Why Joshua Will Dispatch Klitschko, Ushering in a New Heavyweight Era

Some refer to it as the passing of the torch or the changing of the guard. It occurs when a former longtime champ in the twilight of his career meets the newly projected star who is believed to be the next great fighter. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it usually marks the end of one era and the dawning of another.

When Jack Johnson beat James J. Jeffries it ushered in the Johnson era and closed the book on Jeffries…..the same applies to Jack Dempsey beating Jess Willard. That was followed by Gene Tunney beating Dempsey to close the book on Jack. Over the last 50 years we’ve seen the guard among heavyweight legends turn with Cassius Clay beating Sonny Liston to signify the start of the Ali era. Sixteen years later Larry Holmes defeated the legendary Ali to officially end Muhammad’s tenure as the man to beat in the division. That was followed by Mike Tyson marking his arrival as the main man in the heavyweight division by defeating Holmes. In these historic fights, we saw the new star defeat the aging star to mark the beginning of the next era.

This Saturday night the scenario could very well play out again when former heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko 64-4 (53), who dominated the division circa 2005-2015, takes on IBF champ Anthony Joshua 18-0 (18) with the WBA title also up for grabs. Yes, Klitschko lost his universal recognition as champ to Tyson Fury back in November of 2015. But the fight went the distance and was hardly a changing of the guard. Most correctly, write the loss off as Wladimir being on the decline and unmotivated. And even if you disagree with that, no savvy boxing observer saw Fury as being the future of the division the way they do Joshua. And that’s why over 90,000 people will gather at Wembley Stadium.

For a majority of his career Wladimir Klitschko was excoriated for never having faced a worthy opponent. Well, that cannot be said about Anthony Joshua. Other than ring experience, Joshua is Klitschko’s equal in every manner and at 27 years old he’s 14 years younger. In Joshua, Wladimir is facing an opponent who can look him in the eye, who has arms just as long, one who is his near-equal in punching power who actually puts his punches together quicker and more succinctly. And maybe most importantly, AJ has no trepidation about engaging his opponent. He lets his hands go fluidly and freely. Because of his size and strength, most of Wladimir’s opponents were forced to address his overwhelming physicality before they could go about implementing any semblance of a fight plan. And the opponents who didn’t spot him size lacked skill and the know-how to force him into doing things he didn’t want to do. Joshua doesn’t enter the ring against Klitschko having to overcome those disadvantages.

Joshua-Klitschko, if you’ve been watching both closely, isn’t a hard bout to handicap. Wladimir has much more experience and he is the bigger single shot puncher. However, his experience only becomes an issue if the fight goes beyond six or seven rounds, and his advantage in punching power only comes into play if he lets his hands go…which is never a given with Wladimir, mostly because he fears leaving himself open to counter shots. Joshua has the reach and technique to counterpunch the likes of which he’s never been confronted by before. So is it plausible to think Wladimir is going to come out and try to impose himself on Joshua? I don’t think so!

As for the negatives on Joshua, besides his lack of experience, some believe he leaves himself open for right hand counters and mention how his footwork is mostly north and south with very little lateral movement. (Although I think he gets in and out pretty quick.) And then there’s the untested chin and the rumor Wladimir knocked him out while sparring shortly after Joshua won the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics. I’ll cede the lack of experience and, of course, he hasn’t had to prove how reliable his chin is as of yet because only one fighter has really reached it, Dillian Whyte. To play devil’s advocate, even though I think the flaw in his footwork is overstated, I’ll accept it. But once again, Joshua’s supposed flaws really only apply if Wladimir attempts counters and gives him lateral movement, which he may try but in actuality Klitschko cannot be effective doing a poor man’s Muhammad Ali imitation trying to circle and fight on the move.

