Sunday 23 July 2017

Why Anthony Joshua's world title fight against Wladimir Klitschko is such a big deal

By Max McLean

Will this be the defining moment of both boxers’ careers?

It’s the biggest fight of the year – Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko’s bout at the O2 Arena on Saturday night will captivate the world for up to 12 rounds.

But what’s it all about?

Why is this such a good match-up?

Well a sizeable chunk of the chat ahead of this fight has been about the fact that while Joshua is on his way up, Klitschko is on his way down – in five years’ time AJ would have been unbeatable for an ageing Klitschko.

The quality of this fight’s timing will become clear on Saturday night. Will the 27-year-old Joshua’s speed and power be enough, or will 41-year-old Klitschko’s experience, built over 68 professional fights, overwhelm his opponent?

Why no trash talk?

It’s not all been selfies and smiles for these two – with the big night nearing, Klitschko has branded Joshua “a puncher” while also flaunting a memory stick which he alleges has a prediction on it.

But on the whole it’s been a relatively amicable build-up, and most of that is down to mutual respect, built partly on Joshua’s visit to a training camp with the Ukrainian in November 2014. Klitschko was said to be impressed by Joshua’s attitude.

So not a lot of chat – but more than enough intrigue inside the ring.

What’s up for grabs?

Three belts are on the line for this one: Joshua’s IBF title, and the vacant WBA and IBO belts too.

That and a lot of money besides, with the purse and pay-per-view/ticket money expected to see both fighters receive around £15 million.

What are their records?

Anthony Joshua’s record is limited to just 18 professional fights, but he hasn’t slipped up yet, with 18 wins and a 100% knockout rate. The Watford-born boxer has fought 44 rounds, averaging 2.44 rounds per fight.

Klitschko was unbeaten since 2004 until Tyson Fury sensationally triumphed in Dusseldorf in 2015. Now that record reads 68 fights, 64 wins and 358 rounds at a 78% knockout rate.

Will four defeats become five for the former world champion?

What do the experts reckon?

Steve Bunce on BBC Radio 5 Live said on Thursday: “Joshua is ready now, and I’m not over-egging it, he needs to fight in about 35 minutes’ time.”

Dominic Ingle, boxer Kell Brook’s trainer, wrote in the Guardian: “I am not convinced, as many people seem to be, that Anthony Joshua will blast through Wladimir Klitschko… if Klitschko has anything left in the tank, I expect him to drag Joshua deeper into the trenches than ever before.”

Carl Froch told Sky Sports: “I think we’re going to see the best last of Klitschko, this is his legacy fight,” before adding: “Joshua’s the coolest, calmest man I know, and I’ve seen him before the fight, I’ve seen him after the fight. He’s so relaxed and so confident, I don’t think he’s going to be fazed.”

And finally, speaking on 5 Live’s Joshua v Klitschko preview podcast, former WBO super featherweight champion Barry Jones said: “This is the biggest fight that I can remember for such a long time, it’s so intriguing. Is it the changing of the guard, or is it just too soon for Anthony Joshua? And Saturday, we find out.”

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