Showtime/HBO results: Anthony Joshua stops Wladimir Klitschko
The stage was set to revitalize boxing for a night in London and, with how it turned out, it might’ve just done so for the future. With a full Wembley Stadium containing 90,000 fans, IBF (and now WBA) heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua took his legitimacy as a top heavyweight and superstar to the next level against longtime kingpin Wladimir Klitschko.
Essentially a tale of two eras, the torch from one era to another had the potential to be passed, even with Klitschko’s loss to Tyson Fury 17 months ago. The two fighters’ star power carried the promotion of the mega-event anyway, with Joshua building momentum since winning gold at the 2012 Olympics at home in London and Klitschko being at the top for so long previously. Could the young lion unseat the old master? Could the 41-year-old overcome Father Time?
After emphatic entrances that seemed to last forever, the opening bell rang after months of anticipation and Klitschko came out aggressively, trying to inch forward and take control early on. But Joshua slightly edged the first few rounds with his strength and speed.
The fight remained cagey and the fourth round was highlighted by a Klitschko right hand that momentarily stunned the Brit in its first half. In the fifth, Klitschko was put down after a ferocious flurry, only for Joshua to punch himself out and start eating numerous hard shots before the end of the stanza.
In the sixth, the tables turned and Klitschko knocked Joshua down with a laser beam right hand that had the champion in all sorts of trouble. Klitschko loaded up and missed with left hooks and let Joshua escape trouble. Klitschko being Klitschko, he eased off the gas, allowing Joshua to recover in the sixth and seventh rounds, even though the patented “Dr. Steelhammer” jab landed with more frequency.
That continued into the eighth and ninth but Joshua seemed to get a second wind, even with Klitschko probably edging the 10th round with a late series of right hands and jabs. However, the 27-year-old came out charging in the 11th round and hurt Klitschko right away before finally getting to him with an uppercut off a clinch attempt, which was the beginning of the end. Klitschko went down again and managed to get up before an onslaught against the ropes forced referee David Fields to step in and stop the contest. Scores at the time of the stoppage were 96-93 and 95-93 in favor of Joshua, with the third judge seeing it 95-93 for Klitschko.
It was a drama-filled affair that elite heavyweight boxing hadn’t seen in quite some time and, quite frankly, one it needed. It was the type of spectacle that only boxing can provide and it likely improved the sport’s standing. Even more so, it catapulted Anthony Joshua’s stardom to another level in just his 19th pro fight.
Even in defeat, Wladimir Klitschko validated his legacy and might’ve done more to bolster it in one night than dozens of his title defenses ever did. He showed incredible heart and determination and that’s not even factoring in that he’s a 41-year-old coming off a 17-month layoff and a humiliating decision defeat to Tyson Fury.
All in all, it still wasn’t enough to beat Joshua, who will only learn from the experience. The win sets Joshua up to bring elite heavyweight boxing back to global prominence – and this is only three-and-a-half years into his professional career. Though Joshua won the fight, Klitschko and boxing, in general, were winners in their own right.
You can follow Rian Scalia on Twitter @rian5ca.