Mookie Alexander recaps Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko, which saw Joshua win a classic over Klitschko by 11th round TKO.
All I wanted out of Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) vs. Wladimir Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) was for the fight to live up to its astronomical hype. It did that and plenty more. Joshua is now the IBF and WBA (and less importantly, IBO) Heavyweight champion after knocking out Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round of one of the greatest heavyweight title fights to occur in decades. I have flat out not been that emotional for any combat sports bout, including countless UFC matchups (McGregor-Diaz II comes to mind), in a long time.
The 27-year-old Joshua went for the kill in the 5th round when he had Wladimir down, but then it looked like he’d spent everything and was hurt in that same round. Then Klitschko floored Joshua for the first time in his pro career with his deadly right hand, and I thought Joshua was not going to make it out of the 6th. Joshua slowly but surely got his legs back under him and was able to work his way back into things. Klitschko wasn’t exhausted or anything like that, but Joshua wasn’t giving him as many openings, and the Brit was tagging him more frequently with the power right hand and the body shots. It was still close on the scorecards so it was all up for grabs in the championship rounds.
Then round 11 happened.
The uppercut that Joshua landed almost took Wladimir’s head off, and I cannot believe he got up from that knockdown. By then, the youth, size, and raw power of Joshua was too much for the 41-year-old legend to handle, and Joshua was able to drop him again and force a referee’s stoppage just under a half-minute before the end of the round.
The atmosphere at Wembley Stadium was electric. Boxing was crying out for a high-profile bout, especially in the heavyweight division, to deliver something special, and you damn well better believe we got a special fight in London, England. And the man who was pegged as the future of heavyweight boxing was able to dig deep and pull off the victory against a man who hadn’t been stopped in 13 years.
More thoughts on tonight’s epic bout:
- HBO is airing the replay at 11 PM ET/PT, so if you didn’t catch it live, catch it then. Showtime aired it live and Mauro Ranallo, Al Bernstein, and Paulie Malignaggi were great on commentary.
- The presentation of the main event and all of the production value was something to behold. It really felt like we were watching something historic. While some may find it over-the-top, it blows every UFC show out of the water, ditto North American boxing cards, and it just felt like something closer to something out of PRIDE than anything else. Europe and Japan definitely kick North America’s ass when it comes to this sort of thing.
- There is a rematch clause in effect. The WBA has made Kubrat Pulev (who is a pretty good fighter) the mandatory challenger for Joshua, but it’s boxing, so you know how things can change. Joshua-Pulev is a fine fight but we know a rematch is much much much bigger for business.
- Joshua was up 96-93, 95-93, 93-95 on the scorecards, so in a different world where Klitschko wins rounds 11-12 with 10-9 margins, we could’ve had a draw. I had it 95-94 Joshua heading into the 11th.
- Anthony Joshua had never been past round 7. It looked for all the world that he was in deep trouble in round 6. What he did tonight against Wladimir Klitschko showed me way more than just the standard steamrolling he’s been so accustomed to in his previous 18 fights. He needed to find a second wind, he needed to rally after it appeared he’d burned himself out, and he showed why he’s boxing’s next superstar. The roar of the crowd when Klitschko was stopped was a moment I’ll never forget.
- What else is next for Joshua down the line? Deontay Wilder is a big fight. So is Tyson Fury if Fury can get his life together (and by recent photos, his weight). The Klitschko rematch is obviously there as I’d previously said. Also keep an eye out for Joseph Parker, an unbeaten New Zealand standout who’s the WBO heavyweight champion. We don’t see his fights much because they’re in New Zealand so the time difference puts him at a disadvantage, but he may also be a future star in this division. Heavyweight is still a comparatively lousy division in terms of talent, but we’re entering a new era now, and Joshua is a must-see fixture in the long term.
- Kudos to the fans for cheering Klitschko in his post-fight interview, which was just as classy as Joshua’s, who heaped lavish praise upon him and raised his arm in the air. Wladimir arguably gained more fans tonight than in some of his less-than-entertaining wins, which is a shame, because he’s a truly great fighter and solid ambassador for the sport. He looked in great shape, kept the clinching to a relative low, and turned in a hell of a performance. The heavyweight torch may have been unofficially passed tonight, but Klitschko fought like hell to keep his grip on it. I don’t know how much longer Wlad will keep fighting, but he has nothing to be ashamed about. Just because he’s not in his prime anymore means that he’s shot and over-the-hill. He showed that he’s still got enough left in the tank.
- Our site traffic on a non-UFC weekend has been phenomenal. Based on the “How to Watch” post and all of our other fight-related content today, Joshua vs. Klitschko is the biggest boxing match we’ve covered since Mayweather-Pacquiao, and close to or bigger than virtually every non-McGregor, non-Rousey, non-UFC 200 pay-per-view we’ve covered in the last 18 months or so. This blew me away. Thanks to everyone for following the site and I hope you enjoy our fight coverage for Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. next week, then we go back on the UFC road for 211 in Dallas.