On the surface, Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko — which will be contested for the WBA, IBF, and IBO titles in front of a record-breaking 90,000 rabid fans at London’s Wembley Stadium — has a straightforward narrative arc: the classic passing of the torch where an aging former champion finally flies too close to the sun and is both literally and symbolically defeated by the standard-bearer of a new era. Upon closer examination, however, Joshua vs Klitschko is a fascinating fight with plenty of variables at play that make it difficult to predict with genuine confidence. By the time the bell rings, the 41-year-old Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) will be facing live competition for the fist time in a year and a half, and yet he clearly represents the most experienced and dangerous foe Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) has faced.
Joshua’s pedigree, natural gifts, and meteoric rise as a pro lead many to believe that he’ll bludgeon a past-his-prime Klitschko, and memories of Wladimir’s dud again Tyson Fury do indeed linger. But does such an assumption fail to take Klitschko’s championship credentials, punching power, and ring IQ into appropriate consideration — not to mention Joshua’s weak level of opposition and relative inexperience? With that, here are The Fight City picks for Joshua vs Klitschko.
Klitschko seems more focused and determined than when he faced Fury. This could be his last shot at remaining relevant. Joshua’s looking bigger than ever, but I think this fight comes down to who can impose their will. My pick is Joshua, not only because he is the younger, fresher fighter, but also because I believe that Joshua winning is better for the heavyweight division and the business of boxing. We need Joshua to win. And I think he will. — Manny Montreal
Finally, a heavyweight bout worth giving a damn about. After Tyson Fury fumbled the crown he took from Wladimir Klitschko a year and a half ago, it is now Anthony Joshua’s turn to try and put an end to the Klitschko era. It might be in boxing’s interest that he does. His youth and power — coupled with Klitschko’s inactivity and advanced age — might just be enough to make it happen. Joshua by clear decision. — Rafael Garcia
Go back to the Fury fight and you can see that Klitschko does not look comfortable fighting bigger guys who are somewhat mobile. Fury didn’t seem to want to go for broke with big shots, but Joshua is not afraid to do that. Expect Joshua to take some time to get used to Klitschko’s range and then test Wladimir’s chin. Joshua KO 5. — Christopher Connor
When this fight was announced, I doused the flames of hype and dismissed Wladimir’s chances. “Come April 29 he’ll have been inactive for nearly a year and a half. He’s 41. He looked terrible in his last outing, gun-shy and old, with lousy timing. Joshua is the young lion; he’ll flatten a rusty, unconfident Klitschko in a few rounds.”
Now I’m not so sure. The closer it gets, I’ve started to think that Joshua’s preparations, in terms of who he’s fought, could hardly be less adequate. AJ really hasn’t mixed it up with a top-level heavyweight. He looks the part, but he hasn’t needed to show any kind of nous or savvy — just brute power and a bit of toughness (against Whyte). What happens if Klitschko upsets Joshua’s rhythm with a few stiff left jabs? Cracks him with a right cross? Grabs hold of him and stifles his work on the inside? There’s a chance Joshua could look very ordinary, his assets nullified by the veteran who’s forgotten more than Anthony knows.
Or, as per my initial prediction, a switched-on Joshua uses his hammer fists to send an ageing ex-champ spinning into retirement. It’s tough to call. I’m going to go with age and experience and the suspicion that Klitschko has a big performance left in the tank, and that AJ’s trail of destruction has been as much due to subpar opposition as his own fistic primacy. Wlad on points. — Ronnie McCluskey
I think Joshua is too quick and athletic for Wlad, who is past his prime. I don’t think the Fury fight was an aberration; rather, it’s evidence that Wlad is at the end of his career and is unable to pull the trigger like he used to. The young, hungry lion violently seizes control of the heavyweight kingdom in this one. Joshua by KO. — Jamie Rebner
I believe the psychological advantage that Klitschko holds is the key to this, providing he survives the early rounds. Klitschko is relishing his underdog status and seems to be the first ever Anthony Joshua opponent who actually believes he can win — genuinely believes it. This is what a dominant decade at the top and a record of 64 wins out of 68 fights fosters. Real, dangerous belief. I just think this kind of challenge is too much and too soon for Joshua, who will gas out and be stopped by Kiltschko. British heavyweights usually have one crushing shock defeat in them, especially those who have been absurdly hyped. Klitschko by TKO in nine. — Gary Elbert
Bear with me for a moment. I may not be a Wladimir Klitschko fan, but there are some things here worth telling. For starters, Klitschko has always positioned himself, in public at least, as a gentleman. Imagine that – a gentleman sportsman in the 21st century. Why should this be mentioned in a boxing publication, you ask? Because, friends, Klitschko was bested by a swaggering bully who turned out to be a coked-out party boy. That may seem like a damning statement to make against Tyson Fury, who I actually like, but the truth is the truth. And it must drive poor Wlad crazy.
