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Joshua-Klitschko is named 2017 RING Magazine Fight of the Year

Photo by: Axel Heimken/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
29
Dec

When Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier came together in Manila for their third and final encounter, the prevailing wisdom was that it would be a better event than a fight. Frazier was considered shot and “The Greatest” would merely have to show up to secure an easy win over his bitter nemesis.

As we all know, the reality was a little different. Ali prevailed via 14th-round stoppage, but he went through hell on earth to retain the heavyweight championship of the world and secure one of his greatest triumphs.

When Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko was made, it was Klitschko who many believed to be shot. The Ukrainian icon was coming off a 17-month layoff and hadn’t won a fight for over two years. An 11-year win streak, nine of those as a heavyweight titleholder, was snapped when Klitschko suffered an ignominious decision defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015.

While Joshua vs. Klitschko was no Manila, that’s simply down to the fact that neither fighter was realistically capable of filling the Ali and Frazier roles. But this fight delivered. On April 29, 2017, Joshua and Klitschko put on a sensational display of skill and fighting guts which reignited the excitement in heavyweight championship boxing.

Joshua makes his entrance. Photo by Esther Lin/ Showtime

And in many ways, the narrative followed the same line as Ali-Frazier III. It was a global event that captured the imagination of the mainstream. The bout was aired on pay-per-view in the U.K., and both Showtime and HBO purchased U.S. broadcasting rights (Showtime aired live and HBO on delay). Just like the golden era of heavyweight boxing, this title fight had made the world stop.

It was all the effect of the magic wand Joshua and Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn had waved to transform the fighter’s Olympic super heavyweight gold medal at London 2012 into a professional gold mine. Good-looking and amiable, the marketable Joshua was headlining pay-per-view events in the U.K. before he won the IBF title from American Charles Martin in April 2016.

The other good news for Hearn was that Joshua could whack – as in seriously whack. Heading into the Klitschko bout, the 6-foot-6 colossus from Watford, England, had knocked out all 19 of his opponents and not one of them had heard a bell for Round 8. Those stats combined with Klitschko’s age, inactivity and a serious dip in form saw Joshua installed as a 2-1 favorite.

On fight night, a U.K. post-war attendance record of 90,000 fans created enough electricity to light up the capital. The noise was deafening.

The first four rounds were solid and relatively even, but it was the fifth that sent this showdown into the stratosphere. Joshua exploded out of the blocks and nailed Klitschko with a series of powerful combinations that forced the veteran challenger to seek refuge on the canvas. Klitschko was hurt, cut and on the verge of being taken.

But not without a fight.

Seconds after rising, the challenger caught Joshua with a heavy left hook that had an immediate effect. In his 21st year as a professional, with 68 fights under his belt, the cerebral Ukrainian knew that Joshua was woozy. Klitschko continued to ram home the power shots and the defending titleholder looked positively exhausted as the round came to an end.

The sixth was worse for Joshua. Klitschko, after establishing range with the left hand, crossed over a sizzling right that landed flush on the jaw. A follow-up left helped seal the knockdown and the Englishman needed every second of a mandatory eight-count to recover his senses. Using defensive instincts which belied his professional experience, Joshua somehow managed to survive the session.

Joshua smashes home the uppercut. Photo by Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge Livepic

Both men had their moments over the next few rounds, and perhaps Klitschko was guilty of returning to his stereotypical safety-first approach. But you’re never safe against a puncher of Joshua’s caliber. After ducking under a left hook, Klitschko was caught flush by a ferocious right uppercut in the 11th. Dazed and shaken, the ex-champion went down under a torrent of firepower and did very well to get up.

Joshua had let his man off the hook once before and learned from it. Considering the pace of the fight and the damage he himself had sustained, the IBF beltholder’s follow-up was terrific. Joshua battered Klitschko with a strong two-fisted attack to score another knockdown and went through the gears when Klitschko again dragged himself to his feet. Finally, referee David Fields called a halt to the action at 2:25 of the penultimate round.

