Crafty Klitschko next target on Joshua’s hit list
April 29 ‘super fight’ at Wembley could see a changing of the guard
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.