Saturday’s Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko fight is primed to be a historic fight for the ages. Here’s why.
There’s always a desire to see the moment you are living in as “historic.” We all want to be the stars of our own narrative, so we shape the world around us in such a way that this, THIS right here in front of us is history. And so the word historic gets thrown around too often.
Saturday’s boxing match is historic.
Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko has become the biggest Heavyweight boxing fight in many years. Ever since the Tyson/Holyfield/Lewis era ended, Heavyweight boxing has been dominated by the predominantly Eastern European physical specimens – no better epitomized than by the Klitschko brothers. They were dominant, but frankly, they made the division kind of boring. Boxing fan Louis CK summed it up best by saying a Klitschko Heavyweight fight was like trying to watch someone punch down a tree.
But now, the tree has fallen. Vitali has retired, Wladimir has lost, and we find ourselves here – realistically the last chance for a Klitschko to reclaim the throne as Heavyweight king. And standing in his way is the kind of fighter Heavyweight boxing thrives on.
Exciting. Technically skilled. Young. And, most importantly, a dominant KO machine who has scored 18 KOs in 18 fights, and has only twice been taken past the third round. Anthony Joshua has drawn comparisons to Mike Tyson, and while it’s not entirely accurate, you certainly can see why the names get mentioned together. Like Tyson, Joshua is here to breath life into a sagging division. When Tyson came in, the division remained in a post-Ali limbo, waiting for that dynamic figure to arrive. This is the same position Joshua finds himself in today.
If all goes according to plan for Joshua, this will be one of those true passing of the torch fights – where the old guard is definitively knocked aside by the new generation. Think of Tyson coaxing Larry Holmes out of retirement, only to smash him to pieces. Or, if you are feeling particularly generous, think of another Olympian turned undefeated pro – the young Cassius Clay bringing his 19-0 record into the ring to challenge, and defeat, world champion Sonny Liston.
Of course, there’s a problem with those comparisons. By the time Ali and Tyson took those fights, they had been tested in a way Joshua has not. His fans will tell you he is indeed the next Heavyweight great whose name will ultimately stand alongside those kinds of legendary names. But while he’s shown very strong in-ring skills, especially for someone with less than 4 years experience, we have not yet seen him defeat anyone like Wladimir Klitschko.
And that brings us to the conundrum of this fight – yes, it is entirely possible this fight ends with a Joshua KO win. If that happens, it could signify officially the end of the Klitschko era in a way the ugly Fury fight did not quite manage. It could bring Heavyweight roaring back to life, setting up fights like Joshua vs. Deontay Wilder, Joseph Parker, Luis Ortiz, and, if he gets it together enough to make a return happen, lineal champion Tyson Fury. Heavyweight could be king once again.
OR… we could learn that Joshua is Icarus, flying too close to the sun. That the veteran Klitschko is simply too much for him, and that the man called Dr. Steelhammer will do what he has done so many times before – send a young, hungry challenger packing. If that happens, then the reign of Klitschko goes on. For a bit longer at least – at 41 his time is ticking regardless of Saturday’s outcome. But more troubling is it shatters the mystique of Joshua as this future great. Sure, he could (and likely will) still end up as a big player in the division for some time, but a loss here will never fully be forgotten, no matter what comes next.
Regardless of the outcome, one thing is certain – the world will be watching. The show is expected to draw a crowd of 90,000 to Wembley Stadium on Saturday. That beats the post-war UK attendance record set by Carl Froch vs. George Groves of 80,000. For perspective, it also destroys the UFC record of 56,000 for UFC 193 and tops the overall MMA record of 71,000 for Pride Shockwave (though some put that number closer to 90,000). It will not set an overall boxing attendance record, as that honor goes to Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Greg Haugen from 1993 with an attendance of 132,274, but it will undeniably be one of the most attended fight in history (there are some outdoor shows in Russia that claim higher numbers, but they were parts of festivals, and also not verified).
So, a record numbers of fans, and a possible outcome that shapes the future of the sport.
History will be made.
Join Bloody Elbow this Saturday for live fight coverage of Joshua vs. Klitschko at 4:15 pm. ET airing on Showtime.