As for Joshua getting KO’d by Wladimir while sparring, I don’t know for sure if it’s true, but again I’ll accept it for argument’s sake. And in doing so I retort that it’s well known that in June of 1969 Jerry Quarry KO’d or nearly KO’d George Foreman while sparring with George who was training for his pro debut on the Frazier-Quarry undercard after winning a gold medal at the 1968 Olympics. Had Foreman and Quarry fought four years later, which incidentally is the year Foreman beat Joe Frazier for the undisputed heavyweight title, who would you have bet on? As it turned out George had a cast-iron chin. If by chance Joshua has half of Foreman’s chin plus Foreman’s will to win, Klitschko is really in trouble.

When we last saw Klitschko against Tyson Fury, he just wouldn’t let his hands go, and that was against a guy who he didn’t believe could hurt him. It was the only time in Wladimir’s career that he wasn’t stopped in defeat. Maybe he was off emotionally that night; it happens. And because the Fury fight was such a stinker, most forget how tentative Klitschko was against Bryant Jennings in his bout before that. During a majority of the bout with Jennings he wouldn’t pull the trigger, and that’s a terrible pattern for him going into the Joshua bout, especially because Anthony likes to get off and thrives on forcing his opponents out of their defensive shell, leaving them no choice but to try and fight him off.

As the bout approaches I believe Klitschko is more stymied by his mental make-up and refusal to be bold and take risks than he is hindered by his birth certificate. Even at his age Wladimir is still the bigger single shot puncher with his right hand and left-hook. But how well will he be served by those weapons if he keeps them in their holsters, hoping that Joshua allows him to win a jabbing contest? If the bout evolves into a slow paced, stab and grab type of fight, Klitschko has a good chance to win. But I’m confident that Team Joshua knows this and has prepared Anthony on how to disrupt it and not fall into the trap.

Joshua knows that regardless of what Wladimir has told the press, he will enter the ring with a mindset focused first on not getting hit and then somehow extending the fight rounds to where his experience becomes a factor in the outcome. And that is where the fight will be decided because I doubt Joshua will jab and paw with him more than a round, if that.

Once Joshua’s big right hand whizzes by Klitschko’s head, Wladimir will panic and think survival and that will translate into Joshua being able to pitch at him without having to deal with much coming back other than Klitschko throwing an occasional home run shot trying to get lucky or to break Joshua’s momentum. Once Joshua has Klitschko fighting not to get knocked out instead of to win, he can unload his full arsenal. Joshua’s quicker hands and his ability to put his punches together with accuracy and power will be too much for Klitschko to cope with. Once Wladimir is getting the worst of any semblance of an exchange, I believe he may accept that his time has come and gone and this big strong kid is taking over.

If I were advising Wladimir, I’d tell him to come out like Marvin Hagler did against Thomas Hearns and take it to Joshua who may harbor doubts regarding his own chin. What’s the difference if you are stopped in the 2nd or the 6th round?

“Jump on Joshua,” I would say, “while you have all your strength and are fresh and strong. The longer the fight goes, the slower you get and his hands are faster than yours to start with.” I’d tell Wladimir that you both hit too hard for this fight to go 12 rounds, so go out and beat him to the punch. The last thing Joshua will be ready for is you coming out and unloading on him. That’s Klitschko’s best shot — not boxing him and trying to slow the pace because Joshua won’t allow that. Once Klitschko lets Joshua set the tempo, there’s no turning back or reversing it without getting lucky, and even then it might be too late.

Listening to Joshua speak this week it’s abundantly clear he knows what’s at stake and that he fully understands that he cannot beat Klitschko in the same manner that Tyson Fury did. No, Joshua has been told and has come to believe that he’s a special fighter, and to convince the skeptics he can’t be extended 12 rounds by a 41-year-old ex-champ who has been stopped three times before and lost his last fight.

In the final analysis, Klitschko’s reluctance to let his hands go in an attempt to put Joshua on the defense will enable Joshua to assume the role of the predator and AJ has too many weapons for Klitschko to overcome once Klitschko has been reduced to fighting as the prey. In addition to being Klitschko’s equal and even better at some things, Joshua’s confidence is sky high and he’s peaking physically. Actually, Joshua would be a bad match up for a prime Klitschko due to the psychological baggage that accompanied Wladimir Klitschko to the ring for a majority of his title tenure.

