By: Moses Vered
Boxing will once again be the central focus of the sports world when former heavyweight champion Wladamir Klitschko faces his biggest test against the young and powerful Antony Joshua.
On April 28th a record breaking 90,000 fans are expected to fill Wembley Stadium with millions more tuning in around the world. The enormous interest in this fight is surly on course to break all sorts of records and when its all said and done may be considered the biggest heavyweight fight since the 2002 showdown between Lennox Lewis and former champ Mike Tyson.
Promoter Eddie Hearn said: “The demand for tickets for Joshua vs Klitschko is phenomenal - this is unquestionably the biggest fight in British boxing history and we would have sold out Wembley twice over.”
Wladamir Klitschko is coming off of the longest layoff of his career, an 18-month ring absence. In his last fight on November 2015 father time seemed to finally catch up to the then 39-year old, as he looked listless in losing his titles to Tyson Fury by unanimous decision.
Ukraine's Klitschko is has put the disappointment of 2016 behind him. He said ultimately that while his year was a bust professionally, it was at least rewarding personally.
"I enjoyed my time off. It was the first time in 26 years (including amateur boxing) I had such a long layoff," Klitschko told ESPN.
Klitschko seems to have put the defeat behind him and is now squarely focused on Anthony Joshua.
“This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had in my life – coming back after an 18-month break and fighting a young champion, really talented, athletic and all of this.
“I’m the underdog in this fight and this is actually exciting for me. I haven’t been in this situation for such a long time. I feel young and challenged.
After the Fury loss Klitschko activated a rematch clause in the contract, which forced Fury to miss a mandatory defense of the IBF title – now owned by Anthony Joshua who defeated Charles Martin. An ankle injury and going to rehab forced Tyson Fury to twice delay and eventually call off the rematch, leaving Klitschko without a bout for months.
Anthony Joshua poses the biggest match of the Ukrainian native’s career. The challenge for the 27-year-old Joshua is unlike any he's seen while fighting just 44 total rounds -- an average of fewer than three rounds per fight. Klitschko, on the other hand, put in 46 rounds across his last five fights alone and has 358 total rounds in a career that stretches back to 1996, when Joshua was still in elementary school.
To date, only the grudge match against Dillian Whyte and the battle with the Dominic Breazeale have surpassed three rounds of boxing – both stretching to the seventh but ending by technical knockout. It’s not so much that the opponents have been bad boxers; it’s more that Joshua is just on another level to them.
Joshua has developed nicely over his 18 fight carrer, He’s a relentless and highly skilled fighter who has knocked out all 18 of his opponents. He has five first-round knockouts, eight in the second round.
Joshua also has a good amateur pedigree, as he won the gold medal at super heavyweight in the 2012 London Games. That’s not to mention that at 6-foot-6, he can look Klitschko in the eyes.
Although the young champion is considered the favorite in this bout there are some that question if he is prepared for this massive challenge.
“The questions are correct,” Joshua said. “Is it too soon? Have my opponents prepared me for this? God would never put me in a position I couldn’t handle, fighting Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 people.”
The stakes are high for both men headed into this contest.
Klitschko (64-4, 53 KO) is looking to prove he still has plenty left in the tank, and a win over Joshua would pretty much put him right back on top of the mountain.
Joshua (18-0 18 KO) looks to mark the start of a new era of dominance in the heavyweight division.
The winner of this contest will be crowned the IBF and WBA heavyweight Champion.