Crafty Kl­itschko next tar­get on Joshua’s hit list

April 29 ‘su­per fight’ at Wem­b­ley could see a chang­ing of the guard

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - SPORTS - By AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS in Manch­ester, Eng­land

Wily old Wladimir Kl­itschko knew he only had to wait.

While An­thony Joshua was mak­ing his way through the heavy­weight ranks, es­tab­lish­ing a rep­u­ta­tion as a po­ten­tial cham­pion, Kl­itschko, who ruled the di­vi­sion for a decade, fi­nally lost his three world ti­tles to Tyson Fury 13 months ago.

But the 40-year-old Ukrain­i­nan didn’t panic.

Fury pulled out of their re­match thanks to a bizarre series of per­sonal melt­downs that led to his be­ing stripped of the belts, just as Joshua, a fel­low Bri­ton, was start­ing to make a name for him­self.

After Joshua KO’d Matt Legg in the open­ing un­der­card bout of Carl Froch-Ge­orge Groves II at Wem­b­ley Sta­dium in the sum­mer of 2014, pro­moter Ed­die Hearn, ad­dressed the sparse crowd: “In two or three years, An­thony could be head­lin­ing here him­self.” Turns out Hearn was right. A lit­tle over four months from now — April 29, to be pre­cise — Joshua will head­line at Eng­land’s na­tional sta­dium, fight­ing Kl­itschko for three world ti­tles in front of an an­tic­i­pated 90,000 spec­ta­tors.

“I was a bit raw back then,” Joshua said, look­ing back at the Legg fight with a smile.

“I took a few, cov­ered up a few. The rea­son I was happy to be out first was that I wanted to watch Froch and Groves. That was the first time I could sit back and watch a fight. Nowa­days I’m on last.

“Fight­ing a pre­lim in front of about 3,000 fans doesn’t mat­ter. It’s a fight, we’ ll come to­gether, and boom. Doesn’t mat­ter if it’s 90,000 peo­ple or 900. It’s the same rules and reg­u­la­tions ... and the same at­ti­tude to win.”

That at­ti­tude has trans­formed Joshua from an Olympic cham­pion in 2012 to ar­guably the most feared heavy­weight on the planet.

He re­tained the IBF crown by stop­ping Eric Molina in three rounds in Manch­ester on Satur­day night and has won all of his 18 fights by knock­out. None of his op­po­nents has lasted beyond seven rounds.

The fight against Kl­itschko will ei­ther be con­fir­ma­tion of a chang­ing of the guard in the heavy­weight di­vi­sion or a re­minder by the 6-foot-6 Ukrainian that he’s still a force to be reck­oned with.

“I don’t think he needs the dough, but there’s no cap on what you can make,” Joshua said after eas­ily dis­man­tling Molina.

“But to own the di­vi­sion again? How long is he go­ing to be around for? Maybe this is to stamp his mark, his last hur­rah.”

The WBA had al­ready sanc­tioned a “su­per fight” be­tween Joshua and Kl­itschko for the spring of 2017, but the date and lo­ca­tion were only con­firmed min­utes after Joshua’s win on Satur­day.

Hearn en­tered the ring, fol­lowed by Kl­itschko, and the April 29 date for Wem­b­ley was an­nounced.

It will be the big­gest pay­day of Joshua’s ca­reer, po­ten­tially earn­ing the 27-year-old more than $12.5 mil­lion. Kl­itschko could make around $20 mil­lion.

Of what will be a 14-year age gap be­tween them, Joshua said: “It’s mad, isn’t it? I think it plays a big role, but I can’t let that be the rea­son I think I’m go­ing to win.”

Joshua also said he won’t let his re­spect for Kl­itschko stop him at­tempt­ing to end the ex-cham­pion’s ca­reer. They have been spar­ring part­ners in the past, and there ap­pears to be a gen­uine bond be­tween them.

“I love you, you are awe­some,” Kl­itschko said after em­brac­ing Joshua in the ring after the Molina fight.

“I think there are dif­fer­ent breeds of an­i­mal in this sport, but at the end of the day we’re all preda­tors, all lions,” Joshua said.

“I think we come to­gether as one and rep­re­sent the sport of boxing. That’s what’s im­por­tant and we both have that mu­tual re­spect.

“It’s more about what he’s done. Vi­tali (Wladimir’s older brother and also a former heavy­weight champ), what’s he now? The mayor of Kiev!

“I think they use that plat­form and that’s how I want to present my­self.

“I think we get on in that sense and I think when we get in the ring, it’s com­pe­ti­tion and the best man will be vic­to­ri­ous.”

I think there are dif­fer­ent breeds of an­i­mal in this sport, but at the end of the day we’re all preda­tors, all lions. I think we come to­gether as one and rep­re­sent the sport of boxing.” An­thony Joshua, on fight­ing Wladimir Kl­itschko next Phil Ra­jz­man from Brazil cel­e­brates win­ning the 2016 Jeep WSL men’s long­board surf­ing ti­tle in Wan­ning, Hainan province, on Sun­day. Tory Gilk­er­son of the US won the women’s cham­pi­onship. Sixty surfers from around the world took part in the event, or­ga­nized by the World Surf­ing League (WSL), China’s Wa­ter Sports Ad­min­is­tra­tive Cen­ter and Wan­ning Mu­nic­i­pal Peo­ple’s Gov­ern­ment. It marked the high­est level of global com­pe­ti­tion since surf­ing be­came an Olympic medal event in Au­gust. The sport will de­but at the 2020 Tokyo Games.

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