By Asif ‘Doc’ Mahmood
On November 2015, when the unconventional but exceptional boxing skills of Tyson Fury dethroned long time lineal and unified heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, it supposedly opened up the division and made it interesting again. As a result 2016 pledged to be an exciting year for heavyweight boxing with the eagerly awaited rematch between Fury and Wladimir along with Deontay Wilder’s date with destiny against Alexander Povetkin. Sadly we got neither. The latter due to Povetkin controversial drug tests and Tyson Fury’s cowardly route to avoiding Wladimir through self-inflicted drug use and playing the victim card soon after.
The most exciting fight of the year thus far was the hate-filled war between Chisora and Whyte with the latter edging a close decision where the veteran Chisora gained a lot of respect. I don’t think anyone would argue against seeing a rematch. However, both fighters in reality are short of world level in my opinion and Whyte will likely get stopped by a more skilful boxer.
The biggest heavyweight news of 2016 was ultimately the announcement of the rising star in world boxing, Anthony Joshua, against future hall-of-famer Wladimir Klitschko. The fight will be a sell out at Wembley stadium and likely smash UK box office records in terms of buys in addition to gate revenue. It certainly puts into perspective Joshua’s pulling power given that the Fury vs. Wladimir rematch only sold around 11,000 before Fury bottled it.
The fight between the two former Olympic gold medallists will take place on the 29th of April when Klitschko will be 41 years old. In addition to his growing age, he will be 16th months out of the ring and 24 months since his last win (over the then undefeated Bryant Jennings). In his last victory Wladimir showed signs of ageing, with a reluctance to throw punches.
This fight has got fight fans talking which is great for the sport. There are many theories and opinions with regards to who is the favourite, how the fight will pan out, is AJ still green or is Wladimir too old now (despite being a great physical specimen)?
In this piece I will be devil’s advocate and have a look at the pros of cons of both fighters but I will be making a case why Wladimir can win this and should not be overlooked for many reasons.
One of the obvious disadvantages is the age of Klitschko and it doesn’t take a genius to know that the body declines if anything a few years before. We rarely see footballers, cricketers and rugby players in their 40s. Even golfers and snooker players decline at this stage of their careers too. So it’s not just a physical decline but a mental decline whereby the thought process and concentration levels are not as sharp.
In Klitschko’s defence about his age one can make a case he lives an athlete’s lifestyle and keeps himself in excellent shape. Over the years he has proven to be a prime example in living the life one would expect of a dominant champion, which cannot be seen in other boxers at a similar age like Tony Thompson and even those younger such as Chisora, Arreola, Sam Peter, etc. These fighters have ballooned up in weight between fights and the results has been shown in lacklustre performances. One boxer who Wladimir could be compared to is his iron chinned brother Vitali Klitschko whom at the age of 40 was still in excellent condition to defeat Chisora, Charr and stop Adamek whom at the time was top a five heavyweight based on performances.
Cringe-fest: The two fighters announce their fight after Molina gets blown away
The next obvious thing people have been tweeting about is the fact that Wladimir will have been 16 months out of the ring by the time the fight comes round and that ring rust will play a factor. In theory yes this is also true but once again Klitschko goes against the exception. Vitali was out for FOUR years before returning to crush WBC champion Sam Peter (who came off a crushing victory over Maskaev) and showed no ring rust. Bear in mind he was returning at the age of 38 and not like Floyd Mayweather who was in his early 30s each time he returned from his hiatus and dominated world class opponents. Wladimir has also been in two intense camps where he looked sharp and powerful in preparation for putting Fury on his arse, so I don’t see any problem with his conditioning.
The next thing is, which itself may not be a big factor but amplified by the previous two discussion, he is coming off a loss where he looked poor against Tyson Fury. Now coming off a loss of that magnitude is significant but many boxers like Froch (vs. ward) have thrown themselves in at the deep end after a loss after being deemed damaged goods and recorded sensational victories (Bute).
With all this in mind there are many reasons why Wladimir can win, without pointing the finger at his opponent. Wladimir is known for his excellent jab which he has used to control fights and a lot of the previous great heavyweights prolonged their career with use of their jab. He is very good at staying out of range and utilising with what is in my opinion his biggest weapon. Next, his power, where he has one punch knockout power in both hands as seen with Pulev and Calvin Brock as examples. His power has unlikely diminished in any way given the way he looks and no one would argue against this.