That’s why I’m picking Klitschko to win this weekend. Because he’s motivated. Because every fibre of his being is screaming out that he has to vindicate himself in the eyes of the public, that he must prove to everyone – himself, especially — that gentlemen can ultimately walk away as winners. If Joshua wants this thing, he’d better go in for the kill early, before Klitschko can establish himself. Even that may not be enough to do it, though. Wladimir Klitschko, gentleman warrior, is a man on a mission. Joshua will have a full and great career ahead of him, but this will be a story of personalities rather than skill-sets. And Klitschko’s personality won’t be denied this Saturday in England. This will be a story of character rather than skills. And Klitschko’s determination and strength of character won’t be denied against Joshua. Klitschko by UD. — Sean Crose
Perhaps those picking Joshua based on how badly Klitschko performed against Tyson Fury are overlooking the significance of “The Furious One’s” lateral footwork, which, along with his sneaky ‘up’ jab thrown from below the waist, clever use of feints, evasive upper body movement, and switch-hitting, completely bamboozled Klitschko and rendered the former champion’s dangerous right hand and jab-and-grab tactics ineffective. In contrast to Fury’s highly mobile and unpredictable approach, Joshua is more of a formulaic stalker, linear rather than lateral with his movement, and there to be hit. So while Joshua’s physical attributes are, in some ways, similar to Fury’s, and even more impressive in others, his style could prove less effective than Fury’s did against Klitschko.
Joshua’s ramrod jab, varied combinations to head and body, and understated counter-punching are potential match winners. As are Wladimir’s formidable left lead, crafty left hook which he snakes around the opponent’s extended right glove after luring it forward with a jab feint, and laser-guided right hand coming behind the jab. I’d be surprised if the fight didn’t end in a knockout. “AJ” is very heavy-handed, and he is a clinical finisher, but the longer the fight goes, the more likely it is that Joshua, who has never gone beyond the seventh, will tire and get frustrated. And this could potentially lead to the more experienced, and possibly harder-hitting, “Dr. Steelhammer” administering a knockout dose in the later rounds.
Nevertheless, my gut feeling is that due to age and inactivity, Wladimir will need time to shake off some ring rust and settle into the fight, and as a result, he will be especially vulnerable to Joshua’s speedy and explosive attacks early on. Joshua KO 4. — Lee Wylie
Wlad is finished and the Klitschko era is about to come to an emphatic and violent end. The first few rounds will be slow and largely uneventful, but eventually Joshua will open up, and when he does, he will be shocked to find that his elder has almost nothing to offer besides his usual octopus routine. An ugly battering will follow before the referee finally saves the Ukrainian veteran from further punishment in round six. — Robert Portis
The hype for this fight has undoubtedly reached epic proportions in the United Kingdom and on paper it’s easy to see why, but I fear the bout itself will fall well short of spectacular. This fight elicits thoughts of so many matches of yesteryear, the faded champion coming back for one last shot against the young lion. Much like the results of fights like Joe Louis vs Ezzard Charles and Jack Johnson vs Jim Jeffries, the result will see youth overcome experience. Wladimir Klitschko has been a great champion, but at 41 years of age and with his recent poor performances I can’t see him getting the better of Anthony Joshua. Expect a tentative affair with Joshua pushing the pace of the fight en route to a points decision victory. — Daniel Attias
