Passing the Torch or Exposing the Myth?

This Saturday at Wembley Stadium, London, Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18KO) fights Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53KO) for the IBF and WBA World Heavyweight Titles.

It almost goes without saying that this will be the biggest fight in UK boxing history, the only question is how close this fight comes to May/Pac.

The Matchroom and Sky hype machine is currently operating at 100%, with documentaries and highlight video clips effortless released and shared by casuals, You Tubers and journalists alike.  The UK market is being saturated with updates; as I write this article my mobile flashes, telling me that I can watch their public workouts and reminding me that the latest AJ documentary will be repeated.

So who wins?

Physically the two top Heavyweights are almost inseparable; there will be no height, reach, or weight advantage for either man, Wlad used AJ as a sparring partner and therefor they are both comfortable with one another’s style, both fighters have shown little in the way of dynamic lateral movement and focus their efforts on effective straight punching.

Klitschko has 358 professional rounds of boxing and has dominated the Heavyweight division for years.  His detractors will tell you that he hasn’t had top notch, world class opposition during his reign and therefore he hasn’t beaten anyone- these people must be educated. Klitschko is one of the best Heavyweights ever. Full stop, end of story.

As Kenny Keith and Vince Cummings proclaim time and time again on their outstanding Podcast The Boxing Rant, “just because you haven’t heard of his opponents does not mean they are bums…watch some tape get educated about the sport”. And the lads are right, from beating Byrd, Botha and Mercer in the early 2000’s to comfortably managing Chisora, Haye, Povetkin, and Jennings, Klitchsko has fought everyone it was possible to fight. No shortcuts, no soft touches.  Just because his era did not include a Tyson or a Lewis, a Holyfield, Forman or Ali isn’t his fault, not his problem. Klitschko fought and defeated all but four opponents.

Klitschko is also a year round athlete who takes his health, his nutrition and his profession seriously; if anyone can maintain peak physical condition into their 40’s it is Wladimir Klitschko.

Joshua on the other hand has only has 18 professional fights and only 44 professional rounds under his belt and his opponents have been far from stand outs. Actually, lets be honest they’ve been terrible.

From lifting the IBF World Title from the recognised worst Heavyweight Champion ever (Charles Martin) to putting away the former US Football player Breazeale and not forgetting the grudge match against Whyte and the obligatory stepping stones Love, Molina and Johnson, the AJ BoxRec looks more like an advert for Eddie Hearns professional abilities not Joshua’s.  He has also looked bored and unchallenged at times, particularly the recent outings against Breazeale and Molina, Joshua was clearly unconcerned about having to defend himself from skillful, thoughtful attacks…or unskilled attacks…or any attacks at all really.

That said, Joshua has dealt with every opponent Matchroom put in front of him decisively. As Steve Kim of UCN Live consistently tells his listeners “it’s not about if you win, it’s about how you win”, and Joshua has dominated almost every minute of every round so far.

There have been moments during the last five or so fights when he’s shown real class and maturity which elude to a greater skill set than we’ve seen over any consistent timescale. For example when buzzed against Whyte his reaction was to tuck the chin, get close and hold, throw a few shots on the inside, not many, but just enough to keep the ref and Whyte honest. Exactly what you would want to see. The early rounds against Breazeale saw a tight guard and a great jab with lateral movement to keep the former US Football player on his heels, then it became apparent Breazeale has little to trouble the Watford man so the fight took an all to familiar turn.

Joshua has a quick jab and a thundering straight right, but when he lets his hands go Joshua is a joy to watch.  He throws combinations like a middleweight or a welterweight, fast and powerful with varied combinations that keep his opponent on the ropes and closes escape routes.

The prevailing thought is that Klitschko is over the hill and gun shy after his defeat to Fury, I do not entirely prescribe to that theory. Fury is a nightmare style for anyone, 6’9, throws from the hips, and that night, had tremendous unconventional movement. Fury’s was a style unlike any other and Klitschko couldn’t close the distance and explode with combinations or one huge big shot.  Joshua is an entirely different and more conventional fighter which makes for an altogether more entertaining fight.

In my opinion this fight will be a chess match, intriguing for the hardcore, nerve wracking of the casuals, the winner will be the fighter who does not hesitate and fully commits when their opportunity arrives.

My pick is Joshua by late TKO or Decision. I do think ‘father time’ has caught up with Klitschko, he looked poor against Jennings and unable to adapt to the unorthodox style brought by Tyson Fury. One of things to go as you age is your reaction speed, which in a boxer presents as being hesitant and gun shy; for me this is where Klitschko will loose.  Joshua will look quicker, he will outwork and out-land Klitschko and win rounds with a combination or two.

The younger man will overwhelm the older Champ.