This brings me on to his speed which includes both hand and foot speed. I will be the first to admit his hand speed has shown decline especially when I observed him in the build up to the Tyson Fury fight. Yes he looked quicker in training in preparation for his rematch but that is not significant anymore. It is fair to say his jab will be quicker than the super slow motion effect shown by Joshua’s previous opponents, especially Breazeale.
I think Wladimir has great footspeed, not just for a heavyweight into his forties but for any heavyweight.
Using his last fight as a benchmark, people forget despite his miserable offensive work that day (due to Tyson Fury’s excellent feints, head movement and even superior footwork) his own foot speed was decent. He was not easy to hit or pin down even against shorter nippier opponents such as David Haye and Alexander Povetkin. Wladimir uses his foot speed for defensive rather than offensive purposes, using his right foot to back out of range after jabbing or pressing into the opponent for the effective clinch. Yes he has been punched in the face by everyone over the last 10 years (with the exception of Mormeck) but has never really been troubled or rocked which is to his credit.
Finally, the last time a heavyweight fight had this feel to it was Klitschko vs. Haye where the latter was seen by the British public as the saviour of the heavyweight division but stank out the joint in Hamburg which didn’t help the many Brits who were already soaking in the rain.
Now let’s move on to why Wladimir can win the fight by pointing the finger in Joshua’s direction. All boxers have weaknesses and strengths but focusing on the former here is what would play to Wladimir’s advantage.
I’m not too fussed about Joshua’s lack of experience as he has destroyed whatever has been put in front of him and Tyson Fury also had a lack of quality opponents going into a fight of identical stature. Fury did however overcome adversity in knockdowns to Pajkic and Cunningham before getting off the canvas to stop them in emphatic fashion. This caused Fury to change his style to a back foot approach with effective jabbing, stinking the joint out but doing the job in hand.
There have been questions about Joshua’s chin and response to being punched hard on the face. We know about the sparring rumours which are now factual that Price dropped him hard. He was also recently dropped by a GB amateur boxer in sparring prior to the Molina fight announcement (which was the reason David Price was removed from the forefront). Like many boxers, when caught, Joshua’s legs turn very stiff and appear to be stuck in concrete. When his chin was checked by Whyte for the remainder of the round he was swinging wildly, almost causing himself to fall forward as his shoes were glued to the canvas and he shuffled his way back to his stool after the bell rang.
Joshua is a front-foot fighter but has changed his game after the Whyte fight where he now uses his jab more and keeps his range. However coming forward or going toe-to-toe will only play into Wladimir’s hands as he pops his jab and if he has the courage will let his right hand shoot down the middle instead of having to chase his opponent in the ring. Wladimir has been in many fights where he has had to chase the opponent like Rocky Balboa chases chickens, leading to anticlimactic fights. Examples of which include: Ibragimov, Chambers, Haye and Fury.
Joshua hasn’t really faced anyone who has tried to walk him down and I doubt the cautious Klitschko will either. It will be like cat and mouse out there for the first couple of rounds which is where both fighters will try to set the theme of the fight. Wladimir will clinch and use his strength to frustrate Joshua who will struggle as the fight goes the distance in my opinion. Joshua has to try and end this fight inside six rounds is the common theme fans are echoing about this match-up. Klitschko has good stamina as seen against Jennings, Povetkin and Wach but I must admit he looked tired versus Tyson Fury and I think his age is the reason for this.
The stage is set for both fighters. In Joshua’s case, the prodigal son, a sports personality and already a boxing icon stepping up in the biggest stage in boxing in front of 80,000 proud British fans. In Wladimir’s case, a legend bidding to overcome adversity, to overcome the dimension of time, to overcome the cauldron of boos he will experience on April 29 and to overcome the so-called Hype that surrounded the David Haye fight (if not more).