While it’s unfair to completely dismiss Wladimir Klitschko after his uninspiring performance in an upset loss to Tyson Fury, my gut feeling about Joshua-Klitschko from the moment it was announced has been Joshua by explosive and relatively early knockout. Klitschko is returning after a significant layoff, and while Fury certainly befuddled him with lateral movement and feints, Klitschko also proved utterly incapable of pulling the trigger when there were hardly any meaningful fusillades coming his way. This is has to be viewed as a major concern against Joshua, who despite being a more stationary target than Fury is an accurate and devastating power puncher with a clear speed edge in this match-up. If Klitschko hesitates early, he’s in serious danger of getting iced. Don’t discount Wlad’s virtually unmatched experience, technical precision and punching prowess, but this fight seems to be a case of bad timing for the former heavyweight kingpin. Expect this to be Joshua’s true coming out party. AJ by knockout inside of seven rounds. — Zachary Alapi
This is a hard fight to call because any number of scenarios could play out: Klitschko holds onto Joshua for 12 tedious rounds and AJ wins by boring decision; Joshua blows a fragile Wladimir out in six rounds; Wladimir surprises everyone by boxing smartly to beat AJ by decision; or, most spectacularly, Wladimir lands a thunderous power shot that shuts AJ’s lights off. I don’t have a clear sense of which of these is most likely, but I’m more confident that Joshua will bring a better version of himself than Wlad. AJ by stoppage in seven. — Eliott McCormick
With the power, youth and momentum that Joshua has, it would be no surprise at all to see him knock Klitschko out. We have, after all, already seen Klitschko stopped a few times. But that was a long, long time ago, and we’ve also seen many punchers fail to repeat the trick in the years since. At 41 and with nearly a year and a half out of the ring, it’s impossible to know exactly how sharp the old champ’s skills will be, but if he’s anywhere near his old self, I think he probably has the style and experience to out-box AJ. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m going with Klitschko on points. — Matt O’Brien
This is such an intriguing match-up because it could go two very different ways. The experienced and wily veteran Klitschko, coming off a disastrous performance against Tyson Fury, rebounds to show enough of his former ring prowess to pull out a win. The other side of the coin features a young and improving Joshua, who has flashed his power during his young career, being too much for the past-his-prime Klitschko. My belief is that Klitschko is on the decline and won’t be able to pull the trigger on his punches. Joshua will score an ugly decision win over the former champion. — Thad Moore
There are questions that need answering in this fight. The worst thing that could happen is that few or none get answered. Is Klitschko still with it enough to keep fighting? Can Joshua absorb a strong punch and keep going? Is Joshua ready to take on the rest of the division? There’s a good chance the fight winds up being a nasty collision-fest, filled with clinches and physical tussling, but I’m counting on Joshua proving to be too young, too strong, and too willing to engage for Klitschko. Joshua by TKO in four. — Patrick Connor
My pick for this weekend’s heavyweight title fight? Joshua. Reasons? Common sense tells me the gulf in experience should prove problematic for Joshua and could potentially be insurmountable, but I can’t shake the feeling that from a business perspective, Hearn wouldn’t have risked his heavyweight gravy train without being confident of the outcome. The deciding factors for me are Klitschko’s age and inactivity, and whether or not he’s still able to “pull the trigger”. But what if Wlad’s found the fountain of youth and enters the ring a rejuvenated force? How will Joshua deal with an opponent who’s equally athletic and powerful? Joshua’s looked great knocking-over punching bags, so he could be in for a rude awakening come Saturday night. However, I suspect Wlad’s age and inactivity will be deciding factors, and I think we’ll see Joshua win and look good doing so. He’ll start fast, surprise Wlad with speed and aggression, and then stop him, ending Wlad’s career with a nice pension pay-out in what will be touted as a “passing of the torch” moment. — Damien Burton
I hope I’m wrong, but I foresee a contest which fails to redeem all the hype and the huge crowd, one that is a boring, tedious, clinch-filled affair. Klitschko is still big and strong enough to wrestle with his younger foe and smother his offense. Joshua will win, but on points after 12 dreary and monotonous rounds. — Michael Carbert
Joshua vs Klitschko final tally: Anthony Joshua: 13 / Wladimir Klitschko: 4