gamble and jumped on AJ in Round 7.

However, keep in mind that Klitschko had been dropped in Round 5 and likely expended a lot of energy rallying from his knockdown and keeping his aggression up in Round 6. So maybe there were some concerns about punching himself out (as AJ had briefly done) in Rounds 7 and 8.

I agree that Joshua’s victory is great for the heavyweight division and good for the overall health of the sport, but I think that Klitschko’s bold stand is also a boon for boxing and the glamor division. If Wladdy wants to remain in the game I will consider him a major player.

 

AJ VS. WK – WHAT A FIGHT!

Hi Doug,

What. A. Fight!

That uppercut?? Jeez.

I predicted AJ in 3 and I couldn’t be happier I was wrong. After looking washed against Fury and an 18-month layoff Klitschko looked better than he has in years. Feet and head movement was great, was aggressive, reflexes were there. Defense was on point for the most part. Also showed great heart and courage to come back from the knockdown in round 5 and ultimately go out on his shield. He should also have proved to his doubters that while he might not have a Hagler-type chin it’s not exactly glass either. He took some solid punches from a fellow huge and hard hitter.

Great win for AJ and this does much more for him than blowing him out would have.

This proved he has a chin. Proved he can get up and survive trouble. Proved he can fight championship rounds. Proved he carries his power late on. And lastly proved he was a warrior’s heart and was able to change gears and grab the win before it slipped out of his grasp.

Side note – I think this fight shows how good Fury fought on the night to pretty much nullify Wlad. If he can get his career back on track then him Wilder and AJ should make for some more huge events.

Finally a huge event fight that delivers action. I watched this at a pub with my dad and his brother and friend and they all said this is what they were used to for the big fights when they were younger. This is exactly what the sport needs from its big fights and big stars.

Would you agree this was the best heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko?

UK boxing is buzzing and AJ is at the forefront. A win in US over Wilder would perhaps make him the biggest boxer in the world, agree?

I also agree with what you said on Twitter that Wlad deserves respect for taking on a dangerous young fighter and passing the torch unlike Mayweather or PacMan.

Anyway, sorry this was way too long. Take it easy mate. – CW, UK

The most important thing is that Klitschko didn’t pass the torch without a fight, although one could argue that the torch wan not passed on April 29, it was merely picked up by Joshua after Fury dropped it.

Would a victory over Wilder in America make Joshua boxing’s biggest star? Well, it would only add to his popularity and visibility in the U.S., but AJ is arguably already the sport’s biggest draw.

That uppercut?? Jeez. I know, right? How did that monster punch not instantly paralyze Wladdy? That was the hardest, sickest-looking uppercut I’ve seen land flush in a heavyweight fight since Lennox Lewis nailed Klitschko’s big bro with a similar thunderclap during their titanic clash in Los Angeles in 2003. Vitali proved to have one of the better heavyweight beards of the last 20 years by remaining upright after absorbing that one.

I predicted AJ in 3 and I couldn’t be happier I was wrong. No offense, but I didn’t understand all the blowout predictions in favor of AJ.

After looking washed against Fury and an 18-month layoff Klitschko looked better than he has in years. Agreed. I think losing his titles (and the embarrassing manner in which he lost them) reignited the fire in Klitschko’s belly. He admitted many times going into April 29 that he was obsessed with the Joshua fight and with regaining two of the major belts. Obsession can be a good thing in sports.

Feet and head movement was great, was aggressive, reflexes were there. Defense was on point for the most part. He didn’t look like the shot fighter everyone proclaimed him to be prior to the fight.

Also showed great heart and courage to come back from the knockdown in round 5 and ultimately go out on his shield. And in doing so, he probably earned more respect from his detractors than he did with all of his previous victories combined.

He should also have proved to his doubters that while he might not have a Hagler-type chin it’s not exactly glass either. He took some solid punches from a fellow huge and hard hitter. To paraphrase the always-astute Cliff Rold (from Twitter on Saturday), if Klitschko truly had a “glass chin” one of the 23 opponents he faced between stoppage losses to Lamon Brewster and Joshua would have broken it.

