Aftermath: Joshua vs Klitschko
Both men hit the canvas before Anthony Joshua prevailed against Wladimir Klitschko in a heavyweight classic on Saturday night. In the aftermath, Boxing Monthly had some burning questions we wanted answering. Callum Rudge, James Oddy, Chris Williamson, Mark Butcher and Andrew Harrison provided the answers...
BM: Well... what can we say that does a night and a fight like that justice? Your first, from the heart reactions...how did you see it? What did it do to your heart rate?
CR: My heart was racing, that really was a great fight, at a time where superlatives are thrown around like Wilder right hooks it would be no crime to call that a great fight. The tag line before the fight was 'Still Great' and 'Future Great', I think both are true.
JO: I had the slightly bizarre experience of listening to half the fight over the radio due to literally finishing work as the first bell sounded and watching the second half once I got home. So the fifth round was an audio experience and the sixth a visual! I don't think that really helped - it was exciting and thrilling but compared to others I was nowhere near as hyped.
I've since watched the whole fight and it was certainly a belter. Both Wlad - for his footwork and freshness - and Joshua - for his heart and perseverance - surprised me.
CW: It was one of those 'once every ten years or so' heavyweight title fights which massively delivers when it's all on the line. Both fighters' stock was elevated and the sport will have won plenty of new fans last night. After seeing so many hyped fights turn into damp squibs, this one reminded us that boxing is the most dramatic sport in the world when it delivers. My pulse was all over the place for the finest heavyweight fight I've ever attended.
MB: The moment referee David Fields saved a stricken Klitschko in the corner in that dramatic 11th round, I immediately understood that this was one of the great fights in heavyweight boxing history. The shifts in momentum were drastic. The fight swung one way and then the other. You could not take your eyes off the unfolding theatre. The mark of a great fight is it flies by in real time. Some of the rounds felt like two minutes to me such was the drama of the fight. I feel highly fortunate to have been able to witness such a spellbinding contest from ringside.
AH: I watched it in the pub and, thankfully, my heart wasn't in anywhere near as poor shape as the guy next to me who'd bet the farm on Klitschko. I think they're still peeling him off the ceiling. It was amazing to see fight posters up in town and heartening to see people turning out to watch a boxing match (and enjoying it). It was a great fight – an epic affair that lived up to the hype. American writer Carlos Acevedo recently highlighted the inability of contemporary fighters to distinguish themselves against each other – of being unable to rise to the occasion. Joshua managed to do both. Rather than boxing carefully in the hope of winning a decision, he left no doubt who the better man was, and he did it in exhilarating fashion.
BM: The best / most significant heavyweight fight since ... when / what?
CR: There have been some shouts of Foreman vs Lyle, but Lewis vs Vitali comes to mind also. However this had a more satisfying ending than the latter. I felt that if Wlad was 80 per cent of the fighter he was in the past then AJ would have a fight on his hands, I think Wlad is at least that but AJ found a second wind and got the W. Scintillating stuff.
JO: That's a tough one... Sometimes the best fights aren't the most significant! It reminded me of Vitali vs Lewis in lots of ways, both in terms of two generations colliding and both fights had a shoot-out feel which has been sorely lacking from elite heavyweight boxing for some time. It may be controversial to say this, but maybe in terms of sporting significance, it wasn't as big as Fury's win? In terms of cultural significance, I don't think any fight in the history of British boxing will prove as significant though. Joshua is now a bona fide global superstar, across all sports, not just boxing.
CW: It was better than Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko for me and the finest since Holyfield vs Bowe I. It wasn't for the lineal title but it felt like a proper title fight and was the next best thing. Hugely significant too because the reach of the fight (Sky, RTL, HBO and Showtime) was almost unprecedented for this era. Fantastic for the sport and a real feel-good event.
MB: The most significant and compelling heavyweight title fight since Evander Holyfield overwhelmed Mike Tyson in November 1996. It was one of those rare contests where both men emerged with credit in equal measure. Joshua for proving he belongs at elite level and can hurdle adversity and Klitschko for his stirring effort in the twilight of his career.
