Klitschko’s Legacy Probably Rests On Beating Joshua

I say he is due all props for taking this fight. That’s right. I salute the 41-year-old former unified heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53), for accepting the biggest challenge of his career at such an advanced age for a fighter. In mid-December of last year Klitschko agreed to challenge IBF champ Anthony Joshua 18-0 (18) with the vacant WBA title also up for grabs. The bout will air live in the United States on Showtime this Saturday afternoon and the re-broadcast will be shown that night on HBO. Joshua vs. Klitschko will be recorded historically as the biggest fight ever at Wembley Stadium and the most anticipated ever in the United Kingdom.

It’s been said that Joshua hasn’t fought anybody, but that’s been said about every budding future superstar fighter on the way up since boxing’s inception. The only way to judge Joshua is by whom he has fought and compare how he did against them to the others who fought the same opposition. And based on that it’s abundantly clear that Anthony Joshua is a once in a generation talent.

Anthony Joshua is the most formidable fighter Wladimir will have opposed in 68 pro bouts. It’s just sad that like former champ Larry Holmes, Klitschko dominated a so-so era and that when they finally faced an elite fighter they were past their prime. Holmes had the misfortune of fighting Mike Tyson when he was 38 years old and Mike was peaking. Klitschko is 41 years old and Joshua is clearly peaking and getting stronger with each bout.

One would think after two title reigns and a cumulative 23 successful title defenses during a 21-year pro career, Wladimir Klitschko’s legacy would be nearly etched in stone, but it’s not. In order for Klitschko to depart boxing with all due props, he’ll need to defeat a fighter who has only fought 44 rounds encompassed over 18 pro bouts who is currently 3-0 (3) in title bouts.

“Totally different caliber,” the 41-year-old responded when asked if Joshua was unique among British fighters he has faced.

“He’s a true professional. He wants to get better and I’ve seen these qualities while he was at my training camp two years ago.

“He’s calm and quiet and he likes to learn and that’s great qualities to have. So I’m definitely going to face a challenge that I’ve never faced before.”

Based on Wladimir’s words he fully grasps what Joshua presents. Joshua appears to be the total package….he has height and reach, two-handed power, good form and balance, and he lets his hands go and they’re quick. The unknowns pertaining to AJ are how does he respond to adversity and how good does he take a big punch. So far none of his opponents has lasted long enough in the ring with him to provide an answer.

The thing that makes Joshua such a conundrum for Klitschko is that Wladimir doesn’t have a signature win. During his two title reigns he never looked unbeatable, unlike some great heavyweight champions during their peaks such as Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman and Mike Tyson. Every one of those fighters had a period of a year or two during their title reigns when it looked as though they’d never lose. If you’re wondering why the names of Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Larry Holmes, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis and Vitali Klitschko aren’t among the group I highlighted, it’s because either their reign was too short or there were a few nights when they struggled and were lucky to escape with their title in check. And that’s the group Wladimir resides in.

The thing haunting Wladimir from a legacy perspective is that although he won a lot, it always looked as if he won by default due to the ineptness of the fighter challenging him. Wladimir was big and proportionally well built. He had terrific two-handed power and decent speed. And once he joined with trainer Emanuel Steward he learned how to use his height and reach and fought more like a big man, thus becoming harder to hit. In practically all of Wladimir’s bouts as defending champ he held the advantage in physicality over his opponent, and in the few in which that wasn’t the case, he was the greater skilled and stronger man.

It’s a tired cliché in boxing when fans and media members say “He didn’t fight anybody” about a seasoned champion. However, in Wladimir’s case it’s not totally without merit. Yes, he fought in an era when the heavyweights were bigger — usually over 225 pounds — but they were mostly just big and nothing else. The biggest knock on Wladimir is that he lost fights in a devastating fashion. With the exception of his last bout against Tyson Fury, when he lost he was stopped. And unlike John Ruiz and Tommy Morrison who suffered brutal knockout defeats, getting stopped affected Wladimir psychologically. After he was stopped by the hard punching Corrie Sanders in 2003 and then three fights later by Lamon Brewster, Wladimir changed completely as a fighter and that is what most remember about him.

