The world heavyweight bout between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko over the weekend was truly one for the history books of boxing. With four knockdowns and the fight almost even before it ended in the 11th round in favor or Joshua, the bout will also be talked about by boxing fans decades on.
I never expected the fight to be very competitive and even saw the 41-year old Wladimir getting stopped in the early rounds if he failed to weather the onslaught of the 27-year old Joshua. And if the fight went beyond the middle rounds, that would actually favor Klitschko who was then fighting his 28th championship bout.
But Klitschko made the fight competitive until the 10th round, hoping to tire out Joshua who has never fought beyond the seventh round. Klitschko actually fought beyond my expectations, because at 41 years old, it would be easy to write him off as an aging fighter. But what many boxing fans do not know is the Klitschko brothers both hold doctorate degrees in Sport Science, and the older Vitali is very much involved in the training of his younger sibling. So the Klitschkos really know a thing or two about keeping older boxers competitive.
Overall, both fighters actually gave a good account of themselves: Joshua proved he can still fight strong in the “championship rounds” or deliver a stoppage beyond the ninth round even if the fight was almost even; and Klitschko proved that he can still hold his own against a younger fighter despite being 41 years old.
With Joshua retaining the International Boxing Federation title and collaring the World Boxing Association crown, and improving his record to 19-0 with 19 knockouts, he may be real deal in the heavyweight division that is currently teeming with giants. In The Ring rankings dated April 25, Joshua was ranked the No. 1 contender behind champion and compatriot Tyson Fury (25-0 with 18 KOs) while Deontay Wilder (38-0 with 37 KOs), the World Boxing Council champion, is the No. 2 contender. I believe that in the updated The Ring rankings (which may come out next week), Joshua should be the magazine’s champion at heavyweight dislodging Fury.
One thing that could be learned from the Joshua-Klitschko fight is there are fights than can deliver more than the hype, and it is worth noting that neither fighter overhyped their bout with trash talking or senseless posturings. What they simply did was let their fists do the talking and gave what many boxing fans have wanted in many years: a real marquee fight that would go down in the history of the sports as one of the best in this era, and even in the history of the heavyweight division.
As for Klitschko, he has nothing to be ashamed of because he gave a better measure of himself by knocking down Joshua in the sixth round and keeping the fight almost even until it was stopped in the 11th. The Ukrainian, who held heavyweight titles for nearly a decade, can actually retire with his head unbowed.
As for Joshua, his performance is so far the best among the current crop of top heavyweights. Perhaps some were expecting Joshua to run out of steam past the ninth round but he surprised some critics.
So what’s next for Joshua? A fight with Fury or Wilder? Well, it’s high time the heavyweights reclaim the spotlight from their counterparts in the lower divisions.