Anthony Joshua can dig deep when it counts
There were many, many questions surrounding Anthony Joshua’s calibre going in to his enormous unification clash with Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium this weekend. Most of them concerned his ability to handle a crisis and how he copes when things aren’t going his way. He answered them all.
He floored Klitschko in the fifth but ran out of steam at an alarming rate. Klitschko, vastly more experienced than ‘AJ’, sensed it instantly and fought back valiantly, forcing Joshua to the ropes and putting him in dire straits. Things worsened for the Londoner when he hit the deck for the first time as a professional off a jackhammer Klitschko right hand in the next round. He weathered the storm, recovered, and gambled big in the 11th by wading into his adversary – it paid off.
Joshua will have learned more in this one fight than he had in all of his other paid fights combined, but perhaps the most important lesson for the 27-year-old is that, when disaster rears its ugly head, he can go to the depths of his soul and find what he needs to prevail.
Wladimir Klitschko is a heavyweight legend
Well, we already knew this beforehand, but Klitschko’s gutsy performance on Saturday elevated his status. He entered the bout at age 41, off the back of the longest hiatus of his career and arguably his worst performance. Most experts picked Joshua to win in the first half of the fight and many felt the clash had come at too later stage for ‘Dr Steelhammer’.
Not only did he box with an energy and speed that belied his age, he responded to the fifth-round knockdown he suffered in a way almost no one thought he could. Instead of going into a shell, he fought back and almost ruined Joshua. For much of his near-decade long reign on top of the division Klitschko was criticised for being ‘boring’ and not taking any risks. Against Joshua he rolled the dice and emptied his arsenal. It may not have paid off, but Klitschko was rightfully applauded and cheered by the 90,000 in attendance after the fight.
The heavyweight division is thriving
When Tyson Fury dethroned Klitschko at the end of 2015, the division was blown wide open now that the Ukrainian’s chokehold had been broken. Tyson then endured a deep personal battle with substance abuse and mental illness, forcing him to give up his titles, thus making the heavyweight crown splintered, threatening to throw the division into obscurity.
On Saturday night, a new king emerged. Joshua’s baptism of fire was his true coronation, not his farcically easy win over Charles Martin last year to win the IBF title. For many, Fury is still the lineal champion, the man who beat The Man (when he was still The Man). The good news is that he plans to come back and right now is working his way back down to his fighting weight.
But in Joshua, boxing has a heavyweight champion embraced on a global scale, and he has plans to win more titles and bring more historic nights back to Wembley Stadium. Fights against Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker and Luis Ortiz are all huge events but make no mistake, Joshua-Fury eclipses them all.
Boxing in Britain is where it’s at
British boxing has been enjoying an unprecedented purple patch in recent years and the utter brilliance of Joshua-Klitschko has elevated it further. The world stopped for those dramatic 10-and-a-half rounds as the two giants battled for heavyweight supremacy, while the post-war record crowd of 90,000 created an unparalelled cauldron of noise. It proved that there is nothing quite like a big fight in the UK; British fight fans embrace it like no one else.
For so long, cracking America has been the barometer of success for top fighters but things could be changing. Joshua-Klitschko generated enormous levels of coverage both in the UK and worldwide. It’s hard to imagine a Joshua fight in a Las Vegas casino being as utterly unavoidable as Joshua-Klitschko was.
With attendance and pay-per-view figures constantly rising in the UK, more and more international fighters are more than happy to fight there. With Joshua leading the charge, that might not change for some time and we could be looking at a significant pardigm shift.
Scott Quigg and Luke Campbell are on the verge of title shots
Swallowed up by the sheer scale of Joshua-Klitschko were Quigg and Campbell’s victories on the undercard. Quigg saw off Viorel Simion in a tougher-than-expected bout that made him next in line to fight IBF featherweight champion Lee Selby. If that can be made, it is a terrific domestic match-up.
Campbell is now one of the top challengers for WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares after Darleys Perez was stopped during their eliminator due to an injury. Both Selby-Quigg and Linares-Campbell should be relatively easy to make before the end of the year.