Yes, Wladimir could get lucky and ice Joshua with his Sunday punch, but will he throw it before it’s too late? I look for Anthony Joshua to get after Wladimir Klitschko by the second round and plant the seed of doubt in his mind.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel.

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COMMENTS

-Radam G :

Good stuff! But AJ is more bluff than ruff. Check his DNA all the way back to modern-day Nigeria -- OKAY! The Redcoat warrior is going to be a disappointment, or make me eat crow. In my pot of of chance, all the marbles, I will throw. Too many TsOTT, AJ doesn't know. I hate to say it, but he will likely end up on boksing's skid row. Holla!


-Radam G :

Good stuff! But AJ is more bluff than ruff. Check his DNA all the way back to modern-day Nigeria -- OKAY! The Redcoat warrior is going to be a disappointment, or make me eat crow. In my pot of of chance, all the marbles, I will throw. Too many TsOTT, AJ doesn't know. I hate to say it, but he will likely end up on boksing's skid row. Holla!


-Greatest's Greatest Fan :

Great Analysis by Frank (as usual)! I see the fight the same way. Klitschko needs to let his hands go and he has such a hard time doing it. As a person, I find Wlaldimer to be a likable, personable, and intelligent guy. If he was my neighbor, I am sure we could be friends. However, in the boxing ring, all I ever hope to see is him getting knocked out. His boring, safety-first style would not offend me if it was an accepted fact that the guy was just fighting to put food on his family's table. If that was the case, I would root for the guy not to ever get hit, because it is apparent that if he does get hit a good one, he is gonna go. But some people actually think he is a great fighter, and that is what offends me. Of course, it is not his fault that it has been so long since there was a great fighter that most people don't know what one looks like anymore. I recognize that he has a very good right hand, and he is a master at leaning as far away from the action as possible so as not to get hit. But that - at least in my estimation- does not make him a great fighter. If Ali had been knocked out even once in his prime, the boxing world would have never had let him live it down. This guy gets knocked out every time he gets hit a good shot on the chin. So while he is likable in many ways, and I admire his courage to get into the ring when it is plain that he is afraid to do so- I have a hard time listening when no-nothings talk about how great he is.


-brownsugar :

Great article... It seems like I'm running into the Joshua vs Klitstchko hype every where I turn. It's virtually inescapable. The fighthype is hitting our shores all the way from the otherside of the Atlantic. ..gradually gathering an Incalculable amout of momentum like an entity that is gargantuan enough to generate it's own gravity. Klitschko has been ultra smooth in the psycological department... As if he's almost on the verge of "sonning" the young champ with his complementary yet cryptically satirical comments that fly under the radar and just under the skin. I remember when Klits used to weigh in at 250+ and now he's weighing in at 240lbs... While Joshua has added on 10lbs of rippling fiberous musculature to his frame. So visually ripped is Joshua ......Klitschko nicknamed him "Schwarzenegger". How does a guy who looks like a body builder fight so well? I have no idea but Josh hasnt had any major issues yet. It's almost so impressive that its hard not to ask if Joshua has been eating some of Tyson Fury's Wild Boar deli sandwiches. My take is .... Klits has lost a bit of his naturally produced free testoterone which naturally decreases with age while atheletes in Joshua's age group have naturally limitless muscle growth. You're almost made of testosterone at his age. I'm not saying WK is shot by any means but will the veteran boxer-puncher be able to lure the young lion into his snare or will the intensity of youth, ambition, and testosterone trample the Old Fox like a herd of free roaming buffalo? Klitschko looks calm confident and serene in most videos while Joshua frequently looks like a bug-eyed toddler visiting the zoo for the first time. Anyway I have my blinders on until 4:30 pm tomorrow. I'm sticking with my original prediction that Josh will not suffer from performance anxiety when the bell rings and WK will be the one with the introspective questions. I'm sticking with Josh for the win...bit if Klits does win then by all means ....arm yourselves with a healthy plate of crow and " come at me" Enjoy the fights!


