IBF heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua climbed off the canvas to defeat all-time great Wladimir Klitschko in a back-and-forth fight for the ages on Saturday, April 29 in London.
Joshua knocked Klitschko out in the 11th round in front of 90,000 adoring fans at Wembley Stadium, adding the WBA world heavyweight title to his IBF crown.
The Brit was always the bookmakers favourite heading into Saturday’s showdown but there is an age-old saying in boxing: “Every great fighter has one last great fight in them.”
Unfortunately for Klitschko, the evening was all Joshua, as ‘AJ’ launched himself into superstardom with one of the greatest ever performances from an English boxer.
Before the fight, Mike Tyson compared Joshua to George Foreman but, dressed in a white robe on his way to the ring, the Londoner actually brought back memories of a vintage Iron Mike.
With a 10-pound weight advantage, Joshua was able to fight with the merciless destruction of a wrecking ball.
His fine balance and appreciation of distance allowed him to find range with lead jabs in the first round and, by the third, he unleashed solid three-punch combinations.
Klitschko had his moments. After all, the Ukrainian is a wily pro who mastered his unique style long ago. His footwork was extraordinary for a 41-year-old man and he demonstrated a technical ability that few can match.
But this was a story of Joshua’s remarkable strength, of his exciting brutality, and of his punching power. Power so awesome it saw Klitschko crumble to the canvas in a dramatic fifth round thanks to an AJ onslaught.
Klitschko was stunned and wobbled around the ring even after climbing to his feet. But the veteran recuperated quickly to daze Joshua with precise left hooks, crunching right hands, and chin-cracking uppercuts.
Was there life in the old dog yet?
In the sixth round, like a rabid hound out of hell, Klitschko bit Joshua bad. It was a shot that could be heard as loudly at ringside as it could at home and Joshua was down.
Yes, Klitschko fired a bow and arrow right hand into Joshua’s cheekbone and the home fighter dropped to the floor in front of his own fans. You could almost feel the silence. The right hand was classic Klitschko.
But was it all over? No! Joshua made the count. He was down, but not out. Joshua rose to his feet and survived the round.
The rest of the fight was a high-octane chess match. Klitschko channelled the greats of the game who fought well into their forties as he showed an athleticism that was every match for the younger man.
But this younger man had something Klitschko couldn’t match. Joshua dug deep and summoned that concussive power once again as he toppled the ring legend a second and a third time with unanswerable flurries of punches in the 11th round.
It was all over.
“I’m not perfect, but I’m trying,” Joshua announced in the middle of the ring after having his arm raised as the clear winner.
“I give a shout out to my trainer [Robert McCracken], a shout out to the 90,000 people here in the arena, and, lastly, as boxing states you have to leave your ego at the door and respect your opponent, I give a shout out to Wladimir Klitschko.
“Wladimir is a role model and I’ve got nothing but love for anybody who steps in the ring.”
An emotional Joshua added: “I know I’ve got my doubters but I dug deep tonight. London, Ukraine, Germany… I love you!”
A dejected Klitschko said: “It’s really sad I didn’t [win] tonight but all respect to Anthony and congratulations. To the 90,000 fans here, you are all awesome.
“Right now I will analyse what the heck happened but I am interested in a rematch.”
Was the rest of the show as good as the main event?
Joe Cordina opened the show and scored a first round knockout against overmatched super featherweight Sergej Vib.
Katie Taylor bloodied and bruised Nina Meinke en route to a one-sided seventh-round stoppage victory.
Luke Campbell defeated Darleys Perez in the ninth round after a shaky start.
Scott Quigg and Viorel Simion blocked each other’s punches face first but the former won a 12-round decision in a bruising battle.
But it was only the build-up to Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko’s historic bout that fired up the 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in London.
And boy, did it deliver.
Matchroom Boxing may have spared no expense on pyrotechnics but ultimately it was two of the biggest athletes in boxing who produced the most explosive fireworks.
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