Wladimir Klitschko showed many new aspects to his arsenal in his latest performance last weekend, against Anthony Joshua. Wladimir’s brother Vitali, the former champion said: “I am very proud of my brother. That was his best fight. Unfortunately, the result was wrong. He is not too old at the age of 41. He was very quick on his feet, he was great. I even found him better than Joshua who is 14 years younger. No matter how Wladimir decides how he plans his future as a sportsman – I will support him with all his strength.”
Wladimir showed new tactics and movements vs. Joshua. In many rounds, Wladimir was actually bouncing on his feet not much unlike Muhammad Ali’s famous “Float like a butterfly sting like a bee” approach. At 41, Wladimir also showed a greater variety of punches and angles, though he still directs most of his offense to the head targer.
Roy Jones was also impressed by Wladimir’s new style and stated on HBO during the fight, “This is the best offensive performance I’ve seen from Wladimir.”
In recent years Wladimir’s style had grown a bit stale and perhaps complacent. Most of his fights were over before they began and he beat many challengers with his B game.
The loss to Tyson Fury apparently sparked a change in Klitschko. And also perhaps the more formidable challenge of a young muscled mighty and speedy threat like Anthony Joshua could have provided extra incentive and motivation.
All these factors combined to inspire Klitschko to one of the best efforts, if not the best, of his career. He threw different punches and fought with a different energy and urgency. And he almost pulled off the sensational win.
Klitschko had Joshua looking near dead in the sixth round but he could not finish the iron-willed champion. Klitschko has always been a careful, patient finisher. When he has a man hurt he seems to instinctively know that “a wounded fighter is the most dangerous.”
But the super fighters are always ware of bluffs. I remember Wladimir told me once how Vitali learned about bluffing in his fight with Lennox Lewis. Vitali told his brother that at moments of the fight Lewis had feigned that he was hurt and when Vitali stepped in to maximize his advantage, Lewis suddenly pounced with unexpected vigor. It was a trap.
So at the elite level of boxing, there are subtle nuances such as this that are undetectable by ringside eyes or TV viewers.
It remains possible that Klitschko could refine his new style and fix his mistakes and give an even more intelligent performance in a rematch with Joshua. But it’s also quite probable that Joshua’s upside for improving has a lot more capacity than Klitschko and such a spectacular win will only add considerably to Joshua’s self-belief and confidence.
A rematch would be intriguing on so many levels. Could a second Joshua vs. Klitschko fight actually outdo the first? Will Klitschko learn from his mistakes and avenge this loss, like he did with Lamon Brewster? Will Joshua be able to match this excellent performance with another? Would a rematch in Germany help Klitschko? How much time at the elite level does Wladimir have left? And will it be enough time? How many tickets will sell this time…over 100,000?
One thing is for certain. The way Wladimir Klitschko boxed and moved at age 41 was far better than any heavyweight we have ever seen over the age of 40. And a lot better than many Hall of Fame champions were at age 30 or 35.
The whole question will come down to this: Does Wladimir Klitschko have the desire and the self-belief that he can beat Anthony Joshua? -Scoop Malinowski