JOSHUA HAMMERS KLITSCHKO TO DEFEAT IN EXCEPTIONAL FIGHT
Joshua recovers from brink of defeat to turn contest with powerful punches, Klitschko was winning with left jabs – and then came Armageddon in the 11th round
Anthony Joshua won one of the most sensational, as well as richest, best attended and most highly publicised, fights in the long history of the heavyweight division to retain his IBF world crown with an 11th round stoppage of former champion Wladimir Klitscho at the Wembley Arena. He did so with a blistering attack which floored the 41 year-old Ukrainian twice in the round and then trapped him in the corner just as the fight seemed to be slipping away from him. The Briton had started strongly but appeared to tire and let Klitschko dominate the middle and later rounds. Then came the final fusilade.
There was a shock before even the first punch was thrown. Joshua seemed to be so much bigger than the challenger whom he outweighed by 10 lbs. He seemed to have grown even since his last outing. Klitschko who had dominated so many opponents by his size seemed to be emaciated in comparison. I was reminded of the then Cassius Clay’s psychological bomb when he lined up so much bigger than the apparently monstrous ogre Sonny Liston.
There was little action in the first round as both men tried to feel out the other with left jabs. It was the same in the second except that Joshua’s power was beginning to tell so that in the third he stepped up the pace and rocked Klitschko with some combination punches. Age seemed to be telling against the latter. There was more clinching in the fourth and Joshua scored with several right-hands over his rival’s defence.
The first sensation came in the fifth round. The home fighter came out strongly and put Klitschko down with a further punch-combination in the opening stages. Although the latter recovered sufficiently to chase Joshua throughout the rest of the round he could not prevent the young champion from taking the round by a significant margin. Nevertheless it was Joshua who appeared to be out on his feet and glad to hear the bell ending the round.
The balance changed dramatically in round six. Joshua lost his gumshield early on and was then floored by a powerful right-hand. Klitschko’s experience seemed to have turned the contest and he continued to back up the younger man throughout the next round. Joshua, forced onto the back foot, seemed to be exhausted and was talking as if in desperation. Even though the action slowed down in the next session Klitschko’s jab was picking up the points and whittling down the deficit.
By the ninth round Wladimir was dancing on his feet, and whenever Joshua, who had survived the immediate danger, pressed he was tied up in a clinch. The tenth, which again Klitschko seemed to shade, developed into a contest between his left jab and Joshua’s powerful right. With two rounds to go the issue clearly was whether the champion could land a telling punch or the veteran keep pecking away to victory. We soon found out.
Joshua went straight on to the attack and put Klitschko down with a right-hand. The Ukrainian’s feet seemed, on rising, to be weak and he could not avoid a left-hand which knocked him down for the second time in the round. Joshua then battered him into the corner and the referee had seen enough to convince him to stop the action. The ending was as decisive as it was sudden. It was the passing of a pugilistic age.
By the manner in which he recovered from the apparently killing blow in the sixth round, and near utter exhaustion in the next two rounds, Anthony Joshua, and his corner, showed a maturity that can not have been deduced earlier from the brevity of his string of knockout victories. Admittedly Wladimir Klitschko was not the force he can been – nor has he been since the death of his coach Emmanuel Steward - and he suffered the disadvantages of age and a long absence from the ring but he was still a formidable fighter. It was an exceptional fighter, with an outstanding former champion, and an exceptional new title-holder.
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