By Paul Mason (@KOBoxingSets)
Saturday night saw one of the most enthralling Heavyweight Title fights of the last 25 years, as a record breaking 90,000 people witnessed the largest attended post-war boxing event at Wembley Stadium. Anthony Joshua came through a massive gut check to lift the WBA (Super) and IBO Heavyweight Titles, as well as retaining his IBF strap in the process. Here’s what we learned from the blockbuster night:
Anthony Joshua Passed A Tough Test
Many Observers pre fight, felt this would be a bigger spectacle than fight, and that Joshua would finish Klitschko early on in proceedings, and when the Ukrainian was floored early in the fifth round, the end seemed nigh. However, this galvanised “Doctor Steelhammer” and he had “AJ” in a world of trouble just one round later, and the Watford man looked to be running on empty. Rounds seven, eight and nine suggested the storm was still there and it wasn’t until round ten that Joshua seemed to get going again. Round eleven proved the finisher, and Joshua closed the show with, in particular, a monstrous uppercut that knocked Klitschko heavily to the canvas. He was down again moments later and, after a further brief flurry, the fight was stopped by referee David Fields. Klitschko, aged 41, and absent from the ring in over 18 months, gave “AJ” all he could handle and then some, but Joshua managed to find a way through mid-way adversity to triumph in an absolute classic.
The Scorecards At The Time Of The Stoppage Were Bemusing
Watching the fight I felt was close to call, and at the time of the stoppage, you could argue that the fight was in Klitschko’s favour by one round, maybe level on the general consensus. Judge Don Trella had Joshua in a 96-93 lead and Nelson Vasquez had a 95-93 card in favour of the Watford man. Obviously had the fight continued, Klitschko would have conceded a 10-7 round in the eleventh, but I was confused as to how Joshua could be three points up in such a close fight. Even the most ardent Joshua fan couldn’t have put him three points up. Steve Weisfeld had Klitschko 95-93 up on his card.
Tyson Fury’s Victory Over Klitschko Looks Even Better
When Tyson Fury dethroned the long reigning WBA (Super) IBF, WBO, IBO and Ring Magazine Champion, Wladimir Klitschko in Germany in November 2015, he did so with a performance and tactics that bemused and befuddled the Ukrainian in a way fans hadn’t seen before. Fury never really got the credit he deserved for this, and was further cast into the wilderness following two rematch postponements and a lengthy ban. Fury was rarely in trouble against the Ukrainian, so, 18 months later and at 41 years of age, for Klitschko to come back and give Joshua hell for 11 rounds, makes Fury’s win in Dusseldorf even more impressive. A match between the two is surely inevitable if Tyson can get back into fighting shape.
Hopefully Klitschko Will Now Be Appreciated
For Wladimir Klitscho, it was bitter sweet in my opinion for people to appreciate him more in defeat than they have for most of his fighting years. The man is everything a World Heavyweight Champion should be. Classy, well spoken, and professional in every sense. The second longest reigning Heavyweight Champion in history, behind the great Joe Louis, and in front of both Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. Yes, Klitschko wasn’t blessed with all time greats in his division when he was champion, but he reigned for a lenghthy amount of time, and also came back from a period between 2003 and 2005 where he lost his way and was knocked out in massive shocks by both Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster. He rebuilt to become a dominant Champion, and he should be appreciated for this for years to come. Hopefully now he will get the credit he deserves.
Joshua is now at the crossroads in terms of his next fight. He has mandatatory challengers coming thick and fast in unbeaten Cuban, Luis Ortiz, the WBA mandatory, and Kubrat Pulev, the IBF number one contender. Neither of these is especially appealing to Joshua, and paying step aside money should be good enough for a delay in having to face either. Klitschko alluded to a rematch clause, and this would hinge on weather, after a glittering 69 fight career, he needs or wants to carry on, as his legacy is already cemented. Rumours have swirled about Wales’ Principality Stadium, with it’s optional closed roof, being a contender to stage a rematch. I guess we will learn more about future plans in the coming days and weeks. The option now looming large is the aforementioned Tyson Fury, with barbs on Twitter already being fired in both directions. This would be a domestic mega-fight, especially with Tyson never losing his belts in the ring. First though, Fury must await the outcome of a May the 8th hearing with the British Boxing Board of Control over his recent suspension. These seem the logical choices. WBC Champion Deontay Wilder seems to have thrown his hat in the ring, but he has obligations of his own, with his mandatory being a man he has already beaten, Bermane Stiverne. WBO King Joseph Parker is otherwise engaged this Saturday, and Britain’s own Tony Bellew seems to be chasing him.
A lot was made of the undercard, and the event was clearly sold with the main event in mind, and this was vindicated by a tepid undercard. Joe Cordina won in double quick time, Katie Taylor marched towards a World Title shot in only five fights, and Luke Campbell laboured to an injury retirement over two time Anthony Crolla foe Darleys Perez, which now paves the way for the Venezuelan master Jorge Linares to come to England for a fourth time to defend his WBA Lightweight Title. Scott Quigg v Viorel Simion rounded off the undercard, and it was a tough watch. Quigg managed to pull away in the end for a unanimous points win in his first fight under the tuteledge of Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach. Biggest disappointment of the undercard was reserved for two fighters who didn’t event get to be part of the action. Up and coming talent in Cruiserweight Lawrence Okolie and Josh Kelly were left devastated as due to the Scott Quigg fight running over, a repair of the ring and a strict stadium curfew in place, both missed out on showcasing their skills on the biggest stage possible. Both fights were cancelled, and Okolie admitted to feeling “beyond gutted” and “sick”. For me, to pay £20.95 (Virgin price for Sky Sports Box Office in HD) weather the fight is a quick sell out or not, I like to see a decent, competitive undercard. Instead I found myself clock watching until the main event.
British Boxing Is Booming
Both HBO and Showtime in the USA drew big numbers for the fight. The event attracted some of the worlds biggest stars of both stage, sport and screen, and the UK is now legitimately a big name player in World Boxing, where for years the USA was where the eyes of the boxing world would usually focus. With Kell Brook v Errol Spence taking place at the end of the month at Sheffield United FC’s Bramhall Lane, it’s a further opportunity for the UK to showcase itself as the world leader in big time boxing.
I’m back later this week to preview the big Mexican showdown between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Julio Cesar Chavez Junior, so keep an eye out for it!!
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