IN the months and weeks leading up to it, Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko was billed as the biggest fight in British boxing history, a titanic clash that would change the state of the sport.
As it turns out, that description wasn’t far off. Wembley Stadium played host to 90,000 screaming fans, the UK pay-per-view record was broken and tens of millions of people watched worldwide. The fight wasn’t bad either.
The two heavyweights traded knockdowns before Klitschko was stopped in the 11th round of what was quickly recognised as one of the greatest heavyweight title fights of all time.
K2 Promotions worked closely with Matchroom Boxing to make the fight and Bernd Boente, Klitschko’s manager, is understandably pleased with how the night went – apart from the result of the fight, of course.
“It was the best boxing event ever,” he proclaimed.
“We had a very smooth and cooperative operation with Matchroom. Eddie and myself worked very closely together from moment one until the fight and it’s a fight everyone will remember.
“Both were on the floor and both came back and it was thrilling. You can never expect that, but I was very sure that this fight would be way better than any other fight both had because styles make fights and these two styles are perfect for a thrilling fight.”
Down in the fifth, Klitschko capitalised on Joshua’s mid-fight crisis by flooring him in the sixth and coming tantalisingly close to springing an upset. Klitschko was then dropped twice in the 11th before being stopped on his feet, though his gutsy and youthful performance elevated his already legendary status further.
Though it was Joshua’s first tough fight, Klitschko had already been round that block a few times and Boente was reminded of Wladimir’s first fight with Samuel Peter, during which he rose from three knockdowns to win on points.
“For me, it was a throwback to 2005 when I was ringside for Wladimir’s first fight with Samuel Peter. It was up and down,” he said.
“As everybody said afterward, even veteran journalists ringside who had been ringside for Muhammad Ali fights, they rank it as one of the best all-time heavyweight fights. This was a fight nobody will ever forget and I think there’s already a motto; ‘Frenzy at Wembley’. So we had the ‘Thrilla in Manila’ and we also have the ‘Frenzy at Wembley.'”
Prior to the fight, 41-year-old Klitschko had been written off by some after his lacklustre showing against Tyson Fury in November 2015, his most recent outing before facing ‘AJ’.
Wladimir’s buzzword during his training was “obsessed” and his dedicated preparations saw him weigh in at his lightest for over nine years.
“His preparation was fantastic, but he always prepares very well and as I said before, styles make fights,” Boente said.
“It’s different if you fight a guy like [Kubrat] Pulev, who I felt never had a chance against Wladimir. We all knew Joshua is a different calibre. For me it was clear that there wouldn’t be any clinching or holding between these two, you can do it if the guy is smaller, it was a little part of the Emmanuel Steward style, he trained his fighters like that, but it was crystal clear both are the same height so it wouldn’t happen and that’s one of the reasons it was so thrilling.”
The entire promotion was one of mutual respect between the two fighters and their respective teams and – despite a minor brush between Joshua and Wladimir’s older brother Vitali – that continued after the dramatic battle.
“He said it before the fight, if he loses then he will congratulate Anthony and if it was the other way around Anthony would have congratulated Wladimir,” Boente continued.
“We had all the respect between the teams, we congratulated each other, it was a smooth event from A to Z.
“It helps boxing, the regular boxing fan is not interested in these guys like Tyson Fury and their comments, throwing tables, spitting at each other, nobody wants to see that. Inside boxing fans maybe think it’s funny but the outside people don’t like this. You don’t see this in any other sport. Boxing is a fantastic sport, my father boxed, and we don’t need these idiots who kill our sport and that’s why this was a fantastic event which helped our sport.”