The victory saw Joshua retain his IBF heavyweight title and claim the vacant WBA version.

Unlike Ali and Frazier, there was no hostility between Joshua and Klitschko, who were good friends before and remained so after they fought. But just as with 1975’s “Thrilla in Manila,” this bout is THE RING Magazine’s Fight of the Year and nobody who saw it will ever forget it.

 

RUNNERS UP:
Canelo Alvarez D 12 Gennady Golovkin
Wisaksil Wangek UD 12 Roman Gonzalez
Miguel Berchelt KO 11 Francisco Vargas
Miguel Roman TKO 9 Orlando Salido

 

Tom Gray is Associate Editor for THE RING. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

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  • TMT NYC-DA REAL GHOSTBUSTERS

    Oh no way! Fight of the Year was when Great Floyd whooped on that punk from Ireland.

    • DRE

      You and that Autosmell guy should go bowling togeather.

  • philoe bedoe

    A good back and forth scrap that exceeded expectations, even though there was a lot of media hype going into it.
    The thought was either Joshua would be to young, powerful and explosive, or Klitchko would be to experienced and well schooled.
    Both boxers showed that during this fight………..

    • DRE

      Definitely a rousing slugfest but it was indeed somewhat magnified by those 90000 screaming fans. And most of the hard-hitting action was crammed in the 5th, 6th and 11 rounds. I don’t even remember much of what happened in the other rounds.
      I thought that fights like the first SSR-Gonzalez bout and Miguel Roman’s wars with Miura and Salido had more sustained action.
      Good call on Josh’s power vs Klitchko’s skill and experience. In the end the younger stronger guy won out. The torch was passed on.
      Now here hoping that Deo Wilder steps up and maybe we’ll get another heavyweight FOTY candidate.

      • philoe bedoe

        A Joshua vs Wilder fight would be an exciting and edgey affair because of both boxers power and suspect chins.
        I agree the occasion of the fight is what swung it to win fight of the year.
        I was impressed at how Joshua kept his shape and composure when he was hurt and gassed………..

        • Steve G

          It was fashionable for a while to say AJ had a suspect chin. I’m not sure, albeit with hindsight, that’s true. It was mainly based on the Dillian Whyte fight, when DW caught and hurt AJ with an uppercut in the 2nd rd.

          But in this one, WK not only hit AJ with some big bombs thru 11 rds, but that full-blooded right hand that floored AJ in the 6th would’ve finished most fighters. But AJ got up, held himself together and continued…under immense pressure form one of the best and most powerful heavyweights of the last 30 years. Joshua then re-grouped, found his 2nd wind and closed-out the show to get the win.

          How many other HW’s of the last 25 years would have come thru that titanic battle and that shocking 6th rd knockdown? Barely any, in my humble opinion. Just have a look at Wladimir’s record of starching other good HW’s.

          Joshua chinny? I don’t think so. If he was WK would’ve beaten him.

          • philoe bedoe

            Being dropped as an amateur by Whyte and stopped as an amateur.
            various sparring partners, Dubois, Okolie, Price, have also dropped him.
            What Joshua as got is heart and composure………..

          • Steve G

            Really? All of the those were more than 4 years ago, when AJ was a young green amateur. In 20 pro fights the only man to drop him was WK. And it was a heavy knock-down. But what happened in the end? I think you are clutching at straws. No offence. Best regards.

          • philoe bedoe

            I’m a fan of Joshua so there is no agenda here.
            All I know is that when a boxer is vulnerable as an amateur, it usually stays with him right through his career………….

    • Wade Wilson

      The hype made it even better in the end

  • Dee Money

    Good call ring

  • Guy Grundy

    Nailed it with…” and nobody who saw it,will ever forget it.”

    • Gian Torres

      I already forgot Klitchko-Joshua and this is why in Tom Gray’s words–> “perhaps Klitschko was guilty of returning to his stereotypical safety-first approach”

      P.S. everybody who’s agreeing is very dispassionate with this pick.

