Saturday’s heavyweight match was a mixture of old and new, on many levels.
The heavyweight title bout between reigning and defending champion Anthony Joshua and perennial champ Wladimir Klitschko seemed to hale from the past.
Old school “prize fights” were attended by men in suits and ties, accompanied by women wearing seamed stockings.
Everybody carried a flask.
Joshua/Klitschko had that same feel of a 1940’s smoke-filled arena. But instead of the glowing tips of fat cigars and Lucky Strikes, the faces of the crowd were lit by the screens of their smart-phones.
Collecting titles since 1998, Klitschko (41) has dominated the division. He sported a record of 64 victories against four losses, with a staggering 54 wins coming by way of knockout.
Joshua (27) is a relative newcomer. Having turned pro in 2013, he came with an unblemished record of 19 wins…and 19 KO’s.
He’s fought opponents with good records, but no one of name or notoriety.
Klitschko was supposed to be Joshua’s biggest test.
And he was.
Both stand 6’6” while Joshua enjoyed a one inch reach advantage.
He weighed-in almost 10-pounds heavier than Klitschko. In the ring (after rehydrating) it looked like a lot more.
Klitschko took a 17-month layoff after a dismal performance against Tyson Fury.
Klitschko lost that snore-fest, having only landed 52 punches during the entire 12 round bout.
He wasn’t doing much better in the opening frames of this fight.
There was a lot of jabbing, stabbing, and single shots at the start of this campaign. Neither wanted to commit to a power punch that might leave them exposed, and in close range.
Klitschko let his hands go in Round 4.
He paid for it in the 5th.
Joshua came out swinging like a windmill in a hurricane.
Averaging a punch-per-second, he nailed Klitschko with a straight right, followed by a left hook that wobbled Klitschko.
Retreating to catch his balance and collect his senses, Klitschko absorbed repeated rights to the head. A cut opened over his left eye, and there was swelling high on that cheek.
A sweeping left hook found all sorts of face, and the flurry that followed forced Klitschko to his knees…all in the first 28 seconds of the round.
Klitschko has been accused of having a glass jaw.
He took punches that would’ve killed a regular Joe, yet he stayed vertical.
Not only did he remain standing, he fought back and had Joshua on the ropes by the end of the round.
A testament to true heart and hard training, Klitschko came on strong in Round 6, filled an opening with a straight right, and sent Joshua south for the first time in his career.
Klitschko had plenty of time and enough zip left to seal the deal.
But he didn’t.
In what could be the biggest tactical mistake as a pro, Klitschko didn’t press the action to close the show.
Instead, Joshua slowly got back into the fight.
Although Klitschko continued to dominate, it all unraveled in Round 11.
Joshua landed an uppercut that put Klitschko on “Q Street.”
Six punches later, Klitschko was kissing canvas.
He got up, but birdies were still circling his head.
Joshua drove him to the ropes, and another flurry put Klitschko on the floor.
Klitschko took the mandatory 8-count and tried to continue. He had enough heart…his legs were gone.
The referee saw the potential danger, and called a halt to the competition.
Good call, ref.
Joshua retained his titles and remains undefeated.
He graciously stated that Klitschko is a role model, in and out of the ring.
God Bless and stay humble.
Mark Felicetti wants to hear from you. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.