Elude Anthony Joshua – This time last week it looked certain that IBF heavyweight title holder Anthony Joshua 17-0 (17) was going to defend his title against former lineal champ Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53) on December 10th. But Klitschko went off in a different direction, spurning Joshua for a Dec. 10th match with Lucas Browne in Hamburg, Germany. The reason for spurning Joshua, according to Klitschko, is that the WBA refused to sanction the bout and he wanted the bout to be for both titles. This doesn’t make sense because with Tyson Fury giving up the lineal belt, the bout with Joshua would have been for the real title.
Over the years I’ve been a defender of Wladimir when he was the subject of some pretty staunch criticism. I grew tired of most media and fans saying he was heartless and only thrived because the heavyweight division was so pedestrian. I retorted that nobody dominates for nearly a decade like Wladimir did without being a special fighter. As a challenger and title holder, Klitschko never ducked or side-stepped anyone who was considered a threat. Never have I questioned his constitution as a fighter, never.
Sadly, because the division which Wladimir ruled was so run-of-the-mill, he never had an opportunity to take part in a super fight. In all the years that he was on top, Klitschko never confronted another fighter his size with equal reach and equal or better skill than him. That was until the UK’s Anthony Joshua emerged. I don’t think it’s the slightest reach to assume that Joshua would’ve represented the most formidable foe Wladimir had ever shared a ring with. And that I believe has a lot to do with why Wladimir had a sudden change of heart and wouldn’t go through with fighting Joshua unless the WBA title was on the line (and even then I’m not sure).
Perhaps Wladimir doesn’t think he can win and is concerned about tarnishing his legacy. Think about this. For the better part of his title reign, boxing fans longed to see Wladimir, or his brother Vitali, matched against a fighter who they didn’t tower over, and who also brought something to the ring that they had to address….such as an abundance of size, power, skill or speed. However, the reality is that that fighter never showed up. This resulted in both Klitschko brothers fighting guys I often referred to as tweeners — meaning they didn’t do any one thing particularly well, and because of that they’d be at the mercy at whatever Wladimir or Vitali dictated they do during the bout. And more often than not, that’s how their bouts unfolded.
Unlike past greats Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes who, like Wladimir Klitschko, dominated for a long period of time, Klitschko never built up the cache of forgiveness if he had a bad night. Ever since Wladimir suffered his first defeat against Ross Purrity, during his second year as a pro, Wladimir has had doubters regarding just how good he really is. In 20 years as a professional fighter, with at least half of those years as a defending title holder, Wladimir never had that career defining signature bout — something that Joshua clearly would’ve represented to him, with the only problem being that he’s now 40 years old and on the decline whereas Joshua, at 27, is entering his prime.
Had Joshua and Klitschko met, neither would’ve held a physical advantage over the other. With that, the fight would’ve come down to who could impose his will and vast skill on the other. But it’s even more than that. Who between them will take the initiative to get off first and put the other on defense? I believe that Joshua would’ve been the one who fought with the greater sense of urgency from the onset. Anthony has complete belief in his power and that he can land it. He fights with the mindset that suggests that he fully believes if he can draw first blood, he’ll not allow his opponent any chance of return once he gets them in trouble and fighting to survive. Conversely, Klitschko enters the ring with shaky confidence and approaches his bouts with steep trepidation. And that’s the wrong sign to send a young-hungry Lion the likes of Anthony Joshua. There’s no doubt in my mind that Joshua knows down to his core that Wladimir wouldn’t come out and go right at him from the opening bell. Klitschko has never approached any fighter that way. Was it plausible to believe Wladimir would change his ways against a fighter his size with faster hands and fight-altering power in either hand? No, of course not.
Wladimir knows today that belts really mean nothing. Had he fought Joshua and defeated him, it would no doubt be the defining moment of his career. However, the risk would’ve been just as dramatic. Had Klitschko fought Joshua and was stopped in dramatic fashion, as I believe he would’ve been, he never could have recovered from that. The talk the next day in most boxing circles would go something like this…..”See, Klitschko was never that good to start with. He feasted on a bunch of no-hopers who lacked boxing skill or legitimate knockout power. The first time he fought a fighter his size with equal skill and faster hands, he was demolished. Joshua proved that Wladimir was a big fish in a small pond and only excelled because the division he dominated was devoid of good fighters.” And sadly, there is some merit to that point of view.
At this time Anthony Joshua firmly looks like the future of the heavyweight division. Even in Klitschko’s prime, Joshua would have been a bad matchup for him. Simply because Joshua can do everything that Wladimir could, only he can put his punches together even faster and more fluidly. In addition to that, Joshua doesn’t enter the ring with the trepidation that Wladimir has had since he lost to Puritty. Joshua fights with total confidence and doesn’t fear letting his hands go. Granted, there are some questions surrounding just how good Joshua’s chin is. He was really shook by Dillian Whyte a couple bouts back, and Whyte isn’t close to being the puncher that Wladimir Klitschko still is. The problem for Wladimir in fighting Joshua is that Joshua would have undoubtedly gone right after him and within seconds of the bout Klitschko would’ve been on the defense. Therefore Klitschko’s experience advantage and the unknown regarding Joshua’s chin would have never come into play.
Wladimir Klitschko is a very wealthy man. Sure, he would’ve earned more money fighting Joshua than he had in any other fight during his career. But the risk was too great when the money probably wouldn’t have changed his lifestyle. He lost an ugly fight to Tyson Fury in his last bout, and along with that went his title. However, he wasn’t beaten up or embarrassed. The chances of him saying that after fighting Joshua are not in his favor. And it is for that reason I believe Klitschko used the WBA title not being on the line as his means of getting around fighting Joshua.
The question now is whether he can defeat Lucas Browne and, if so, will he continue to fight. If he does, eventually fighting Joshua will be an issue. Only then Wladimir will be that much older and Joshua will be that much more experienced and confident.
Elude Anthony Joshua – / Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
Check out more boxing news and videos at The Boxing Channel.