From that point forward Wladimir entered the ring with monumental trepidation and you could see how concerned he was about getting hit. And if the opponent came out hard and threw at him with bad intentions, Wlad would fight just enough to win without chancing getting into exchanges looking to score a knockout, because he was more vulnerable to getting hit with something he didn’t see in return. So for a majority of his second title tenure, he won in spite of the fact that he was fighting first not to lose — which again makes you wonder about just how deep the talent pool was that he had the luxury to fight like that and was still able to dominate.

Right or wrong, the perception by many boxing observers is that Wladimir Klitschko, who held so many physical advantages over his opponents, wasn’t durable, had a questionable chin and fought not to lose. Now I’m not going to excoriate his opposition because I’m smart enough to know that over 10 years there had to be a few fighters he met that could fight. But try to find his signature win – does it exist?

When carefully examining Wladimir’s record, the two best fighters he beat were David Haye in 2011 and Alexander Povetkin in 2013. Both lasted the distance but they didn’t really compete. On top of that, both fights were terrible and hard to watch. Haye wasn’t able to crack his reach and physicality and Povetkin couldn’t get anything going due to Klitchko’s continuous clinching and holding. Klitschko even managed to drop Povetkin four times but couldn’t keep him down.

Wladimir Klitschko, because of all the above, has a lot riding on the outcome of his fight this weekend. If he can beat Anthony Joshua who is entering his prime, there’s a good chance that will be what most will remember about him. A win over Joshua, who would’ve been favored over every opponent Klitschko fought on the night that he beat them, will no doubt be the signature win of his outstanding career.

More people will see Wladimir fight Joshua than any other bout of his career. Couple that with Anthony being the best and most recognized foe he’s ever faced, count on most fans and advocates passing final judgement on Wladimir based on the outcome of this bout. If somehow Klitschko can beat Joshua coming off a loss and bad showing in his last fight, and a long period of inactivity…that would really say something for him.

Amazing that such a dominant, long-term champion can have his legacy made or broken on the strength of one fight, but that’s the case here.

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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

 

COMMENTS

-Radam G :

Nice copy. If Dok's chin holds up, he will have an easy scrap pinching and clinching AJ before the referee take off points and he walks AJ into a George Foreman-like jab and right cross, i, e, Foreman-Moorer Bout a few moons ago. History is a he-bytch that loves to repeat diz, dat and da third. AJ is green without a lot of mean. I see him letting Dok Steelhamer hold him until Dok folds him. I m picking the old-scrapping dok by late-round KO. Holla!


-Radam G :

Nice copy. If Dok's chin holds up, he will have an easy scrap pinching and clinching AJ before the referee take off points and he walks AJ into a George Foreman-like jab and right cross, i, e, Foreman-Moorer Bout a few moons ago. History is a he-bytch that loves to repeat diz, dat and da third. AJ is green without a lot of mean. I see him letting Dok Steelhamer hold him until Dok folds him. I m picking the old-scrapping dok by late-round KO. Holla!


-New York Tony :

I'm not at all a fan of the grossly overrated Klitschko, but "Amazing that such a dominant, long-term champion can have his legacy made or broken on the strength of one fight, but that?s the case here" is nonsense.


-brownsugar :

I'm not at all a fan of the grossly overrated Klitschko, but "Amazing that such a dominant, long-term champion can have his legacy made or broken on the strength of one fight, but that?s the case here" is nonsense.
Agreed. The man is 41 years old. Nothing he does now should subtract from his illustrious career. But I also agree that public perception which seems to have a very short attention span will cause fans to heap a boat load of negative narrative upon WK. Having said that, based on WK's last two fights against Jennings and Tyson ...I think the writing is on the wall which points to a win for Joshua.


-oubobcat :

Wlad's legacy can only be enhanced with a win. It won't be hurt one bit by a loss regardless of how he loses. I must say as we get closer, I am backing further and further from Wlad in this one. Look at his against Jennings and Fury. Jennings gave Wlad a tough fight in a fight where Wlad just did not seem to be that active. Then fast forward to the Fury fight and Wlad's activity decreased further. He finally started showing signs of getting old. And pretty quick. Now he has 18 months inactivity. Remember too he has been fighting for a long time and was in the 1996 Olympics. Some notable fighters in those Olympics: Floyd Mayweather, David Reid, Antonio Tarver, Vasili Jirov, Daniel Santos, Oktay Urkal, Fernando Vargas, Sven Ottke, Sergiy Dzindziruk and many others are all either retired (well Mayweather sort of) many which are long retired or well well past their primes. I could see an absolute blowout here by Joshua that ends relatively early against someone who may enter the ring with little left to offer.


