SAN DIEGO, April 29, 2017 – For the first time in a long time, the heavyweight division in boxing delivered a true prizefight in all its glory.
In a bout packed with plot twists and multiple knockdowns, it was the young British champion Anthony Joshua who prevailed with an 11th round TKO over Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine in front of 90,000 elated fans at London’s Wembley Stadium and millions watching and cheering in bars and living rooms around the world.
Joshua remains undefeated at 19-0 with a perfect 19 knockouts. Klitschko falls to 64-5, 54 KOs. Joshua is now the unified IBF, WBA, and IBO world heavyweight champion.
Both men deserve tremendous credit for the heart, skill, and determination they showed until the final seconds of the fight when referee David Fields stopped it at 2:25 of the round.
“Nineteen and oh, three and a half years in the game. As I said, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying,” said an elated Joshua.
“This is boxing. I’m only going to improve,” Joshua continued. “Sometimes you can be a phenomenal boxer, but boxing is about character. When you go to the trenches, that’s when you find out who you really are. In this little ring, there’s nowhere to hide. There’s no complications about boxing. Anyone can do this. Just give it a go.”
How did Joshua find what he needed to overcome the knockdown to score the stoppage in deep waters? “As I said it’s about character … I came out and I won, that’s how far I had to dig,” said Joshua. “I didn’t go into a 12 round slugfest and struggle to beat Wladimir Klitschko. I fought back, and I fought my heart out, that’s what I’m all about.”
Klitschko took the defeat with grace as he acknowledged the applause born of respect from the Wembley Stadium crowd with a smile. “London. I love you too, guys. I hope you enjoyed the fight. Both fighters were really giving his best. The best man won tonight. And it’s an amazing event for boxing. Two gentlemen fought each other.
“Anthony was better today than I, said Klitschko. “It was really sad I didn’t make it tonight. I was planning to do it, but it didn’t work. All the respect to Anthony. Love and respect to you guys, 90 thousand people present. You’re awesome guys. Thank you for your support of the sport and this fight,” said Klitschko.
Both men started the fight cautiously. By the third round, Joshua began bringing more action, showing growing confidence. Fighting behind jabs, it was nearly a dead heat on the scorecards after four. Happily, Klitschko was showing movement and refraining from the clinches he’d commonly employed in recent fights.
In the fifth round, Joshua decided to release the hounds, and suddenly there was a frenzy of activity as Klitschko responded. Joshua opened a cut over Klitschko’s eye, and to everyone’s shock, Klitschko was down in the first minute of the round. He got to his feet, and with two minutes left in the round, fans wondered if Joshua could finish the veteran off. But Klitschko shook off the shock of the circumstances, and Joshua began to tire. As he gassed out near the end of the round, Klitschko made it clear he was far from finished, putting Joshua on the ropes.
As the sixth round began, Joshua showed what the effort had cost him, and 1:15 into the round, it was Joshua who went down on a perfect straight right hand landed by Wladimir Klitschko – the first knockdown of Joshua’s career. Joshua looked vulnerable, but he kept his wits about him and like Klitschko before him, he survived the round.
In the seventh round, body language told us Klitschko felt in control of the bout; Joshua showed an air of despair about his situation. The young Brit was seen talking in the ring. Was it a pep talk for himself?
If it was, it seemed to work. As Joshua entered the eighth round for the first time in his career, it remained to be seen whether he had much left to give. Across the ring, Klitschko showed phenomenal condition for any boxer, much less one 41 years old.
In round 10, Joshua got a second wind. Wherever it came from, he marshaled every bit of energy in the reserve tank and started off the round aggressively, starting to score with overhand rights. For the first time, Klitschko began to employ the clinching that had served him in past rights. Joshua used the opportunity to go to the body, and it would prove pivotal.
Joshua landed a stunning upper cut in combination with body work to Klitschko, and suddenly the big Ukrainian toppled over. He barely made it back to his feet. This time, Joshua knew he needed to close the show. He blasted away, moved in, mixing up his punches beautifully. Klitschko awkwardly tumbled down again. He got to his feet on sheer heart, but it was clear the great champion had little left. Joshua backed Klitschko up against the ropes with referee David Fields watching like a hawk. When Klitschko showed nothing, Fields stopped the fight.
At the time of the stoppage, two judges had it scored for Joshua (96-93 and 95-93); the third had it for Klitschko, 95-93.
When such an exciting fight takes place, the obvious question is: how about a rematch? When asked, Joshua responded, “I’m not going to say too much cause I don’t know if he wants to come back and fight me again. He’s a role model in and out of the ring. I have nothing but love and respect for anyone that steps in the ring.”
Then Joshua called out into the crowd, “Tyson Fury, where you at baby? Is that what you want to see? Come on, we’re here man. I enjoy fighting. I love fighting. Tyson Fury, I know he’s been talking a lot. I know he wants to come back and compete. I want to give 90 thousand people a lovely night of boxing. I want to fight everyone, I’m really enjoying it right now.”
As for Klitschko, he expressed more caution. “Of course we have it in the contract. I’m now interested in analyzing what the heck has happened. I didn’t enjoy the night as well as you. I wish I could raise my hands instead of someone who didn’t make it. Congratulations to Anthony. He got up, he fought back, he won the titles,” said Klitschko, who exited the ring with tremendous respect, his career and reputation in high regard despite Saturday’s loss.
It’s doubtful there will be a rematch immediately. Klitschko will need more recovery time due to his age than Joshua. There are fights Joshua can make to pick up the remaining titles with American Deontay Wilder or New Zealand’s Joseph Parker. There is also Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz, whose style and power may be the greatest threat to Joshua.
As for Tyson Fury, whether he returns to boxing is still a large question mark. If he does, he will need several tune-up fights to prove he’s regained enough form to make a fight with Joshua a worthwhile exercise.
In the meantime, enjoy tonight’s replay on HBO Boxing at 10 pm ET. Do your friends, family members and neighbors a favor and invite a few over to watch with you. They will thank you later.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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