  • Gian Torres

    Very, very poor choice and only the Canelo Alvarez vs Gennady Golovkin fight was less exciting from among the other runner ups. Tom Gray’s words say a lot about this fight–> “perhaps Klitschko was guilty of returning to his stereotypical safety-first approach.” I think it’s time for some new writers at Ring.
    P.S. Everybody who’s agreeing is also very dispassionate about this fight with words like “I agree the occasion of the fight is what swung it to win fight of the year” “Good call ring”and “Nailed it” and “The hype made it even better in the end”

    • Tom Gray

      I don’t really get your point here Gian. Thomas Hearns went safety first against Ray Leonard in 1981 from Round 8 through 12 (all slow rounds) but Leonard’s spectacular finish still led to Fight of the Year honours. The pace slowing in a fight before a dramatic ending doesnt remove it from consideration.

      • Gian Torres

        Hello Tom… Leonard vs Hearns was a brilliant tactical fight and a good choice for that era before psycho Latinos engaging in fights with unholy, SUSTAINED back and forth action became more prominent. One might make a case against Latinos not being the best fighters but please don’t deny us when we make the most exciting fights. It’s how we maximize our money making potential in our brutal, short careers. Lastly, thank you for your great writing! You’re a really smart guy and I always look forward to reading your articles.

  • Gian Torres

    Those that are agreeing with this very poor choice are very dispassionate about it with words like “I agree the occasion of the fight is what swung it to win fight of the year” “Good call ring”and “Nailed it” and “The hype made it even better in the end” .

    My choice? I got Wisaksil Wangek UD 12 Roman Gonzalez … lot’s of action, high volume of punches, some drama with the perhaps controversial decision and the surprising win where the #1 P4P guy lost to a Cinderella man does it for me.

  • Dee Money

    I wonder to what extent did this fight ending with a clear winner put it over the top? As opposed to Ggg v canelo (draw) or ssr v Gonzalez which had a controversial decision. Does the announcement of the winner matter, or just the action between the bells?

    • Ten Count Toronto

      They don;t say anywhere that the performance is for judges so questionable decisions shouldn’t negatively impact on a fight-of-the-year contender. I can accept the argument that it can factor in Fighter-of-The-Year where personal accomplishment is measured, but for Fight-of-the-Year it’s about the combination of action and skill level delivered in the ring, which is a separate deal from the official outcome.

  • Oc

    T’was a good fight…no doubt, but it was no Wisaksil Wangek versus Roman Gonzalez.

  • ozzy

    Wlad’s legacy and status plus the size of the event may have given the actual fight an unfair edge over the other fights. It was still a very good fight though. I’m sure AJ will try to keep the biggest heavywt fights going in 2018 and continue trying to make the heavywt division respected by boxing fans again.

  • Ten Count Toronto

    Not an awful choice but realistically thrwer was like 2 and half truly memorable rounds in the fight compared to like 5 in Rungvisai-Gonazalez, and Vargas-Berchelt & Roman-Salido also had much more action-filled rounds at a high level.

    The fact the fight exceedd expectations shouldn’t have really influenced the decision. And there was nothing like the rivalry and personal tension of the Ali-Frazier series, these guys were so nice to each other it made Pacquiao-Bradley look venomous by comparison.

  • Twal

    correct winner

  • John Grady

    Excellent selection – a great fight produced by two gentlemen-warriors, it is great to see their being deservedly recognized.

  • Black Oracle

    It was the best Heavyweight fight of the year……But best fight overall? I can’t agree with that. I think it was a good enough fight, to market the Heavyweight division as back on the map, because boxing just isn’t the same for casual fans if the Heavyweight division isn’t preeminent, so this fight was selected due to marketing reasons. The smaller divisions don’t need that kind of push, because they are already have the most talent and best matchups. But Im not mad, its all subjective anyway.

  • Leestarky

    I only saw this fight and the GGG fight so I can’t say for sure. However, I do know the that Joshua fight was action packed.