-oubobcat :

Wlad's legacy can only be enhanced with a win. It won't be hurt one bit by a loss regardless of how he loses. I must say as we get closer, I am backing further and further from Wlad in this one. Look at his against Jennings and Fury. Jennings gave Wlad a tough fight in a fight where Wlad just did not seem to be that active. Then fast forward to the Fury fight and Wlad's activity decreased further. He finally started showing signs of getting old. And pretty quick. Now he has 18 months inactivity. Remember too he has been fighting for a long time and was in the 1996 Olympics. Some notable fighters in those Olympics: Floyd Mayweather, David Reid, Antonio Tarver, Vasili Jirov, Daniel Santos, Oktay Urkal, Fernando Vargas, Sven Ottke, Sergiy Dzindziruk and many others are all either retired (well Mayweather sort of) many which are long retired or well well past their primes. I could see an absolute blowout here by Joshua that ends relatively early against someone who may enter the ring with little left to offer.


-deepwater2 :

A quick KO for Joshua hedged by a late ko or dec for Klit. Joshua looks like a stone statue. He also looks very agile while doing exercises and bag work. That said, how will he handle the 90,000? How will he handle it when he gets clipped? Whyte clipped him. If Klit can land I see a clear win for him. Fury may have went off the deep end but the man used complete, whilst sometimes awkward, boxing skills to befuddle Klit. I don't see many tricks up Joshua's sleeve. Very good conditioned and athletic but very basic yet powerful boxer. I think if Klit gets out of the first 3 rounds using his footwork he will close the show by the end of the night. If the Klit that shows up that handled the Bulgarian ................early night.


-Domenic :

Good points. 1996 is a long, long time ago, and he's been at the top, fighting in high leverage situations since the turn of the century. He's been fighting 3-4 times a year for what seems like eons. I remember pulling up clips on the internet, back in the late 90's, of the giants from the Ukraine that were crushing guys (boxing news wasn't as easily found then, certainly to me, and I remember after Purrity beat him, I was stunned and dismissed him a bit; found out about that loss probably 4-6 months after it happened when my boxing news was ingested by spending a few hours at the local bookstore reading the boxing magazines, all which were 2 months dated on the news). Even though his opposition wasn't great, he deserves credit. I've always said, even though he fought many hyped journeymen types, those guys were fighting for the heavyweight championship, so they were coming, as beating him was their lifetime lotto ticket. He had to always be on point. That focus is not easy to maintain for two decades. Plus he represented the sport well. One thing, the article points out the crushing defeats. Yes, that happened twice (Sanders much more crushing than Brewster, where he gassed like against Purrity). But Lennox Lewis was crushed twice decisively as well. That's part of the game when heavyweights are throwing bombs at you. I think WK has a great opportunity to be amped up for this, as he's hungry as the challenger, is being written off, inactive (big time for him), aging, and has looked bad the last several years. That's what makes this a very interesting, changing of the guard type of fight. It has the chance to be a fight much like Lewis-Vitali, which I think remains the best, most significant heavyweight fight of this century, even though when it happened, it flew way under the radar. As for a pick, man it's tough, but my guess is Joshua will land and knock him down in the first round, and might obliterate him, or Klitschko gets comfortable and frustrates him and wins an ugly, Povetkin type decision. Looking forward to it either way.


-vjoe :

The last two fights of WK make me think of the end of Ken Norton's career....though Norton looked in great shape, his stamina, speed, and reflexes simply could not be recaptured. Maybe WK can surprise against the still learning (but very good) AJ, but in my opinion it would be a big upset. AJ is a scary physically, but if WK can catch him right on the button...hmmm?? Or what if WK decides he's going to go safety first and has enough in the tank to keep the jab (and grab) going for 12 rounds? Well, then, maybe.... I think if I'm Klitscho, I'm going to live and die by my jab, my chin, and my stamina.....all three better show up come Saturday. I don't think they will. My pick....AJ by KO


-vjoe :

