AFTER emerging from a thrilling and hellacious war with Wladimir Klitschko with his arms raised, IBF and new WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua – sporting a bruised and swollen face – insisted he’d be willing to do it all over again. Joshua looked to be on his way to a sensational victory when he floored the Ukrainian in the fifth, only to dramatically run out of gas, be decked heavily in the sixth until he rescued victory in the 11th.
Promoter Eddie Hearn – who indicated that Joshua’s next bout is likely to be in September or October with Cardiff’s Millenium Stadium a possible venue – was gushing with pride after a contest that broke UK pay-per-view records.
“I’d like to say it was me who pushed for this fight,” said Hearn, “but I can’t take the credit. He [Joshua] is making the decisions, he wants the challenges, he’s calling the shots, and [trainer] Rob [McCracken] felt he could beat Klitschko. It was the ultimate gamble.”
A rematch would make sense given the incredible excitement this contest generated, and should the Ukrainian decide he wants to go again, Joshua is contractually obliged to do so.
“I wouldn’t mind fighting him again,” said Joshua. “It’s up to him [Klitschko]. Well done to him as well. He put up a great fight.”
Klitschko, 41, later refused to comment on his future, saying he would take his time before deciding what comes next. He did promise that if he fights again it will be against Joshua, but the Englishman’s trainer McCracken believes the gruelling bout will have taken a lot out of the former champion.
“It will have taken a lot more out of Wladimir [than Joshua] that’s for sure,” said McCracken. “Anthony will have learnt a lot, he made mistakes, he will be even better next time.”
So what did Joshua learn?
“I can knock out anyone!” the 27-year-old said defiantly. “What I learned is more important than anything. The memories last forever, but these belts slowly fade away. Look at Wladimir now, he had these belts but now they’re with the next person, and he wants them back.”
McCracken – who masterminded Carl Froch’s victory over George Groves in the same venue – was asked to compare Joshua’s stunning triumph over Klitschko with the best performances of Froch.
They’re two very different fighters,” he said. “Antony is still relatively inexperienced even though he beat Wladimir Klitschko. He reached for the top, and that fight is right up, that’s stratospheric – it’s hard to beat.”
Joshua looked on the brink of defeat in the sixth, when a booming right hand floored him heavily. The champion gulped back air, but the eighth and ninth rounds, he was talking to Klitschko even if he didn’t appear to be back in control.
“[I was telling him] I’m going whup your arse in the next round. I had to take a round off, I needed to breathe. It was just competition talk.”
The 2012 Olympic gold medallist did admit his efforts to flatten Klitschko in the fifth had left him exhausted. Photographs show Joshua screaming in celebration after dropping his rival, yet he deflated quickly once the veteran regained his footing.
“You’ve got to be smart,” said Joshua. “This is a 12-round fight, it’s not the amateurs. I took a round off.
“I tried to get him when I hurt him [in the fifth]. I’m not perfect but when I hurt them I know I can get them, but I was just missing. It takes a lot out of you and I was definitely tired.”
The celebrations lasted over an hour – the fight finished at 10.45pm yet the press conferences only reached their conclusion at 2am. By then Joshua’s euphoria had subsided somewhat.
“How am I feeling now? I love life, so I feel like I did before I won this fight. I’m glad it was great fight, I’m glad it lived up to expectation and all the hype.”