Great win for AJ and this does much more for him than blowing him out would have. Absolutely. As you detailed in your email, winning in the manner he did on Saturday answered all of our questions.

I think this fight shows how good Fury fought on the night to pretty much nullify Wlad. It wasn’t pretty and it damn sure wasn’t entertaining but it was certainly effective.

If he can get his career back on track then him, Wilder and AJ should make for some more huge events. MONSTER events. I’m rooting for Fury to get his life and career back on track.

Finally a huge event fight that delivers action. I watched this at a pub with my dad and his brother and friend and they all said this is what they were used to for the big fights when they were younger. This is exactly what the sport needs from its big fights and big stars. Big stars combining to make for big events that deliver in a big way is the reason I became a hardcore fan. I don’t see why it would be any different for today’s casual observers.

Would you agree this was the best heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko? Yeah, that sounds about right, or maybe since Lamon Brewster’s WBO title bout decision loss to Sergey Liakhovich in 2006.

 

DOES KLITSCHKO FINALLY EARN RESPECT?

Hi Doug,

Long time reader, first time writer, great job with the mailbag I enjoy reading them every Monday and Friday.

So AJ stopped WK and I enjoyed the fight so much I thought I’d write in (even though I wanted a WK win). I was expecting a Joshua win, but not in that fashion, he ticked a lot of boxes in getting dropped, weathering the storm, and then stopping Klitschko in the 11th. I was disappointed to see Klitschko behind on the scorecards at the time of the stoppage. I hadn’t scored it myself, but felt Klitschko was winning the fight prior the stoppage, and from what I’ve read so far most agree. How did you score it going into the 11th? And how did you see the fight going in general?

I can’t believe the way Klitschko came back in that 5th round after the knockdown, he dominated it afterwards and it looked like he’d take Joshua out there in the 6th. You have to give Joshua credit. He hung on in, survived, and came back to stop Klitschko. Don’t you think this should earn him more respect for showing heart and resilience rather than the “exposed” comments I’m reading elsewhere?

Do you think this fight will finally earn Klitschko the respect he deserves in some quarters? He came in from 18 month layoff, at 41 (an age he shouldn’t really be competing at), and almost took out the man tipped as the next big thing.  I’ve never bought into the no heart, no chin claim, you don’t stay in or around the No.1 spot in the heavyweight division for a decade with no chin, and you don’t come back from heavy KO defeats without having heart. How do you rate him in the ATG HW stakes? I see he and Vitali made it in the top 20 heavyweight article the other week, but I didn’t agree with one assessment which said something along the lines of the Klitschkos only having success because all the best big men have gone in to other sports.

How do you see AJ vs. Wilder going after tonight?

One more thing, tonight doesn’t prove Fury beats AJ as some are now saying, two completely different fights. Hopefully the Gypsy King comes back to his best and they get it on!

It’s been a great start to the year and hopefully fights keep delivering. The future looks bright. Sorry to ramble on and if I don’t make sense a beer or two does that. – Danny

No worries, Danny. An entertaining and dramatic heavyweight title bout headlining a mega-event will also cause a diehard boxing fan to ramble on a bit.

I agree that Joshua’s struggle with Klitschko does not indicate that Fury (who had a much easier time with Wladdy) would beat him. As you alluded, styles make fights. However, I do think an in-shape, active and mentally healthy/focused Fury can give Joshua a very difficult fight (but not as physically taxing as Klitschko was).

Photo by Esther Lin/Showtime

I hadn’t scored it myself, but felt Klitschko was winning the fight prior the stoppage, and from what I’ve read so far most agree. How did you score it going into the 11th? I had Joshua up six rounds to four after 10 rounds. I scored Rounds 6, 7, 8 and 10 for the former champ. I can see scoring one of the first two rounds and Round 9 for Klitschko, so I don’t have any argument with anyone who had it even or for Wladdy by a point or two going into Round 11.