AH: Great heavyweight title fights have been pretty rare in recent decades. If you include the WBO title, over the past 30 years we had Mike Tyson vs Buster Douglas, Michael Moorer vs Bert Cooper, the first two Evander Holyfield vs Riddick Bowe fights (Bowe relinquished his WBO belt prior to the rubber match which counts that one out, despite HBO attaching a "people's championship" tag to it) Lamon Brewster vs Siarhei Liakhovich and Lennox Lewis vs Vitali Klitschko. You could maybe throw in Lewis vs Shannon Briggs, which was fun (and Holyfield vs Bert Cooper had its moments). Joshua vs Klitschko would finish high up on that list. It was a great fight. As James mentioned, 'best' and 'significant' are two different things. From a historical perspective, last night's fight wasn't as significant as Fury's win over Wlad, though it was a much bigger event that crossed over to a far wider audience. I don't recall any heavyweight title fight creating this much of a buzz since Lewis vs Tyson, some fifteen years ago.
BM: What next for both men?
CR: Rematch! If Wlad still wants to box, they should have the rematch in Germany. Let's see Joshua travel and be a true world champion.
JO: Wlad looked better than almost any other heavyweight around, so if he feels he has it in him, mentally and physically, why not try and go after Parker or Wilder, both of whom he'd be favourite against? It'd be fitting for him to go out as a champion. You'd have to expect Joshua to try to do the same and unify. The world is his oyster. Imagine a rematch in a year or so with Joshua and Wlad holding all the gold? My hope is that Fury loses the weight and gets focused again. Fury vs Joshua has so many compelling storylines - the two are such opposites. I think Joshua knows some fans still view Fury as the 'real' champion. He equally knows some fans can't stand Fury. It could be the biggest event ever in British boxing.
CW: I believe there's a contractual rematch, although I'd love to see Wladimir retire after this incredible effort, with nothing left to prove. Joshua has Wilder as a visible and willing belt-holding peer and the big fights seem to be happening so let's see that one next!
MB: A rematch would do similar off-the-chart numbers in attendance and PPV revenue. It appears a business no-brainer. However, boxing politics will most likely dictate the course of the titles, if not the fighters. The IBF (in their infinite lack of wisdom) may try and push through a mandatory defence against Kubrat Pulev. That’s a solid fight on paper but fails to capture the imagination of a Klitschko return. Wladimir showed his tank is far from empty and should exercise his rematch clause. He will feel that he let the fight slip away in the seventh after having Joshua in such desperate trouble in the sixth. But the likelihood is that the Ukrainian punched himself out. As with all great contests, the names of these two fighters will be eternally linked throughout boxing history.
AH: It looks like Klitschko has a rematch clause. I think he'll activate it in due course and we'll see a re-run later in the year. Why not?
BM: Let's talk historical perspective and Wladimir. Where does this fight leave his legacy?
CR: He's 41 and has been very inactive, so despite how good he looked this defeat will always have a slight asterisx next to it. Wlad was a dominant champion for 11 years and only lost his titles at 39, so he's had a great career even if the division has been poor in that time. His consistency and professionalism have to be admired at least.
JO: It probably enhances it. The Fury loss would have been a sad and meek end to a glorious reign. This was an all guns blazing slugfest which engaged even non-boxing fans. His gentlemanly demeanour pre- and post-fight also helped generate some gold will.
CW: He's an all-time great and would have been regardless of last night's result. His legacy is enhanced with the superb effort he displayed.
MB: The statesmanlike Klitschko had already established himself as one of the great heavyweights, dominating an admittedly fallow era, but I feel this fight only cements his legacy. His fitness and sharpness at 41 were quite extraordinary. His class in defeat was a lesson to so many sportsmen and it was heartwarming to see that acknowledged by such warm applause from the partisan Wembley crowd. Great man, great fighter.
AH: Last night's performance almost certainly boosted Klitschko's reputation. Ironically, it might have been the best performance of his career. However, it did put paid to the theory Klitschko was shot against Tyson Fury (and so in hindsight, that defeat looks even more damning when evaluating him as a fighter). Klitschko wasn't ever a great heavyweight but his dominant championship tenure will place him among the top twenty heavyweights of all time. His performance against Joshua may have bumped him up a couple of spots.
