PEOPLE queued for hours to get into the Wembley Arena earlier today, just to watch some men strip to their waists and stand on a stage. The weigh-in for Joshua-Klitschko was a big event and hundreds of fans were waiting outside the venue when doors opened at midday.
After a slow crawl through security – with every bag checked – fans trickled in and filled the seating area while the media section just in front of the stage was buzzing with activity a good hour and half before the two protagonists were set to hit the scales.
The area soon became crowded and there were attempts by security to clear it so that photographers and cameramen were the only ones in it, but they were in vain. Although, Boxing News editor Matt Christie had to take in the first half of the weigh-in from a balcony with the public before eventually being let in to the media section.
Paulie Malignaggi, Spencer Oliver, Kevin Mitchell, Darren Barker, Carl Froch, Johnny Nelson and eventually Lennox Lewis were brought on stage to give their predictions for the big fight. Any suggestion that Klitschko might win was met with boos, and Lewis was bold with his pick: “AJ early”.
Darleys Perez missed weight for his WBA lightweight title eliminator against Luke Campbell and Katie Taylor was two pounds heavier than her opponent, Nina Meinke, but none of the fans seemed to notice. They were there for the big men.
MC Craig Stephen was replaced by Michael Buffer and finally it was time. People jostled and manoeuvered themselves into better positions as a sea of smartphones were shoved into the air to capture footage of the weigh-in.
Klitschko came on first, looking more serious than he did at yesterday’s press conference as he gave a small wave to the crowd, of which a decent section was made up of his fans.
As he peeled off his tracksuit, the fruits of his #obsession became clear. Weighing in lighter than he ever has since 2009, the 41-year-old was in exceptional shape. Clearly, he has left no stone unturned in camp.
Bizarrely, as Wladimir stood on the scales Buffer announced Joshua to the stage and the Londoner’s entrance music boomed out of the speaker system, making it difficult to hear Klitschko’s official weight. He did not look happy.
Joshua, unsurprisingly, was relaxed as the fans cheered him onto the stage. As the entourages of both men filled the platform, there were three sets of heads and shoulders that jutted above the throng; Joshua’s, Wladimir’s and his older brother’s Vitali’s.
The IBF champion whipped off his shirt and shoes – revealing his Herculean physique and prompting a few comments about how cartoonishly huge he is – and jumped on the scales, weighing in a good 10lbs heavier than his adversary (who watched on closely over his shoulder).
They then engaged in their umpteenth face-off, but perhaps the most important of all. It was the final time they look each other in the eye before meeting in the ring, and there wasn’t much to gauge from it. Joshua shifted his weight ever so slightly from foot to foot for a few seconds before placing his hands behind his back as Klitschko drew on his big fight experience to remain implausibly still. Klitschko had put his trainers back on whereas Joshua hadn’t, meaning the countless photos taken of the face-off have ‘Dr Steelhammer’ looking significantly taller.
Members of Joshua’s entourage were dotted on all sides of Wladimir, but the most intimidating man on the stage was Vitali, whose five years out of the ring have not softened his granite-like physical presence.
“I don’t hate Klitschko, I don’t dislike Klitschko, but I want to beat Klitschko,” Joshua said afterwards.
“Someone is going to win and someone is going to continue with their career. And I’m very confident that’s me.”
“This is a big step for AJ,” Klitschko admitted. “He hasn’t fought this type of quality fighter yet. It’s going to be challenging for him, and it’s going to be challenging for me. This fight is 50-50, both fighters have a chance to win the fight, but I have this feeling that this is my night.”