Fight Club: Joshua’s worst helped him show his best against Klitschko

Flawed but ferocious, the British fighter is going places, writes Alex Rea.

Alex Rea
by Alex Rea
1st May 2017

article:1st May 2017

As a boxer, Anthony Joshua is far from perfect. The nature of his victory over Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday, however, could not have been more perfect for his career.

In fact, it was arguably his imperfections which helped to create what was an instant classic.


Take for example, his weight. Joshua looked a little bit on the heavy side and the extra poundage contributed to his titanic tussle with fatigue in the middle sessions.

But that flaw allowed Joshua to impress because it answered the doubts about his gas tank as he managed his energy, recovered, got his second wind and finished the job to display new a level of maturity.

It added to the tension, too, as did his lack of focus at times, particularly in the fifth when he appeared to celebrate after dropping Klitschko. It led to that monstrous right-hand from the Ukrainian in the next stanza, yet that fault allowed him to show that underneath the hulking muscle is a heart just as strong.

Indeed, the 27-year-old has his doubters and until Saturday there were questions lingering over him but after that performance and after gaining that experience, he will now be asking a few of his own, like ‘who can stop me?’.

Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder are two rivals who could have something to say about that, but there’s no getting away from the fact that Joshua is now one of the biggest names in boxing – if not the biggest with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez his only rival. His sweet blend of savagery in the ring and sincerity out of it, has won the hearts of millions, not just in the UK but crucially after this victory in the US as well, and it means his target to be the first billion-pound British athlete is a realistic ambition.

He was already a marketing dream but to rise up from the canvas, finish one of the best heavyweights ever having only nine years ago laced up gloves for the first time, Joshua is now on another level.


And the frightening prospect is that he can get better because make no mistake, there are technical deficiencies to work on. Joshua’s footwork is still flat and his head movement still too static but his power masks those weaknesses, as does his mental fortitude.

But ultimately having fought 20 percent of his rounds in the pro ranks with Klitschko, Joshua was given the perfect learning experience.

“I fought the better Wladimir Klitschko, not the complacent one, the guy who realised his mistakes and wanted to put it right,” Joshua said.

“Maybe against anyone else in the division he may have come out on top. I have the ultimate respect for what he’s achieved inside and outside of the ring. I wouldn’t mind fighting him again; if he wants a rematch no problem.

“I’m happy, if anything, that it was a great fight, because there was a lot of hype, a lot of attention around the fight, and I’m glad it lived up to expectations.

“(I learnt) that I can knock out anyone. If I can keep on improving on the things I do well, I can definitely knock out any opponent.

“To get knocked down, hurt someone, get hurt, take someone out in the championship rounds where I’ve never been before: it’s testament to what training’s about.”

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko after the fight.

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko after the fight.

While Joshua defied his age from a mental perspective on Saturday, Klitschko did so in the reverse from a physical standpoint.

The Ukrainian deserves a massive amount of credit because at 41 years of age he bounced and bobbed around the ring for 10 rounds with a 27-year-old phenom.

Arguably, it was his fight to lose after the sixth round knockdown but his failure to go in for the kill in the ensuing rounds led to his downfall.

Still, we witnessed one of the best versions of Klitschko, helping to fade away the memory of his tepid display against Fury.

His aggressive approach and valiant effort will have no doubt altered the negative perception created by his jab and grab tactics and now he’s left people wanting more after a time when they wanted no more.

“I am not going to consider anything or be making any statements right now,” he said when asked if retirement loomed. “It’s too early; I actually feel pretty good, considering I lost. I will take my time. I have a rematch clause which I can execute at certain times, and right now will not be making any decisions.

“If I’m going to fight it’ll be a rematch, of course.”


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