And how did you see the fight going in general? I thought Joshua was in control for the first five rounds, then Klitschko took over from Round 6 (from the end of Round 5, really) through the 10th, but he allowed Joshua to regain his bearings and the younger, fresher man stepped it up and closed the show in Round 11. The drama of Rounds 5, 6 and 11 make this fight special and a strong Fight of the Year candidate. (It’s also the frontrunner for Event of the Year.)

You have to give Joshua credit. He hung on in, survived, and came back to stop Klitschko. Don’t you think this should earn him more respect for showing heart and resilience rather than the “exposed” comments I’m reading elsewhere? Look man, I’ve been covering boxing since the late ‘90s and I’ve done this mailbag column since 2001, so believe me when I tell you that there’s always going to be contingent of nut jobs that look for something negative to focus on after a sensational fight. As incredible as the first Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo fight was, there was a significant group of fans that were upset that Chico had spat his mouthpiece out twice before his incredible come-from-behind stoppage. And there were crazies that bitched about aspects of Marquez-Pacquiao I (the draw scorecard due to the 10-7 score for Round 1) and Morales-Pacquiao I (the brand of gloves that PacMan was contractually forced to wear). All I could do was shake my heads and pity the poor fools for not simply enjoying thrilling fights and the inhuman efforts the combatants put forth in the ring.

Joshua-Klitschko should earn both heavyweights nothing but respect. But if some want to view Joshua getting nailed and gassed in Round 5 and knocked down in Round 6 as an indication that he’s exposed, vulnerable or whatever, that’s their business. Most of us realize that AJ was in with an extremely motivated, vastly more experienced future hall of famer, so we’re not going to diss him too much for getting hit a few times.

Do you think this fight will finally earn Klitschko the respect he deserves in some quarters? I think more fans respect Klitschko now than during any other part of his career, which is saying something. But there’s always going to be some folks out there that will piss on him and his legacy for whatever reason.

How do you rate him in the ATG HW stakes? I think he’s top 15 worthy.

I see he and Vitali made it in the top 20 heavyweight article the other week, but I didn’t agree with one assessment which said something along the lines of the Klitschkos only having success because all the best big men have gone in to other sports. Yeah, I did not contribute to that article and I don’t agree with that assessment either, although I don’t think the heavyweight division was particularly deep during the K-Bros. various title reigns. Still, they fought enough quality opposition and dominated long enough for their records and accomplishments to mean something.

How do you see AJ vs. Wilder going after tonight? I thought Joshua could beat Wilder before the Klitschko fight (before I knew he could get up from a knockdown, catch a second wind and rally in the championship rounds), so obviously I feel even more confident of his ability to best the undefeated American puncher. However, I think Wilder is as live against Joshua as he is against any of the other top heavyweights. He’s got the power to turn a fight with a single punch and the puncher’s kill or be killed mentality to go with it so he’s a threat.

 

BIG BALLS KLITSCHKO

What a great fight Klitschko gave us today and what class he showed in the ring.

I was one of his greatest detractors for his “mounting” tactics. But he came to fight tonight, and as the great philosopher James Toney once said “you have to bring a$$ to get a$$”. Well, Klitschko brought a$$. I mean when he knocked Joshua down the round after he was almost KTFO I jumped out of my seat shouting and cheering him on.

Photo / Esther Lin-SHOWTIME

I can’t lie, I was rooting for Klitschko going into the fight. For some reason I really wanted the Old Lion to turn back the challenge. Klitschko did not disappoint, he treated us to a GREAT fight. He came to get a$$, he was on Joshua, he looked relaxed in the early rounds and fluid. Joshua was confused and tight.

Youth won, whenever Joshua did decide to really let his hands go, things worked for him, but obviously Klitschko was doing something in there that kept him from doing so often. Klitschko let the opportunity slip by, Joshua was BADLY hurt when he went down and tired, Klitschko let him off of the hook, not intentionally, but he did. Then slowly Joshua got his wind.

