Check out who the Bloody Elbow staff is picking to win Saturday’s Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko superfight.
Over the last few years when we’ve done staff predictions for boxing on Bloody Elbow, the picks are unanimously in favor of one boxer over the other in the main event. This time it’s a tad different, as Tim Burke and Kyle Maclachlan are picking Wladimir Klitschko over Anthony Joshua on Saturday night. If I remember correctly from the Heavy Hands Podcast, Connor Ruebusch thinks Klitschko will win. Everyone else is going with Joshua to defend his IBF heavyweight title and win the vacant WBA strap.
Kyle has the longest breakdown of the fight by far, so if you want a reason to pick Klitschko, hopefully he’s persuaded you.
Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko
Mookie Alexander: There’s a feeling in the back of my mind that says that this fight will be a massive disappointment. Klitschko does Klitschko things while Joshua goes into a conservative gameplan knowing that he’s not fighting the gatekeepers and journeymen of the world. I also see a situation where Klitschko’s jab and his still lethal left hook (which Dillian Whyte used to rock Joshua in the second round in their December 2015 bout) fluster the Brit. Two huge factors here for me is how Joshua uses his slender reach advantage and how he’ll cope with Klitschko’s inevitable clinching. We haven’t seen real signs of him having cardio issues when fights have gone to round 7, but that’s as far as he’s gone in his whole career. You’d theoretically favor Klitschko over a longer, more tactical bout that extends into the final third of the scheduled 12-rounder. Unlike Vitali, Wladimir developed a reputation for being a bit chinny, which last cost him in stunning fashion vs. Lamon Brewster in 2004. His chin isn’t going to magically get better at 41 years old unless he inserted literal granite. Joshua isn’t a notorious one-punch killer. He’s a deadly combination puncher who thrives off of speed, timing, and pressuring guys against the ropes. So many questions yet to be answered, some of those questions may still not be answered after Saturday. This is a tight call (as the odds suggest), but I’m going with Klitschko to get off to a good start before Joshua starts to land more often and steadily break Klitschko down for the finish. Anthony Joshua, KO round 6.
Fraser Coffeen: This is from my full fight breakdown, which I encourage you to check out for more in-depth thoughts: “There are so many X factors here that it is hard to say entirely. Klitschko’s style is typically pretty straightforward – use the jab to keep opponents at bay, hook when they get close, clinch when they get too close. But Fury completely befuddled Klitschko, using a combination of his size and his awkward movement to put Klitschko off his game. Tellingly, once he was off, the long-time champion could never make an adjustment and floundered through the fight. Given that performance and Joshua’s KO streak, AND the old Klitschko KO’s, AND his year plus of inactivity at age 41, it’s easy on paper to pick a quick and decisive Joshua KO. But it can’t be said enough – Joshua has never fought an opponent anywhere close to this level. That’s not to say he can’t win this, but anyone calling it a lock is banking on potential that we have yet to see fully on display. Joshua does not have the movement of Fury, though he does have the size. Surely Klitschko will try to make this ugly – clinch the youngster up, slow him down, avoid the power. I suspect that he succeeds at that for awhile, but that eventually, Joshua lands a big shot and we see that the 41 year old chin of Wladimir Klitschko can’t deal with the 27 year old punch of Anthony Joshua.” Anthony Joshua, KO R5
Phil Mackenzie: Klitschko has far more depth of skill than Joshua, but the question is really whether he’s capable of accessing it. That fight against Fury was absolutely atrocious- not because he lost handily, but because he made almost no effort to change how the fight was going. That’s a terribly damning sign for a champion to have; one which implied that he had sunk into a dull, repetitive rut where no-one could challenge him. Once he found someone who could, the rut was simply too deep for him to leave. In blunt style terms, I think this actually favours Klitschko: Joshua is a clean, straightforward power boxer, very little like the wacky Fury, and Klitschko’s jab and clinch game could pay dividends in wearing him down. I think there’s a very real possibility that Klitschko gives the last great lesson of his boxing career and is just too experienced and crafty for Joshua… but I think if he fails to contain Joshua for a moment the fight will flee away from him. Anthony Joshua by TKO, round 8
Ram Gilboa: Everything Mr. Coffeen & Mr. Mackenzie said, plus this: They never come back. You simply can’t come back to the ring at 41, a year and a half removed from a loss, against an athletic power puncher champ at his physical prime. Not even in heavyweight lalaland. Well, you can do it, but you’ll lose. Wladimir Klitschko is an all-time heavyweight great. He defended titles 19 times – that’s more than Joshua has fights. Only all-time rarely coincides with present day. Larry Holmes is another all-time great, defended the title 20 times, but you won’t pick him to currently beat the 27 year old champ. So this should be the coronation of Anthony Joshua in front of 90,000 followers and converts. Klitschko’s boxing fundamentals, jab, movement, clinch and overall ring savvy – and maybe some Joshua jitters – will keep him a threat for a while; but Joshua will find confidence and range, manage an high volume attack, ending it with a right straight. Anthony Joshua by KO, round 7
Kyle McLachlan: This is a very interesting fight to dissect–and will likely be as interesting to watch–because of the unknown variables attached to each fighter at this stage of their careers.
