BoxNation's Alex Steedman looks ahead to the biggest heavyweight clash of the year.
Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko - Saturday 29th Apr, 22:00 Sky Box Office
Harry Enfield might have started it with Loadsamoney though Floyd Mayweather certainly coined the idea as his own. Lately, Conor McGregor has given the notion swagger after a vulgar interruption by Adrien Broner. But it was quite a surprise to hear Anthony Joshua pushing the envelope recently on moneymaking.
Talk of broadening horizons beyond earning mere millions seems a far cry from the man whose ‘Stay Humble’ mantra has almost become his trademark. But for Wladimir Klitschko the challenge has always been more important than zeroes in the bank and big Wlad is the man Joshua must overcome if he’s to get anywhere near Mayweather’s money or position in the sport.
Where Klitschko (9/4) is in himself and what level of boxing he is capable of producing at 41 years of age and following 17 months out of the ring is as much unknown as how good Joshua actually is at this time. The jury is out deliberating on each. If Klitschko is anywhere close to the boxer he has previously been then this is AJ’s toughest test to date and by some margin.
Certainly Joshua (2/5) has benefited from extraordinary circumstance and timing. In many ways it is strange that he and Klitschko have arrived at this moment together for 18 months ago it seemed unlikely, if not impossible.
In late 2015 Klitschko’s world was turned upside down by the talented, enigmatic Tyson Fury and the heavyweight landscape rolled a summersault. Two weeks later in London Anthony Joshua was sucked into a brawl with Dillian Whyte before emerging victorious, if somewhat scathed. All the talk afterwards was of a rethink, regrouping and moving toward realistic targets.
But one month on while Fury and Klitschko stuttered towards a rematch that never would be, a guy called ‘Prince’ Charles Martin remained upstanding while his opponent for Fury’s now vacant IBF belt fell injured and everything changed again. The next morning Anthony Joshua woke up to the postman delivering a Wonka Golden ticket.
AJ has been helped by a cameo of characters on the heavyweight scene few will remember in ten years but he can fight and there are a generation of new boxing fans who believe Joshua is the biggest, baddest, bestest dude to ever strut this unique scene. They might be right one day but it’s a leap of faith to say it is so now.
What Joshua has done is smash, dominate and dispatch every opponent he’s faced so far with an impressive run of eighteen successive knockouts since turning professional three and a half years ago. And with the notable exception of one eye-catching left hook from Whyte, Joshua has hardly broken sweat along the way. He might be the real deal and only this sort of test will tell the tale but will he actually need to be mustard to topple this Klitschko?
When we last saw the giant Ukrainian he was blooded and befuddled by Tyson Fury, losing most of the heavyweight belts as well as his unbeaten run of 22 fights covering 11 years. I wouldn’t use that defeat as confirmation Klitschko is over the hill, Fury (as mentioned in this column previously) is talented and underrated. That Klitschko wouldn’t let his punches go is more of a concern, an indicator perhaps that he is indeed near the end but I think Fury’s style had much to do with that. Joshua won’t be moving in the same way, if at all, so it’s an entirely different match-up stylistically.
Fury recently described Joshua as “a poor man’s Frank Bruno” on Twitter in reference to AJ’s muscular physique and perceived lack of movement. There is some truth in that goading remark but Joshua might more accurately be called a rich man’s Bruno for he is faster, more athletic and demonstrative in attack. Like Frank, AJ doesn’t move his head much and he does stand right in front of his opponents so the likeable Londoner is hittable and beatable, at least for now.
Since winning his crown I have detected subtle improvements in Joshua, a half step back out of range, a little more measure before committing to attack. What will be new for AJ is the threat of a commanding jab rammed down his throat and more significantly, an opponent in front of him who isn’t easy to hit. That will be an entirely different and potentially frustrating experience for Joshua.
The myths on AJ are that he’s manufactured muscle, yet to go beyond seven rounds but I was impressed by the way he regrouped against Whyte, regained his composure to assert then finish impressively. That was the stuff of a champion. Some say he’s a modern PR machine but my colleagues who’ve known Joshua since the amateurs say he hasn’t changed one bit.
I like AJ, he’s impressive in so many ways and I won’t be surprised at all if he proves himself better than detractors think and simply blows through Klitschko here with youth, speed as well as timing on his side once again. At the prices, if you’re backing Joshua, the 6/1 about him winning by Dec/TD looks too big compared to the stoppage market, but my money is already on the older Klitschko.
The fire burns in Klitschko still; this is the man who dragged himself up from rock bottom to dominate the sport for more than a decade and he certainly has the technique to frustrate and punish Joshua if his ability to pull the trigger remains. Klitschko has reflected then re-engaged since that difficult defeat and his bullying wins over Pulev and Povetkin are still better than anything Joshua has achieved so far. He wouldn’t be 9/4 in a rematch with Fury and for me Fury beats every single heavyweight on the planet if he’s fit.
Boxing would probably be better served if the younger Joshua wins, perhaps impressively, carrying the torch alongside Deontay Wilder and hopefully Tyson Fury. But sport doesn’t work like that and Klitschko may serve a timely reminder that money isn’t everything or anything in this great game. Pride, motivation, dedication and legacy can be far more weighty commodities.