Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko should both be commended for agreeing to fight each other at this stage of their careers. Joshua has won the IBF title and dispatched his opponents with ease but with doubt over the quality of his opponents, is he really as good as we think he is? Klitschko was a dominant champion for 9 years but at 41 coming off a loss against Tyson Fury, how much does he have left? It’s questions such as these which make predicting the fight difficult but also enhances the intrigue and interest of this tantalising clash of the titans.
Thinking of the possible scenarios, it would not be a shock to witness yet another knockout victory for the younger Joshua when we consider his explosive power coupled with thoughts of Klitschko’s three knockout defeats. On the other hand I can envision how the skilled and accomplished Klitschko could grind down his younger foe to a stoppage or unanimous victory decision. However, when predicting a fight so even, it is best to try to do so with logical reasoning based on what we know for certain about these two gargantuan heavyweights.
Some media and fans claim that age caught up with Wladimir Klitschko against Tyson Fury back in December 2015. Pointing out that his hesitance to pull the trigger was a reflection on his diminished ability. Whilst being a possibility, this ignores the fact that Tyson Fury should be given more credit in executing the perfect game plan that nobody expected of him. Fury switched from boxing orthodox, southpaw, front and back foot, he used feints and lateral movement, in a manner that utterly perplexed Klitschko to his first points defeat. Whilst time eventually catches up to everyone and despite being 41 years old Klitschko remains in fantastic shape, he may be the older man but doing 12 rounds is not unknown to him having completed them nine times in his career. ‘AJ’ may be a strong, athletic young man, but Klitschko has a brilliantly analytical boxing brain. One of his greatest strengths is the ability to neutralise his opponents greatest assets, frustrate them and exploit their mistakes which lead to unanimous decision or stoppage victories. Joshua has never completed 12 rounds before, stylistically he comes forward and tees off with fast, straight 1-2 combinations, before adding variety to his punches after hurting his opponents. If Klitschko neutralises this tactic, it’s unknown if AJ can adapt and graft through 12 gruelling rounds against somebody so experienced in doing so.
Whilst Joshua has been decapitating the likes of Eric Molina, Dominic Breazeale and Charles Martin, Klitschko has dominated or destroyed fighters with a variety of styles with little controversy or dispute. Although some criticise Klitschko’s opponents, one look through his record will show a host of names that are more accomplished and dangerous than the best name on Anthony Joshua’s record. Kubrat Pulev, Alexander Povetkin, David Haye, Samuel Peter (twice), Ruslan Chagaev, Hasim Rahman, Sultan Ibragimov, Lamon Brewster (fought twice, winning the rematch), Chris Byrd (twice), Ray Mercer, Frans Botha. He has managed to adjust in these fights and show a variety of skills and tricks. Joshua has not fought the same calibre of fighters and therefore hasn’t needed to adapt, but it would be foolish to simply assume he can without prior evidence. With Klitschko, we know he can and he’s proven it time and time again.
Both former Olympic Champions are technically very good. Klitschko’s jab is every bit as good as Joshua’s and his follow-up right hand just as thudding. Yet his best weapon against a fighter like Joshua who uses limited head movement, could be his short, powerful left hook which worked to great effect against the likes of Pulev and Povetkin. Joshua showed that he may be vulnerable to this punch against the solid but unspectacular Dillian Whyte. If he was to plough forward in the same vein, with a lack of discipline against Klitschko I can see the contest ending dramatically and suddenly in favour of the Ukranian.
Wladimir Klitschko has regularly performed in prize fights that have been under the brightest lights, in the biggest arenas and stadiums. I doubt that the competing with Anthony Joshua in front of 90,000 people at Wembley Stadium will be a daunting task that would mentally overwhelm Klitschko. For AJ, such an occasion is another walk into the unknown which will challenge his psyche. In the heat of battle will his body and mind freeze, as the realisation of the magnitude of the event begins to set in?
There have been parallels drawn between the careers of Anthony Joshua and Mike Tyson. Like Tyson, Joshua has displayed extraordinary power in stopping his opponents with sensational savagery. Many are comparing his fight with Klitschko to Tyson’s fight with Larry Holmes. However, it must be noted that by the time Tyson fought Holmes he had fought skilled and respected opponents in bouts that he would have learnt from. He went 10 rounds with both James Tillis and Mitch Green. He later soundly won on the scorecards after 12 rounds against former world titlists Tony Tucker and James ‘Bonecrusher’ Smith. Lured out of retirement by a massive payday, Holmes was far removed from his imperious best and not in the finest physical condition to face a peak Mike Tyson. In contrast to Holmes, Klitschko is not fighting for the money, he is fighting because as he has uttered like a mantra, he is “obsessed” to regain his titles. He is motivated and driven in pursuit of achieving his ultimate ambition and he looks to have gotten himself into supreme physical condition that will prepare him to achieve his goal.
Predicting the outcomes of contests between two well matched opponents is difficult. The power that resides in the hands of Anthony Joshua could be the equaliser to any of the obstacles that he may be faced with on Saturday night. However, it is wise to make a logical prediction based on the tangible and intangible qualities that each fighter has so far displayed. Wladimir Klitschko has answered many of the questions posed to him positively throughout his career. He has proven that he can excel in massive events, employing various tactics against skilled opponents, that sometimes placed him in adverse situations. Yes, he has been knocked down and out but has demonstrated remarkable resilience to come back with victorious vengeance. Anthony Joshua on the other hand leaves many of the same questions unanswered. Does he have a Plan B if he can’t knockout Klitschko? Does he have the stamina required for 12 tough rounds? Can he absorb punishment against an equally powerful heavyweight? Will he be able to handle the pressure of a huge event?
Klitschko has shown that he can, but I fear that in attempting to erase some or all of these doubts on the same night, during his biggest fight, it may be a step too far for Joshua. For this reason I expect Wladimir Klitschko to use every bit of his experience to win a clear unanimous decision and provide his esteemed career with the signature victory that will solidify his status as a heavyweight great.