BM: Let's talk AJ. What questions did he answer, what questions are still unanswered?
CR: I think pretty much every question was answered but not all of them positively. He has a solid chin, don't let the knockdown fool you, he took some monster shots and stayed upright (mostly). His engine can still be questioned and the extra weight was probably a mistake in hindsight, he was close to being finished in round six perhaps a slightly younger Wlad would've got him out of there. He showed great heart and ring generalship though in the rounds following round 6 - he was losing them but refilling the tank for the late onslaught.
JO: His heart, desire and chin have all, perhaps unfairly, been called into question in the pasy. No one can suggest that anymore. I still think, and maybe I'll get pelters for this, that a boxer with good movement could make AJ look a bit crude. Wlad managed it for periods - Joshua also looked exhausted at times and fell short with his shots. It's why a Fury vs Joshua fight so intrigues. Boxer vs puncher. Let's hope it happens!
CW: He proved he has a solid chin and there are no doubts about his courage and will to win. Stamina is still a question mark, but he did find second and third winds last night in a hard, sapping fight. Even the cynics will have loved his post-fight speech which was classy, likeable and genuine.
MB: Joshua answered most of the remaining questions. He illustrated he can take murderous punches, ride adversity against an elite opponent, retain composure under intense pressure and scrutiny as well as impressive stamina in the championship rounds. He came of age on the night and established himself as a global boxing star. With the likes of Klitschko, Deontay Wilder and, intriguingly, Tyson Fury out there he has the potential rivalries to define a lasting legacy.
AH: We'd already seen Joshua's ability to recover from being chinned against Dillian Whyte. Last night, he proved he could come on in the later rounds (after taking some serious leather). He's still very raw at times but outside of Klitschko, there isn't anyone around that seems capable of exploiting that before AJ becomes a more polished performer.
BM: For your money, where does Tyson Fury fit into the heavyweight picture?
CR: Fury needs to box again and against decent fighters before he can look at Joshua. You can't underestimate what he's been through mentally and I'm still not convinced he'll box again, despite his current stance. If he boxes again, looks good against good opposition, I'd pick him vs anyone in the division but I don't think it'll happen sadly.
JO: I mentioned Fury quite a bit in my previous answers mainly as I feel a fit and focused Tyson Fury is integral to the division moving forward. But I must emphasise 'fit and focussed', both physically and mentally. If he can't achieve that via boxing, I'd prefer to see him find solace elsewhere. I'd hate to see an unwell Fury lured out of his retirement and a shell of his old self fight Joshua, or anyone elite for that matter. It could be dangerous to his health.
CW: As undefeated lineal champ, Fury is a kind of champion-in-recess. As such, he deserves to go straight back in at the top, albeit after all the weight he's piled on a tune-up or two would be sensible.
MB: Detractors of Joshua, an ever-dwindling number, point to Tyson Fury being the real champion, and his lineal claims are undisputable, but we have to remember that the big man has been inactive since November 2015. Weighed down by outside of the ring issues, the charismatic Fury is no longer the same fighter and his claim to be the best heavyweight on the planet weakens with every passing, inactive month. Joshua is the man, for now, at least. But if the Mancunian can return, motivated and refreshed, and rediscover his former sparkle – a confrontation between an unbeaten Joshua and Fury is a potentially the biggest fight in British boxing history.
AH: I don't recall a heavyweight losing as much weight as Fury is attempting to and then fighting at anywhere near the same level they had previously. Buster Douglas came back from 400lbs and a diabetic coma to string a few wins together, and George Foreman made one of the greatest comebacks in history – but outside of those two, I'm stumped. Fury is talking about losing seven stone! I recall Riddick Bowe losing some serious weight before the Andrew Golota rematch, but physically, it left him a husk. Saying that, Joshua vs Fury would do off the chart numbers if they could put it together. And as the old saying goes: 'Where there's a few bob, there's a way'.