Boxing was a dying sport for years. The rock bottom moment was last year: A female UFC fight far out-sold the best boxing matches in the world. But everything changed tonight in London. Boxing has been re-born in electrifying fashion. Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko contested one of the most thrilling world heavyweight fights in history.
In just his 19th professional outing Joshua rose to another level of excellence tonight as he somehow survived the brink of disaster and defeat in round six. After a slow start suddenly Joshua floored Klitschko early in the fifth round with a brutal combination but he underestimated his fuel tank (or over-celebrated the knockdown) and looked completely exhausted in the next rounds as Klitschko unleashed his heavy artillery – reminiscent of the Foreman vs Lyle epic brawl – but as we have seen so many times the 41 year old “Dr Steelhammer” could not finish the job because of his greatest strength and perhaps flaw: over-carefulness.
The 28 year old Joshua willed his way into the later rounds – not unlike Thomas Hearns vs Sugar Ray Leonard. The TV cameras showed a brief glimpse of Klitschko’s wife (Hayden Pannatierre) and her surprisingly candid expression showed major concern. She somehow knew this fight was far from over. The best action indeed was yet to come. Saving his best for last Joshua erupted suddenly again by landing heavy connects early in the eleventh.
The “obsessed” Klitschko (who looked better and quicker than any over-40 year old heavyweight in history) had never dug deeper than we saw tonight and he would be forced to again. Joshua floored the mighty former champion twice in the eleventh. Twice Klitschko got up and tried his very best to fulfill his self-made prophesy and “obsession” to regain his lost titles. But it was not to be. Joshua showed sensational killer instinct and finished the job as referee David Fields stepped in and saved Klitschko from the indignity of a ten-count knockout.
The sport of boxing has staged countless unforgettable historic superfights over a century and this one tonight will be added to the grand list. Over ninety-thousand awed observers watched these two immortal gladiators fight for the “richest prize in sport.” Joshua and Klitschko gave everything they had and more and for certain this fight will spark boxing into a new golden era. Joshua and Klitschko both showed class and honor and nobility beyond anything we may have ever seen. After the fight Joshua humbly held up Klitschko’s hand and saluted the man he conquered for his impeccable example as a role model and a great champion. It called to mind the scene in the film “The Champion” when James J. Corbett went to visit John L. Sullivan the night he took his titles to tell him what a great champion he was and how much he respected him. Class and honor beyond anything we’ve seen in years in boxing.
Even the gigantic crowd inside the stadium added to the drama as they also were first class in how they viewed and participated in the fight. Interestingly I did not hear one single boo of Klitschko the entire evening. Now that is RESPECT. And Joshua obviously respects Klitschko’s legend and I would guess he also realizes and is grateful that Klitschko’s fierce challenge also contributed largely to make Joshua special tonight. Like Roberto Duran made Ray Leonard extra special on June 20 1980 – tonight the old master and mentor Wladimir Klitschko assisted to create boxing’s next dominant heavyweight super champion. And his name is Anthony Joshua. –By Scoop Malinowski