Did Klitschko let Joshua off the hook?
May 1, 2017
LONDON – Last Saturday night at Wembley Stadium in front of a crowd of 90,000, boxing fans witnessed one of the best heavyweight fights of the past 15 years when Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) stepped in the ring against Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs). It may have been the best heavyweight fight since Lamon Brewster (35-6, 30 KOs) faced Siarhei Liakhovich (26-7, 16 KOs) in 2006.
As far as heavyweight championship fights that would determine the number one fighter in the division, Joshua-Klitschko will have brought boxing the most positive attention since Lennox Lewis (41-2-1, 32 KOs) battled Vitali Klitschko (45-2, 41 KOs) at the Staples Center in June 2003. Most importantly, Joshua-Klitschko was the rare occasion in boxing that has often become more of the exception than the norm. It was an event that lived up to the hype. The last time boxing had a match that delivered on the big stage was in December 2012. This was when Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) knocked out Manny Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs) in dramatic fashion in the sixth round to emphatically end their rivalry.
In the aftermath of the fight, the focus has mainly been on Joshua and his official arrival as the heir apparent to the heavyweight throne. For Klitschko, he will likely receive more respect and adoration from his defeat to Joshua than from his entire championship reign. Judging from the Ukranian’s words before and after the fight of being ‘obsessed’ with regaining the heavyweight championship, winning the respect of the boxing public is just a minor victory. The goal was to win and looking back at the fight, Klitschko was closer to victory than he may have realized.
The first four rounds were rounds where both men boxed and traded jabs. In the fifth round, Joshua opened up his attack and dropped Klitschko. From that point, Klitschko showed his experience as he took over the fight, as Joshua appeared to punch himself out. In the sixth round, Klitschko landed a perfect counter straight right hand that put the Brit down for the first time in his career. Joshua got up from the punch but was visibly hurt enough to be taken out. Even Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn thought Joshua might have been bitten off more than he can chew when he spoke to boxingscene.com after the fight.
Looking back, Klitschko should have pressed the advantage more. Joshua would get a second wind and eventually stop Klitschko in the 11th round. Seeing that the fight was stopped with Klitschko against the ropes partially blocking punches while Joshua threw a flurry of punches, Klitschko missed an opportunity to have the fight stopped by taking a chance and unloading on Joshua in the sixth or seventh round.
Fans may remember back in 2002 when Oscar De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) faced Fernando Vargas (26-5, 22 KOs) after De La Hoya knocked Vargas down in the 11th round he immediately pressed Vargas by unloading a flurry causing the referee to stop the fight. Klitschko may look back and regret that he did not take a page out of De La Hoya’s book.
It must be said that this easier said than done. Klitschko just the round before was knocked down by Joshua. He could have been knocked out himself if he went after Joshua immediately after knocking him down. Heavyweight contender and number one rated heavyweight by the WBA Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (27-0, 23 KOs) shared his thoughts with boxingscene.com regarding Joshua-Klitschko.
Regardless if Klitschko let Joshua off the hook in that sixth round on the night of April 29, 2017, he made sure that when his name is on the ballot for the boxing hall of fame, it will not be just for his title reign, but his willingness to take on a young lion. The former undisputed heavyweight champion passed the torch to the next generation in a fight that lived up to expectations. This is something his peers, mainly Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did not do or have yet to do. For that, Klitschko deserves boxing fans admiration.
(Feature Photo: Nick Potts/AP)