-Shoulder Roll Defense :

Joshua wins by KO within 10 rounds. He has solid fundamentals and is the better athlete. It should be relatively easy work if AJ can fight cool, calm, and collected. And just think, the kid didn't start boxing until he was 18. There a lot of boxers that are standouts currently that got relatively late starts in the sweet science (Spence, Joshua, Farmer, Wilder, etc.).


-mortcola :

Joshua wins by KO within 10 rounds. He has solid fundamentals and is the better athlete. It should be relatively easy work if AJ can fight cool, calm, and collected. And just think, the kid didn't start boxing until he was 18. There a lot of boxers that are standouts currently that got relatively late starts in the sweet science (Spence, Joshua, Farmer, Wilder, etc.).
Hey guys, its a Klit-fest, so of course I'm back. I understand the emotional need to have a new heavyweight champ, and Joshua is a pretty good fighter. Despite being 41, there are a couple of small retorts to F-LO that I think matter: - When he was young and brash, and didn't learn that control/survive attack/hold style from Manny yet, Wlad threw lots of combinations. If he is as motivated as he may be to make this a legacy level, statement fight, nothing to lose, then at least you MAY see a WK who throws a bit more freely. - Bottled testosterone works fine - proved that one myself, B-Sug! - The Fury loss means nothing about where Klitschko is at, except that he was annoyed and unwilling to be busy against a guy who looked like he came in the ring looking to swat a million flies while doing the Irish Jig. Wlad appeared as though he would feel undignified going on the attack against that silliness (silliness which won the championship, BTW). Klit is at least in his head prepared to outmaneuver a bread&butter fighter who wins by executing the ordinary with lots of power - I can imagine WK thinking that he no surprises to worry about tonight - only need is to be careful with what is already well-understood - Against Wlad is the fact that Banks has never seemed to be any sort of a motivator as a trainer. But to those of you who have waited a long time for a new heavyweight champ to get excited about, may you have your wish. I'm not invested anymore. I would just like WK to go down remembered as a fighter, and that will have something to do with whether he actually goes for it tonight.


-ArneK. :

Describing Tyson Fury's style of boxing vs. Wladimir Klitschko: "he looked like he came in the ring looking to swat a million flies while doing the Irish jig." Mortcola nailed it! I can tell Mortcola's not from England as the Brits have it that Fury fought a very cerebral fight.


-ArneK. :

Describing Tyson Fury's style of boxing vs. Wladimir Klitschko: "he looked like he came in the ring looking to swat a million flies while doing the Irish jig." Mortcola nailed it! I can tell Mortcola's not from England as the Brits have it that Fury fought a very cerebral fight.


-oubobcat :

One interesting side note on today's heavyweight title fight. The name Michael Grant was brought up in the forum last week. He was once thought by many to be the heir apparent in the heavyweight division. He had the physique and after rolling through fighters early in his career beat some name veterans to earn a shot at Lennox Lewis' heavyweight title. Many insiders thought the young Grant was well prepared and skilled enough to beat Lewis. Lewis was approaching 35 and many thought the time was ripe for the passing of the torch in the heavyweight division. Of course, Lewis annihilated Grant that night in Madison Square Garden. Grant came out fast and landed a big right. But Lewis shrugged it off and hurt Grant with the first significant punch he landed which was a right uppercut. From there, Lewis put it to Grant knocking him down four times before the fight ended in round 2. It was April 29th, 2000. 17 years ago to the day...