Let’s first look at Anthony Joshua. I’ve followed his career since his admirable performance earned him a silver medal (and should’ve arguably got him a gold) at the world championships, and was such a fan of his as an amateur that I didn’t even care that they robbed Roberto Cammarelle of a gold medal to gift it to the big lad from Watford. As a professional he’s been a destructive force: decent enough fundamentals that compliment his hulking frame, and having dispatched all of his opponents so far as expected he is riding the crest of a wave of hype I don’t think I’ve seen on British shores since the Ricky Hatton days.
But there are some issues with Joshua. Battered and stopped in the amateurs is something you can tend to put against any future world champ, but getting hit by one punch by Dillian Whyte–a top notch sparring partner then untested as a pro–had my spider senses buzzing somewhat.
But it’s the heavyweights. Anyone can hurt anyone, right?
100% correct. Going up against arguably the hardest puncher in the division’s history though, the concerns have to be greater.
So on to Wladimir Klitschko. The wrong side of 40, inactive for nearly 2 years and having looked poor in his last 3 outings, the biggest concern on the Ukrainian’s side is whether he has anything left.
Stunned by a jab from the talented Kubrat Pulev, plodding and seemingly out of ideas against Bryant Jennings, and completely befuddled and out boxed by Tyson Fury, you could easily argue that Wladimir has been a shot fighter for the best part of 3 years.
Here is where the real analysis begins: Pulev was relatively cute and buzzed Wladimir early with a jab. Wlad bombed him out, just as Lennox Lewis used to when threatened by strong opposition. Jennings was cute and defensive and used his lack of size to keep Wlad on the move rather than allowing the champ to get his range. And Fury’s size, speed and awkwardness also stopped Wlad getting the measure of his man.
So is Wlad completely shot? Or can he regain at least some of what he summoned against Pulev to overcome adversity yet again?
Against Joshua he has a far more predictable opponent. A harder puncher than he has faced in many years–and argument could be made that he’s the hardest puncher Wlad has ever faced–but also an inexperienced opponent who has yet to face a top level heavyweight himself.
My bet is that A.J hurts Wlad early. Whether Wlad can get his legs back under him will determine whether or not he has a shot at winning. The biggest knock on Wlad is that he is a fighter bound by timidness. In fact, he is a pure gunslinger, one that used his superior intelligence–and the late, great Manny Steward’s expertise–to become a more cerebral fighter, and one that matched his physical traits more closely.
But poke the bear and he will swipe you. And that’s what I see happening here. Joshua hurting Wlad early, and that rawness showing through: the reaching and over extending on punches, the body coming over the hips, the right hand shooting out and down, and Joshua finding himself in no man’s land.
This will be no Klitschko bore fest. This is a crossroads fight where one fighter lacks the ability to stay away, and the older fighter lacks the legs to keep away. They will meet in the middle–by necessity rather than design–and it will be Wladimir Klitschko’s devastating left hook that ends the fight. Wladimir Klitschko, KO2
Staff picking Joshua: Fraser, Phil, Ram, Stephie, Iain, Mookie
Staff picking Klitschko: Kyle, Tim