Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko will contest the biggest fight in British boxing history when the pair collide for the IBF and vacant WBA world heavyweight titles in front of a record crowd at Wembley Stadium tonight.
Anthony Joshua will attempt to unify the IBF and WBA world heavyweight titles when he faces Wladimir Klitschko in the biggest fight in British boxing history at Wembley Stadium tonight.
The Londoner can become just the third Briton to hold multiple crowns in boxing’s blue ribbon division, after Lennox Lewis and Tyson Fury, should he beat the Ukrainian legend who is looking to become a world champion for a third time.
Only six fighters have previously won world titles on three separate occasions â€“ a list which includes Muhammed Ali, Evander Holyfield and Wladimir’s older brother Vitali â€“ and the 41-year-old Klitschko faces arguably the toughest test of his career if he is to rise to the summit of the sport once again.
‘Dr Steelhammer’ is 519 days removed from his last competitive bout, a fight he plodded through and lost to Fury in Dusseldorf. The result arguably hinges on how quickly Klitschko can shrug off any ring-rust and recapture the sharpness which saw him dominate boxing for over a decade.
The manner of Klitschko’s defeat to Fury in November 2015 was particularly ignominious given how he was out-boxed by the Briton. Yet aside from his reputation, he possessed a body of work which surely give him the edge should the fight enter the so-called championship rounds. The clash at the home of the England football teams will be the 69th of Klitschko’s career, during which he knocked-out 53 opponents â€“ a number greater than the amount of rounds Joshua has faced in his short career.
Despite the obvious chasm in experience, what Joshua might concede in know-how he more than makes up for in superstar quality and punching power. All 18 of his contests have failed to go the distance and though the caliber of opponent ratchets up several notches this weekend he has sent a daunting message to Klitschko and the rest of the division.
In the wake of the war of words between David Haye and Tony Bellew and the unedifying build-up to Dillian Whyte and Dereck Chisora’s clash last year, a refreshing characteristic of the public exchanges between the fighters has been the respect Joshua and Klitschko have for one another. Though their boxing styles might appear to be different, there are few differences between the pair. Both, for example, are former Olympic gold medallists.
Much has been made of the brief sparring sessions the pair engaged in prior to Klischko facing Kubrat Pulev in November 2014 and while it gave the veteran an insight into what to expect from Joshua he must be wary that the IBF champion is an altogether different animal just under three years on. Wins in 2016, while Klitschko was let down by Fury, came against Charles Martin, Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina; challenges which were dismissed without alarm.
Though Breazeale held out until round seven last summer, only Whyte has taken Joshua into deep waters and though a predictable knock-out followed the Watford-born fighter was noticeably shaken. Joshua may have the physique that suggests he has trained for 12 hard rounds at elite level, but conducting them in a competitive environment not least against someone knows how to slug at the top level â€“ is an altogether different proposition.
On a day when history will be made records will also be smashed, Joshua vs Klitschko is expected to break box office sales and help generate a total revenue of Â£50m – the most of any fight in Britain. In excess of 140 countries will take in one of the few fights to be held in the United Kingdom with genuine global appeal. Meanwhile, Wembley will play host to the biggest post-war British boxing crowd ever, and equalling the 90,000 who watched Len Harvey and Jock McAvoy at White City Stadium in 1939.
What they say:
Anthony Joshua: “Even though this is such a great event, I always try to strip it down to what it really is and just focus that it’s just me and this man coming to blows and the best man will win. I’m not only prepared physically but mentally as well for any battle. April 29 is just another stepping stone towards greatness.
“Any fight is the right fight. I’ve never shied away from any fight, any opponent. I started boxing in 2008; in 2009, ’10, ’11 I was in the World Championships, and in 2012 I was representing Great Britain competing to be the best in the world in the Olympics. It doesn’t matter who I fight. I just enjoy what I do and I just embrace every opportunity. I don’t underestimate any opponent. Through my mistakes I have learned and made myself right.”
Â Wladimir Klitschko: “I’m the challenger again. I feel young, hungry, humble and totally obsessed with my goal to raise my hands again. I’m so obsessed with winning. I realized that life is a circle, and I see myself in AJ. I do believe I know how he thinks, how he goes, and how the actual fight is going to be.
“The belts are very important. I’ve been attached to these belts for a very long. I had those belts in my past fight, and I’m fighting for these belts in this fight. The only difference is in my last fight they went to the opposite corner. So my goal and obsession is for those belts to land in my corner, in my hands.
“Obsession is love in extreme shape. I’m in love with my goal. Defeat? I’ve been there, I’ve done that. I got up, shook it off and came back stronger. Just a little help (for Joshua) â€“ there’s nothing scary about it.”
Joshua: 18 fights, 18 wins (18 knockouts)
Klitschko: 68 fights, 64 wins (53 knockouts)