Recently, the WBA sanctioned a unification bout between reigning heavyweight world champion Anthony Joshua, and the Ukrainian challenger Wladimir Klitschko. Whilst the former indeed held the belt, and as such had the opportunity of hosting the bout in his own country, Klitschko’s prowess seemed clear to see, with a victory rate of 94% contributing to his previous dominance of the heavyweight division. Yet, Joshua still seemed to be deemed the favourite, with multiple plaudits seemingly focussing on the age difference between the two athletes and, ultimately, the Brit emerged victorious, concluding the contest via a TKO in the eleventh round, his 19th consecutive victory. All of these have occurred via a knockout, perhaps proving he is amongst the most accomplished boxers on the circuit, and is capable of amassing multiple consecutive victories versus varying opponents with contrasting styles.
In the build-up to the bout, many plaudits seemed to deem Joshua the overwhelming favourite, yet this may have occurred in part due to his opponent’s recent sabbatical from the ring. After ending his previous bout versus Tyson Fury on the receiving end of the judge’s decision, Klitschko had a 17 month absence, the longest during his 21-year professional career, and with Joshua competing in, and winning, four bouts in this period, it seemed he might have superior fitness. In addition, Joshua boasts a perfect boxing record, with a 100% knockout ratio, and when coupled with his punching prowess, and long reach, he seemed to be superiorly placed for victory. Alternatively, Klitschko seemed to also possess the credentials to win as, during his aforementioned decade of dominance, he achieved 22 consecutive wins. As such, he boasts a larger array of experience, and victories, and thus became a creditable and accomplished opponent.
The opening rounds of the bout seemed to be fought tactically, with both boxers seemingly wary of their opponent’s ability to utilise rapid combinations to gain vantage points. Yet, in round five, Joshua seemed to reach his peak capability, achieving a knock down, yet Klitschko seemed to become reinvigorated by this, utilising the challenging circumstances to his advantage and altering his tactics, aiming to manoeuvre Joshua with his left. This seemed to pay dividends, with flurries through the rest of the fifth and the entirety of the sixth seeing Joshua on the canvas for the first time in his career. Once again the affair became cagey, before in the eleventh Joshua’s barrage of punches instigated the referee to conclude it. Whilst Joshua may naturally gain the plaudits, Klitschko may also draw productive outcomes from the result as, at 41 years of age, he still seemed to compete at a high standard, boasting the necessary stamina and work rate to lead the contest into the latter rounds.
With victory, Joshua now seems to have completed his path to the pinnacle, from an amateur who ultimately became victorious at London 2012, to boxing in undercards, to headlining his own event in which he won multiple belts, thus reaping the benefits of hard work. Yet, throughout the years, he seems to have also proved his ingenuity and proficiency, both via victories and the manner in which they were achieved. Versus Klitschko, Joshua pinpointed his rival’s traits, and utilised tactics to counteract this; in staying off the line, and striving to meet Klitschko pound for pound, he successfully nullified the Ukrainian for the majority, showcasing his adaptability.
Whether a future rematch clause may be initiated, or alternatively a mandatory challenger is next for Joshua, it seems clear he may now be in the elite. Whilst Klitschko’s performance may influence him to postpone his retirement, Joshua’s may enable him to be referred to alongside other historical greats, as he seems to have finally proven himself versus the best. Yet, boxing itself seems to be the overall winner, as the bout, broadcast across 142 different countries and watched by an average of 660,000 in the US alone, may enable the sport to be recognised across the globe, and if names such as Joshua and Klitschko may continue to draw in vast numbers, there may ultimately be an increase in money which may be utilised on innovating the sport.
How may a potential rematch benefit both athletes?