The late, great sportswriter Dick Young once wrote that the greatest moments in sports are the moments immediately preceding the first bell of a heavyweight championship fight. There haven’t been many moments like that since Young wrote these words, but today we witnessed one of those moments. The goosebumps were palpable as Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko awaited the opening bell at Wembley Stadium. And the great multitude was treated to a fight for the ages.
In the most anticipated fight since Mayweather-Pacquiao and the most anticipated heavyweight fight in a decade, Anthony Joshua dug himself out of a deep hole and stopped Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th frame. Klitschko was down twice in the round and although he made it to his feet on both occasions, referee David Fields was right to call it off.
There were four knockdowns in all. Joshua scored the first, putting Wladimir down in round five with a big left hook. But the 41-year-old Ukrainian veteran came back and had Joshua in trouble before the round was finished.
In the next round, Joshua hit the deck, put there by a right hand from Klitschko that landed flush on the Englishman’s jaw. Joshua weathered the storm, but the next round was all Klitschko and at this point Joshua’s chances looked dim. Round 8 saw Klitschko wobble Joshua with a big right hand, but one could sense that the younger man had more in his tank as the round drew to a close.
After two uneventful rounds, Joshua lowered the boom, decking Klitschko with a brutal uppercut. The second knockdown was an extension of the first.
Raised in a housing project only 10 miles from Wembley Stadium, Anthony Joshua successfully defended his IBF world title and won the vacant WBA “super” world heavyweight title. While Joshua was the defending champion and Klitschko the challenger who was coming off a loss, when Joshua’s hand was raised it yet felt like the coronation of a new champion.
Wladimir Klitschko ruled the heavyweight roost for a decade. Now his run is officially over, but in defeat he cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats.
In the main preliminary bout, Scott Quigg (33-1-2) had a much harder time than expected with Viorel Simion (21-2), a 35-year-old Romanian. Simion came out like gangbusters, but Quigg’s heavier blows eventually took their toll. The bout, conceived as an eliminator for Lee Selby’s IBF world featherweight title, went the full 12 with Quigg, a Lancashire man, prevailing by scores of 117-111 twice and 115-113. Quigg ate a lot of leather, but it was another feather in the cap of his new trainer, Freddie Roach.
Quigg vs. Simion, punctuated by numerous toe-to-toe exchanges, was an entertaining scrap. The same could not be said of the contest between Luke Campbell and Darleys Perez. One of seven former Olympians on the 7-bout card, Campbell improved to 17-1 (14) when Perez (33-3-2) was pulled out in the ninth frame with an injured arm, but Campbell’s performance was lackluster. Regardless, the 2012 gold medalist likely boosted himself into a match with reigning WBA world lightweight champion Jorge Linares who was ringside.
In a lightweight clash slated for 10 rounds, Ireland’s Katie Taylor thoroughly outclassed Germany’s Nina Meinke on route to a seventh round stoppage. There were no knockdowns, but Meinke’s face was lumpy when she left the ring.
The 30-year old Taylor, who improved to 5-0, had a storied amateur career. Hailing from the Irish seaside resort community of Bray, she has been called the top Irish sportsperson of her generation. Her next bout is expected to come against Uruguay’s Cecilia Communales (14-1) who holds the WBA version of the female lightweight title. There’s been talk about staging this bout in the United States in June or July. The gritty Meinke, who absorbed a lot of punishment, declined to 5-1.
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