Record: 18-0 (18 KO) ... Streak: W18 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’6" / 82" ... Age: 27
Thoughts: Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko have sold the most tickets sold to any fight in Wembley Stadium history. History has already been made. Now we have the fight itself.
Anthony Joshua is 27 years old, 18 fights into his pro career. And this is a huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge step up in opposition for him.
Even if Klitschko is past his prime — and surely he is — is there anyone Joshua has beaten you’d consider a threat to today’s Wladimir? Joshua’s last four wins have been his best. Let’s take a look at those:
- Dillian Whyte, a solid domestic-level fighter, maybe a bit more, but certainly not a major world class talent, or at least hasn’t proven so yet
- Charles Martin, arguably the worst heavyweight titleholder of all time
- Dominic Breazeale, a tough prospect scrapper who was overmatched
- Eric Molina, a tough veteran scrapper who was overmatched
There’s nothing wrong with those being wins 15-18, by the way. For wins 15-18, that’s solid enough stuff for today’s world. But does anything he’s done so far prepare him to face Wladimir Klitschko?
No. If Joshua is ready for Klitschko, it’s because of two things: talent and gym work. Nothing he’s done in the ring as a pro has him ready for Wladimir, because nobody on his record is anywhere close to Wladimir’s level. So it’s up to Joshua’s ability and training preparation. We’re going to find out a lot about what he’s really made of in this fight, because it’s the first time he’s faced a serious top talent.
Record: 64-4 (53 KO) ... Streak: L1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6’6" / 81" ... Age: 41
Thoughts: The last time we saw Wladimir Klitschko in the ring, he was 39 years old, befuddled by the movement and height of Tyson Fury, and his 22-fight win streak, which stretched back over a decade, came to an end, with a whimper.
He’s now 41 years old. He hasn’t fought in a year and a half. And he’s once again facing someone he can’t punch down on, someone who meets him in size — though Joshua is not as tall or rangy as Fury, and fights nothing like him.
That last part is the most important. Anthony Joshua is not a tricky fighter. Tyson Fury, at his best, is. There’s no puzzle to Anthony Joshua. He pretty much comes right for you, not recklessly, but directly. He’s nothing that Klitschko hasn’t seen before in style or approach.
What will be most important is whether or not Klitschko can handle Joshua’s power. This is a man, after all, who was once seen as chinny, thanks to knockout losses to Ross Puritty, Corrie Sanders, and Lamon Brewster.
Klitschko was more skilled than all of them, but he didn’t protect himself as well back then. Under the guidance of Emanuel Steward, he became a machine. Steward, of course, is gone, and Klitschko is now trained by Johnathon Banks, though there are some who believe he essentially trains and guides himself these days, with Banks as a cornerman.
If Klitschko is going to put himself back at the top of the heavyweight division at age 41, it will have to come from being cautious. There’s no one who really wants to get hit with Anthony Joshua’s punches, but it’s going to happen. What Klitschko has to do is what he did for years: protect, take care of himself, and capitalize on his opponent’s mistakes. He has valuable experience that Joshua doesn’t. Klitschko has advantages in this fight, on paper. If he’s still got his heart in it (and it’s worth wondering), he’s plenty dangerous.
Matchup Grade: A. I don’t take my grading for these things SUPER seriously or anything, but I was stuck between A- and A here. Pros for A: It’s going to be a special atmosphere, and it’s arguably the best possible heavyweight fight to be made right now. Most important con: It may not be an actual good fight. I think the pros outweigh that con, so I went A. Either way, this is a big fight, a must-see.
- Scott Quigg vs Viorel Simion: Quigg, now competing at featherweight, is looking to land a world title fight by the end of this year, surely. He looked pretty good last December against Jose Cayetano in his first fight at the new weight, and his first fight since losing to and being injured by Carl Frampton. Simion is a Romanian fighter whose lone loss came in 2013 against Lee Selby, also in the UK, and for what it’s worth, he gave Selby a decent fight. Quigg should and will win, but for a tune-up, this isn’t a terrible matchup. Grade: C-
- Luke Campbell vs Darleys Perez: Perez is a former interim titleholder at 135 and has been in the ring with Yuriorkis Gamboa, Anthony Crolla, and some other quality fighters. Most recently, he fought to a disputed draw (well, what draw isn’t?) with Maurice Hooker in November. Campbell has shown me a lot since his loss to Yvan Mendy, rebounding with some solid performances. I expect that to continue. This is about the same level he’s been on against Argenis Mendez and Derry Mathews, perhaps a bit above. Grade: C
- Katie Taylor vs Nina Meinke: Not going to grade this one because I know nothing about Meinke, other than she’s 5-0, but this is notable for being Taylor’s first fight set for 10 rounds.