-oubobcat :

One interesting side note on today's heavyweight title fight. The name Michael Grant was brought up in the forum last week. He was once thought by many to be the heir apparent in the heavyweight division. He had the physique and after rolling through fighters early in his career beat some name veterans to earn a shot at Lennox Lewis' heavyweight title. Many insiders thought the young Grant was well prepared and skilled enough to beat Lewis. Lewis was approaching 35 and many thought the time was ripe for the passing of the torch in the heavyweight division. Of course, Lewis annihilated Grant that night in Madison Square Garden. Grant came out fast and landed a big right. But Lewis shrugged it off and hurt Grant with the first significant punch he landed which was a right uppercut. From there, Lewis put it to Grant knocking him down four times before the fight ended in round 2. It was April 29th, 2000. 17 years ago to the day...


-deepwater2 :

This New Yorker was very impressed with Tyson Fury's game-plan against the reigning belt holder. He boxed under orders and used his tools to shut out WK. Joshua is has good fundamentals but not much more. WK has good fundamentals too. Who has better head movement? Who has better footwork? WK has nothing to lose here. His failed Ukrainian coup is behind him. His depressed Hollywood wife seems to have gotten the right medication. Of course Joshua can catch WK and lights out but so can WK also catch AJ. WK is a live dog and I see more options for WK winning. Fighting that fixed fight against Martin did more damage than good for AJ. AJ might take over the division but he is in deep today.


-Skibbz :

London is abuzz with the fight today. It's on the front page of almost every paper. It's advertised on almost every freeview channel. Posters and billboards all over town. And every punter or person who isn't living under a rock is talking about it. How AJ is set to become the greatest of all time tonight when he beats WK. How Ali would be proud. How he is the new Tyson. How he would dispatch Lennox if they fought in their primes. Just have one question - why does it seem that people are more impressed now IF Joshua beats WK, than when Fury did it over 500 years ago, in Germany?


-Radam G :

London is abuzz with the fight today. It's on the front page of almost every paper. It's advertised on almost every freeview channel. Posters and billboards all over town. And every punter or person who isn't living under a rock is talking about it. How AJ is set to become the greatest of all time tonight when he beats WK. How Ali would be proud. How he is the new Tyson. How he would dispatch Lennox if they fought in their primes. Just have one question - why does it seem that people are more impressed now IF Joshua beats WK, than when Fury did it over 500 years ago, in Germany?

They didn't like Tyson because of his roots. Holla!


-Radam G :

London is abuzz with the fight today. It's on the front page of almost every paper. It's advertised on almost every freeview channel. Posters and billboards all over town. And every punter or person who isn't living under a rock is talking about it. How AJ is set to become the greatest of all time tonight when he beats WK. How Ali would be proud. How he is the new Tyson. How he would dispatch Lennox if they fought in their primes. Just have one question - why does it seem that people are more impressed now IF Joshua beats WK, than when Fury did it over 500 years ago, in Germany?

They didn't like Tyson because of his roots. Holla!


-deepwater2 :

London is abuzz with the fight today. It's on the front page of almost every paper. It's advertised on almost every freeview channel. Posters and billboards all over town. And every punter or person who isn't living under a rock is talking about it. How AJ is set to become the greatest of all time tonight when he beats WK. How Ali would be proud. How he is the new Tyson. How he would dispatch Lennox if they fought in their primes. Just have one question - why does it seem that people are more impressed now IF Joshua beats WK, than when Fury did it over 500 years ago, in Germany?

Fury went into the Lion's den in Germany, outclassed and shutout the dominant belt holder. He put his hands behind his back and stuck out his chin for crying out loud. Lets see what AJ can do. I still favor a fat Fury over AJ and Wilder.