But the shots Klitschko took throughout the fight would have decapitated any other heavyweight. Klitchko had a chin tonight. Obviously he was mentally dialed in for this and didn’t plan to take no for an answer.

I just can’t say enough about the effort he put up tonight and what he treated fans too. I truly hope he retires off of this effort and allows us to remember him as a great champion. If he comes back to lesser efforts it will detract from his legacy. I think his reputation is at an all-time high right now. Retire ala Marvin Hagler. Thank you. – Jason C. Brown

Thanks for sharing Jason. I never thought I’d see the day when you gave Wladdy Klitschko this much respect and props, but as you noted, the former champ truly earned it (and one should never say “never” in boxing).

I still remember how mad and disgusted you were after Klitschko’s clutch clinic against Alexander Povetkin in 2013. Oh my God, you had me laughing out loud with your rather graphic analogies of his “mounting” tactics. You were so pissed that I have no doubt that you would have said it right to his face had you met him in the weeks after that title defense.

But Klitschko redeemed himself on Saturday. Even James Toney would grudgingly give Wladdy respect for the manner in which the Ukrainian got in Joshua’s ass late in Round 5 and for getting up twice in Round 11 when his 41-year-old body was clearly spent and his PhD-level brain was severely scrambled. I doubt the great philosopher will refer to him as a “Bitchko sister” again.

Anyway, I agree that Klitschko’s worldwide rep is at an all-time high right now, and I also believe that if he retires now that it would be a  “Hagleresque” way of calling it a career. I think he should retire. He’s got nothing to more to prove. However, if Klitschko were to challenge Wilder I’d be excited about that fight.

 

PROUD OF QUIGG-SIMION, NOT IMPRESSED WITH AJ

What a night…man. I am proud of being Romanian tonight, loved the Scott Quigg vs Viorel Simion fight. I knew he had talent and a big heart, but had no idea how big it was, what a great little man. The only difference in that fight I thought was their body shape. I felt that Quigg looked better prepared, more healthy, but in the end we got a very good fight with a lot of beautiful power combos.

Klitschko vs. AJ was way more interesting than predicted, but I feel the only reason AJ won was the age factor. Youth (and Wlad not putting on enough pressure) helped him to recover from being exhausted in those latter rounds to lunch another attack on the old lion, who caved in.

Congratulations are in order for AJ, but I was not that impressed with him. I feel that someone with a bit of footwork, skills and poise can even KO him (I’m thinking of Fatty Fury and King Kong).

Fantastic night for boxing, we finally had one… – Ciobanu

Hey man, bring on Fatty and Kong. Joshua called out Fury after the fight and Ortiz is one of the top-rated contenders for the WBA title that the British star picked up by beating Klitschko. I agree that they both possess skills and attributes that will further test Joshua but I’m not convinced that they have enough tools to beat him.

I think it’s going to take more than “a bit of footwork, skills and poise.”

I agree that Joshua’s youth was a major factor in his ability to overcome Klitschko, but it certainly wasn’t the only reason he was able to do it. I’m not going to call Klitschko “old” because I think he would have defeated most of the top heavyweights with the effort he gave on Saturday. He’s a special athlete.

And though I haven’t seen the Quigg-Simion fight yet, I’ve been told that your countryman is a special competitor. You’re probably correct in that Quigg’s conditioning was his saving grace. I heard that he put in the work at Wild Card Boxing Club in preparation for this IBF featherweight title-elimination bout.

Sounds like Simion gave Quigg a proper welcome to the 126-pound division. It will be interesting to see how Quigg gels with Freddie Roach and if he’s able to deal with the likes of Lee Selby (the holder of the IBF belt), Leo Santa Cruz, Abner Mares and Oscar Valdez if and when those fights are made.

 

 

Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer, and on Instagram and Periscope where you can join him, Coach Schwartz and others at SMC track for boxing talk and trivia most Sundays…

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