The last two fights of WK make me think of the end of Ken Norton's career....though Norton looked in great shape, his stamina, speed, and reflexes simply could not be recaptured. Maybe WK can surprise against the still learning (but very good) AJ, but in my opinion it would be a big upset. AJ is a scary physically, but if WK can catch him right on the button...hmmm?? Or what if WK decides he's going to go safety first and has enough in the tank to keep the jab (and grab) going for 12 rounds? Well, then, maybe.... I think if I'm Klitscho, I'm going to live and die by my jab, my chin, and my stamina.....all three better show up come Saturday. I don't think they will. My pick....AJ by KO


-Domenic :

Well said vjoe. I think the last thing Klitschko and his camp wants is a slugfest. This is much like the Sam Peter fight (aside from being 13 years later, of course). He was physically imposing, undefeated, being groomed by HBO as the next Ibeabuchi, and had spectacular power. I suppose the difference is AJ is not nearly as raw. But it has some interesting parallels. And WK had to survive and win ugly that night, and actually hurt Peter in the final round, after he was seemingly comfortable. I'm excited because there are many possible outcomes, and it'll be a high voltage, huge stakes, edge of your seat kind of battle. With the amount of eyes on this, as it's non PPV, if it can be at the level of Lewis-Klitschko (no easy task), it's a huge win for the sport.


-amayseng :

I think Wlad realizes AJ is a young, athletic and violent lion and Wlad will need to put the heat on him right off the bat to tame him. Expect Wlad to sit down early on that right hand once he establishes a strong thumping jab after a few rounds. Whether AJ becomes timid or steps it up will be the question to see who takes it. Either way two fantastic gentlemen and boxers as well and I for once expect a very active Wlad as he knows his end is near and will not want to go out of boxing due to lack of excitement.


-amayseng :

I think Wlad realizes AJ is a young, athletic and violent lion and Wlad will need to put the heat on him right off the bat to tame him. Expect Wlad to sit down early on that right hand once he establishes a strong thumping jab after a few rounds. Whether AJ becomes timid or steps it up will be the question to see who takes it. Either way two fantastic gentlemen and boxers as well and I for once expect a very active Wlad as he knows his end is near and will not want to go out of boxing due to lack of excitement.


-Skibbz :

I think Wlad realizes AJ is a young, athletic and violent lion and Wlad will need to put the heat on him right off the bat to tame him. Expect Wlad to sit down early on that right hand once he establishes a strong thumping jab after a few rounds. Whether AJ becomes timid or steps it up will be the question to see who takes it. Either way two fantastic gentlemen and boxers as well and I for once expect a very active Wlad as he knows his end is near and will not want to go out of boxing due to lack of excitement.
It was funny when AJ first started boxing he quickly drew a buzz in London. People were cautious but expectant, reluctant to believe in 'natural talent' yet still eager to see him put his heavy hands on his opponent. Then he won the Gold medal in London. The press started to spread his name on the airwaves, in print and online. Now he's a professional prizefighter, a world title holder albeit through an opportune set of circumstances, and frankly still I do not believe the hype. His feet have always been too slow in my opinion. He doesn't have the experience to know how to use them effectively yet, to be quite frank he hasn't really had to use them besides planting them. He has a strong jab, but its not the jab of WK. WK is very similar in size and has a firm jab that can concuss. If he establishes the jab then I can see him hurting AJ and causing a moment of reckless frustration that won't do him any favours in front of WK. I got a 2/1 on WK by any means. Not sure how good it will be but I can see it happening.


-Kid Blast :

Reading these posts makes me reluctant to place a wager but nevertheless and based on Wlad's terrible showing against Fury and inability to wax Jennings, I am going with a quick and explosive KO by AJ. Klit's reflexes (which were superb when he waxed Pulev) have diminished. he is on an elevator going down while AJ is one an express elevator going up
The inflection point does not bode well for Klit. I hope I am wrong. I want Klit to win.


-Kid Blast :

Reading these posts makes me reluctant to place a wager but nevertheless and based on Wlad's terrible showing against Fury and inability to wax Jennings, I am going with a quick and explosive KO by AJ. Klit's reflexes (which were superb when he waxed Pulev) have diminished. He is on an elevator going down while AJ is one an express elevator going up
The inflection point does not bode well for Klit. I hope I am wrong. I want Klit to win.