By Marc Livitz: For those among us who grew up during the respective heydays of heavyweight boxing, the sight of two prime as well as prepared competitors trading colossal shots in the ring was often one to savor. However, once the light changed its focus from the larger to the smaller in terms of weight class, outcome and what was expected, boxing fans were subjected to a long wait and the slow anticipation of when the next Louis or Lewis would surface.
Much of heavyweight ranks during the 2000’s was commandeered by two Ukrainian brothers. First was Vitali Klitschko and later his younger brother Wladimir. Each laid their own unique groundwork and enjoyed long stays at the top of the division. Time and age eventually set in and although each man held most if not all of the spoils, their respective end finally surfaced.
In the case of this article, the focus is on Wladimir (64-5, 53 KO’s) and what would prove to be his last professional contest. This past spring, Klitschko faced off against undefeated 2012 British gold medalist Anthony Joshua at a sold out, raucous Wembley Stadium in London, England. What was touted by many as a coming-out party for Joshua and a sending-off one for Klitschko ended up being anything but that. The end result would ring true but the bout itself was memorable for all the right reasons.
The team of writers at SecondsOut have spoken and the April 29 heavyweight contest between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko has won the vote for 2017’s ‘Fight of the Year’.
The heavyweight class is the lone division in boxing where one’s weight doesn’t matter, at least not in terms of the scale. When a fighter within the ranks needs to cut excess poundage, it’s usually done for his own good and not for a definitive limit. Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KO’s) and Wladimir Klitschko are the exceptions to that rule, as each fighter treated the sport with utmost respect and had the appearance of chiseled marble as opposed to a pile of dough.
Wembley was rocking that evening and the fight itself, so to speak had it all. There were knockdowns and heavy handed shots throughout the contest. Many of us may have looked in amazement because it had been so long since we’d seen two heavyweights fight as if they were welterweights. Each man stood 6’6”. Back and forth action and just when it appeared as though one had the best of the other, the tide would change.
Jabs and expert movement highlighted much of the early rounds until late in the fifth round, when a powerful left hook caught Wladimir on the chin. Joshua followed up with a few additional shots and his heralded Ukrainian foe slumped into him for the bout’s first knockdown. Wlad quickly rose to his feet.
One round later, Klitschko used his trademark left jab to set up his trademark straight right, which briefly sent Joshua to the canvas. Just past the midway point of round eleven, Anthony connected with a hard right uppercut which jolted Wladimir’s head back, after which successive unanswered power shots put him to the mat once again. Always the champion at heart, Klitschko beat the count, yet returned to the ring floor again a handful of seconds later. He fought on, at least for another thirty seconds.
Joshua began to tee off on the Ukrainian giant, who could no longer defend himself. At the 2:25 mark, referee David Fields had seen enough and stopped the contest. At the time of the stoppage, Joshua was narrowly leading on two of the three scorecards at ringside. A few months later, the 40 year old Klitschko retired and Anthony Joshua, 28, continues to fight onward.