The heavyweight division, which has been in a state of coma for years, jolted back to life recently after Briton powerpuncher Anthony Joshua stopped Ukraine’s Wladimir Klitschko in 11 pulsating rounds to retain the International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight title and add the World Boxing Association (WBA) hardware.
You can say that the Joshua-Klitschko was a fight the doctor specifically prescribed for the heavyweight division which has been in the doldrums since the Mike Tyson era ended. Joshua, the young lion, took on the veteran Klitschko who was looking to regain the heavyweight crown he once held for almost 11 years and defended 22 times. Both fighters conducted themselves like gentlemen throughout the pre-fight conferences, but once the bell rang they turned the squared circle into a cauldron.
Facing his toughest opponent to date, Joshua floored Klitschko in the 5th round with a furious barrage. Joshua apparently punched himself out and Klitschko capitalized by knocking him down with a right straight in the 6th stanza. Joshua barely survived and it was nip-and-tuck from that point. In the 11th, Joshua unloaded a bone-jarring right uppercut that nearly severed Klitschko’s head from his neck. Klitschko fell down twice before referee David Fields stopped the fight with the Ukrainian absorbing a heavy shelling along the ropes.
Joshua improved his record to an eye-popping 19-0 with 19 knockouts. You can say that the 27-year-old Joshua has been a long-kept secret in the United Kingdom and the smashing win over Klitschko definitely merited attention from the rest of the boxing world.
Born to a Nigerian mother and a father with Nigerian and British descent, Joshua initially excelled in football before being convinced to box by his cousin at age 18 to escape the lure of the streets. Sean Murphy, Joshua’s first boxing coach, claimed that his hand sustained a huge scar after Joshua’s power penetrated the pads protecting it. Joshua was a natural hitter and Murphy knew from the get go that the kid was destined to become a star.
Joshua turned pro in 2013 after a failed gold medal bid in the 2012 Olympics. As a pro, he knocked out his first 14 opponents within 3 rounds before winning the IBF heavyweight title with a second round knockout of Charles Martin. The win over Klitschko was Joshua’s third defense of the title and also gave him the WBA crown.
Joshua earned $15 million from the Klitschko fight and now stands to earn more on the strength of the dramatic win. Down the road, Joshua is expected to figure in a megabuck match opposite American and WBC heavyweight counterpart Deontay Wilder (38-0, 37 knockouts).
Amid the sudden surge in his popularity, Joshua’s head remains squarely pinned on his shoulders. He still lives with his mother Yeta in a small flat. He has not forgotten his roots, and as proof he gifted his first trainer Murphy with a BMW just before the Klitschko fight.
A heavyweight champion with an exciting style but with his feet firmly planted on the ground. Definitely what the doctor ordered for the ailing heavyweight class.
* * *
For comments, the writer can be reached at email@example.com.