90,000 fans will flock to Wembley Stadium on April 29th for one of the biggest fights in recent history to watch Anthony Joshua face the former dominant champion Vladimir Klitschko in defence of his IBF title and in pursuit of the vacant IBO and WBA SUPER Championship belts.
It’s a classic battle of youth versus experience. Vladimir Klitschko wants to go out the game on a high and not the bitter low he experienced after his last fight. His long and distinguished career is approaching its end but no old lion protecting his kingdom leaves through his own volition.
He may have been dethroned by Fury but Tyson’s disappearance from the scene left Vladimir back at the summit albeit beaten and damaged. Is Joshua the young hungry lion to evict the longtime ruler of the blue riband division?
Whilst Klitschko has the vast experience under his belt, he is not the style of fighter that will be able to show Joshua anything unpredictable. He is textbook eastern European style and he is a grandmaster at it. However, at 41 years of age a leapard doesn’t change its spots.
Claims that he has significantly upgraded his abilities since the loss to Tyson Fury cannot be true. Boxing simply doesn’t work like that. However he may be more naturally equipped to deal with Joshua’s style than Fury’s.
Joshua has more of a conventional style than Fury, so the battle of the jabs may well come into play here. People like to look at Joshua and his 100% knockout ratio and instantly compare him to ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson, but in reality, his style is very different.
Whilst clearly he has knockout power in abundance he is not as compact and explosive as Tyson and certainly doesn’t have to fight on the inside as often. He is longer, rangier and has transposed his amateur style across to the pro ranks very effectively.
Although we have not seen it yet, Joshua also has great capability with the jab. He has only really demonstrated it against Dominic Breazeale which was a very promising sign as Breazeale stood at 6ft 7 inches with a 81 and half inch reach.
Klitschko’s jab though is much better than Breazeale’s. It’s been the hallmark of his long reign keeping many a challenger firmly at bay. It will be intriguing to witness this battle play out in the early rounds when there is likely to be a feeling out process.
Joshua is more cautious than people think. He knows that at heavyweight one haymaker can potentially swing the pendulum at the drop of a hat- as he nearly found out when fighting bitter domestic rival Dillian Whyte. It’s also no secret that he has been put down in sparring before.
He cannot afford to wait too long and let Vladimir settle into a rhythm though because Klitschko will want to turn this into a chess match if possible. A positive approach may well pay dividends and he will have to avoid being tied up instantly if he does land with power.
When we talk about power Klitschko is not lacking it himself. HIs knockout percentage is testament to that and lets not forget, power is the last attribute that goes with age.
He has a dangerous lead left hook at his his disposal that he used to devastating effect against Kubrat Pulev but will he have the attacking mentality to pull the trigger with such a risky punch when Joshua will be waiting with a straight right hand counter- a punch he throws very well.
I would edge towards the younger, fresher Anthony Joshua to win the fight despite his lack of experience against top calibre opposition. The reality is that it is time for him to step up. There aren’t many top calibre opposition to gain experience against outside of the beltholders anyway, as the division lacks depth at the world class level.
Also, at 27 years of age he is probably at his fastest and most athletic whilst Vladimir at 41 is slightly past his peak. We saw with Bernard Hopkins last fight that no man can beat the sands of time and Klitschko is no different. I believe this is probably the most important factor in this fight.
Additionally Vladimir with his impressive physique has almost exclusively enjoyed the height and reach advantages over his opponents over the last decade.
Only Tyson Fury has really matched up to him size wise and Vladimir couldn’t use the tricks of the trade against him; the leaning and holding; the jab, jab, grab. Joshua matches Klitschko very closely in stature so he will enjoy no advantages there.
Whilst I expect a Joshua win in good style, a result for Klitschko wouldn’t be considered as a big shock.