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Sunday, 30 April 2017 16:40

Joshua vs Klitschko - Much Obliged

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Next month's FA Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, regardless of its participants, will match neither the intensity nor the excitement of Saturday's heavyweight clash between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko.

Throughout the championship contest, some may have been constantly reminding themselves that we were indeed watching heavyweights and not the lower weight classes. The movement, ring savvy and clearly high levels of fitness were on glorious display in a division where some fighters treat their weight and conditioning as an afterthought. Such displays of carelessness is much the reason why the Klitschko brothers dominated the heavyweight ranks for so long. Each man understood that their responsibilities as a champion was a job as well as a privilege.

The fight seemed to have everything but perhaps more to the benefit of boxing fans, the efforts of each combatant brought the best out of the other man. Heavy handed shots, multiple knockdowns and a stoppage that some may find questionable.

Anthony Joshua made Wladimir Klitschko fight, at times for his boxing life. Wlad's success in the heavyweight ranks was often treated by some with unwarranted disdain and with no regard for the idea that he fought the best out there.

What happens when a fighter goes on a long, decorated and unbeaten run? Some among the boxing scribbler crowd feel compelled to write a hypothetical article which places someone like Klitschko or Floyd Mayweather, Jr. in the ring with former greats. There was so much back and forth action in Saturday's heavyweight championship clash that the plodding and calculated ring formula which served Wladimir so well in the past can perhaps be forgiven.

For those of us in the United States who don't have Showtime as part of our channel lineup, an out of the ordinary favor was done a few hours later. When the fight aired in the afternoon across the pond from England, the Showtime network showed the contest live, yet rival HBO provided a rebroadcast the same evening. When was the last time this was done or at least how many times can we count anything like it? More than likely, the Mayweather/Pacquiao borefest from 2015 and 2002's heavyweight showdown between Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson are the only recent examples of such a union.

Thanks are in order for both fighters. Anthony Joshua provided the ghost sightings many had not seen in several years. The late Corrie Sanders practically jumped on Wladimir in 2003 for an easy as well as early knockout win that had many asking whether or not the younger brother of Vitali really had the stones to compete on the big stage. A few years later, he was flattened by Lamon Brewster. Still, he was able to turn his boxing life around, much thanks to the late, great Emanuel Steward.

Is it too early to predict the eventual greatness of Anthony Joshua? Nineteen bouts, nineteen victories and nineteen knockouts. A product of the British hype machine? Not likely. He has some serious talent and he was pushed to his outer limits, as was his Ukrainian opponent. That only took a few years. By contrast, a very long decade passed before we saw the definitive best of Klitschko. Their respective efforts were much like that of Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev last November. Was that the fight of the year? No, but throughout the contest, we saw the best of each competitor and witnessed just how good they were. Joshua and Klitschko gave us much of the same. Moving forward, what's next for the undisputed heavyweight king from Watford? During the post fight, in ring interview, Joshua indicated that he was open to a rematch or possibly to an all English showdown with former champion Tyson Fury. 

Please, actually pretty please, no.

An unbeaten champion from Alabama sits waiting in the wings. If there's no rematch with Klitschko, then a showdown with Deontay Wilder makes perfect sense. Tyson Fury had his chance as well as his time. He essentially squandered it all. Somewhere between drug issues and blatant, piggish Misogyny is the road that Fury chose. The promoters in charge should strongly consider a different option for Joshua that doesn't involve "Love Potion No. 10", which is that of nationalism. Such a prank is being pulled on the sport next weekend. Canelo Alvarez will face Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr., who much like Tyson Fury willingly pushed away the plate of opportunity. That's another argument that can for now find its place somewhere out in the Ether. We'll come back to it in a week or so.

For now, here's to the efforts of two great heavyweight champions, past as well as present. We'd like to see more of it, if that's not too much to ask.