-mortcola :

Describing Tyson Fury's style of boxing vs. Wladimir Klitschko: "he looked like he came in the ring looking to swat a million flies while doing the Irish jig." Mortcola nailed it! I can tell Mortcola's not from England as the Brits have it that Fury fought a very cerebral fight.
Well, Cerebral - Fury is known for landing the occasional uppercut on his own chin, so....and there is a bobble-head quality about him Meantime - this was a pretty good fight. Glad doesn't have a bad chin at all....but, like a lot of heavyweights, great ones, who got KO'd at some point, Klitschko finally got rescued on the fourth try to survive, after getting nailed by one fateful punch. And, win or lose, the guy fought with some spirit, not to mention more movement than he's used in a long time. He'll be kicking himself for not deluging Joshua after that DECISIVE one-punch knockdown, forcing the ref to rescue Joshua. Just a little too much of that Wladimir caution, and Joshua lived to land that uppercut later on. But finally, a pretty good heavyweight championship fight, one with a Klitschko in it - and a Joshua who one hopes will tighten up his game and become a worthy successor to Lennox Lewis. If Wlad takes the rematch option, I make it a pick-em fight. The only thing that was really established in this fight was that Joshua can gas, go into unproductive shells in which he repeats himself - and that he can still explode with good power. Klitschko, still young, will always have both a great record in rematches, and a likelihood of having learned more about Joshua than the reverse. But hats off to both.


-mortcola :

Because Fury won the fight by being an annoying, twitchy, far away slapper and those aren't lasting boxing values, on a night on which Klitschko didn't feel like being bothered. Lots of us think Fury is really silly, and his shtick effective because of his size while it would make him not much of a boxer at all if he weren't eleven feet tall. But that's just ten million or so peoples' opinion. Approximately.


-amayseng :

Because Fury won the fight by being an annoying, twitchy, far away slapper and those aren't lasting boxing values, on a night on which Klitschko didn't feel like being bothered. Lots of us think Fury is really silly, and his shtick effective because of his size while it would make him not much of a boxer at all if he weren't eleven feet tall. But that's just ten million or so peoples' opinion. Approximately.
Great fight today, Wlad fought with spirit, he boxed and he fought. His movement looked good overall, a young 41 year old for sure. AJ fought well also, although Wlad fought better more of the fight but with that bursting power anything can happen. I think a rematch is a Pick em as well, both men will learn and apply their knowledge. Wlad has driven me crazy for years with his nonspirited lackluster fights, but in this one he fought like a champion. Even in losing, he comes out a winner , or at least his reputation does.


-brownsugar :

Hey guys, its a Klit-fest, so of course I'm back. I understand the emotional need to have a new heavyweight champ, and Joshua is a pretty good fighter. Despite being 41, there are a couple of small retorts to F-LO that I think matter: - When he was young and brash, and didn't learn that control/survive attack/hold style from Manny yet, Wlad threw lots of combinations. If he is as motivated as he may be to make this a legacy level, statement fight, nothing to lose, then at least you MAY see a WK who throws a bit more freely. - Bottled testosterone works fine - proved that one myself, B-Sug! - The Fury loss means nothing about where Klitschko is at, except that he was annoyed and unwilling to be busy against a guy who looked like he came in the ring looking to swat a million flies while doing the Irish Jig. Wlad appeared as though he would feel undignified going on the attack against that silliness (silliness which won the championship, BTW). Klit is at least in his head prepared to outmaneuver a bread&butter fighter who wins by executing the ordinary with lots of power - I can imagine WK thinking that he no surprises to worry about tonight - only need is to be careful with what is already well-understood - Against Wlad is the fact that Banks has never seemed to be any sort of a motivator as a trainer. But to those of you who have waited a long time for a new heavyweight champ to get excited about, may you have your wish. I'm not invested anymore. I would just like WK to go down remembered as a fighter, and that will have something to do with whether he actually goes for it tonight.
Klitschko has earned an indelible and eternal stamp of approval tonight. A stamp that will position him with the greatests of all time. Though he didnt get the win ....the victory hung in the balance all night. WK put on one of his best performances of his life in the winter of his career and will undoubtedly be a 1st ballet HOF'mer. Much respect and admiration to the 41year old warrior who can hold his head up, stick his chest out and walk tall after he hangs them up.


-brownsugar :

Manuel Stewart is somewhere in heaven blowing a trumpet tonight.