As we end I’m sure people would want a prediction from me which is tough as I have openly been a Klitschko supporter over the years. I was confident over all his opponents except against Tyson Fury. I feel Joshua is an easier fight for Wladimir but at the same time Joshua is a more dangerous fight than Tyson Fury (in terms of being knocked out). I think the fight will be over inside 5 rounds and that is where I will sit on the fence……#warwlad
Follow the Doc on Twitter @Doc_Asif
Photo Credits: Mirror.co.uk and Sky Sports
By Yousuf Ali
It was recently announced that WBC International featherweight champion Josh Warrington will sign for Frank Warren’s Queensbury Promotions. The relationship between Josh and Matchroom Boxing seemed to be extremely beneficial in respect to both parties, with Warrington steadily moving up the WBC rankings as well as gaining great exposure; additionally Eddie Hearn was frequently selling out arenas producing a “great atmosphere”. Therefore such a decision came as a shock to the British boxing scene. However, how much will this decision affect Warrington, Matchroom and Queensbury?
There have been a number of reasons put forward by Hearn, Steve Wood and Frank Warren in regard to why Warrington decided to leave Matchroom, irrespective of them there will be undoubted disadvantages in leaving Europe’s biggest promoter. It is evident that the Matchroom and Sky brand is important in not only obtaining invaluable exposure but also in driving ticket sales, illustrated by the Leeds arena being frequently sold out. In comparison Warren has shown an inability to sell out an arena, of substantial size, since Saunders vs Eubank, there will be an inevitable drop in ticket sales with Warren promoting the show. Additionally by moving over to Boxnation, Warrington will lose the backing of Sky sports that are pivotal in the success of Hearn’s promotions, as reflected in viewing figures, purses and ticket sales. Although some may argue that Warren’s recent move to BT Sport will provide an equal alternative to Sky sports, the lack of boxing experience from BT and no a channel like Sky sports news means that such a move is littered with risk. Therefore it is evident that there a great deal of advantages in staying with Matchroom, although it is naïve to state that it is the only option as there are some limiting factors in being promoted by Hearn.
It is clear that the opponents Warrington was facing were lacking in excitement and skill; with Joel Brunker and Patrick Hyland being obvious examples. There is a tendency for Hearn to fail in bringing over world class opponents that test his fighters before they challenge for world titles, Stephen Smith being the current apparent example. Despite Hearn failing to bring over world class opponents that would really test Warrington and create excitement, he did offer Warrington a shot at Lee Selby. Warrington, Steve Wood and Warrington’s father ought to take a great deal of blame for turning this fight down; after calling out Selby for over a year they bottled it when Hearn offered them the fight in July, absolutely disgraceful (rant over). Consequently sympathy ought to be given to Hearn who has offered Warrington’s team the Selby fight; perhaps this was the start of the deterioration of Hearn and Warrington’s team relationship.
On the other hand Warren has a great opportunity to build boxing in Yorkshire and use Warrington as headliner in order to build his fighters, such as Tyrone Nurse, on the undercard. It is accurate to state that Leeds may be the most likely place for Warren to finally sell a reasonable amount of tickets and coupled with the partnership with BT sport, may result in greater revenue being generated in turn leading to some big name opponents travelling to the UK to face the Leeds warrior. Warrington is also inline for a WBC final eliminator against Joseph Diaz, which would be the perfect fight to both test Warrington and move him in the right direction in terms of fulfilling his ambitions to become a world champion. One hopes that Warren will be able to put on some big shows in Leeds, where Josh Warrington is able to fully test his abilities and perhaps even become world champion.
Follow Yousuf @boxingubanter
You may also enjoy this article by Steven Donnell —> Alexander Povetkin’s Russian freak show
Photo Credits: Sky Sports & Matchroom Sports
By Shay Sillitoe
I am going to begin my first piece on the name that is upon the lips of every boxing fan and professional alike – Anthony Joshua. The man is an absolute animal, punishing every opponent that dare step in the ring with him. Boasting an impressive 18 fights, 18 wins and 18 knockouts record he is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the most feared fighters not only in Britain, but the world.
After a comfortable and professional win over a frightened looking Eric Molina last night, promoter Eddie Hearn announced the super fight all Joshua fans are asking for – a bout with former world champion Wladimir Klitschko. I firmly believe that if Anthony Joshua can win this fight on April 29, he could beat anyone. This will certainly be his most difficult fight to date and will prove a huge test for Joshua, having never gone further than the seventh round, this will not only be a test of strength but also the stamina that Joshua has.
This is going to be a massive step up for Joshua. He has boxed fighters that haven’t really been household names but he has done it professionally and comfortably. His biggest stumbling block came against Dillian Whyte who shook Joshua in the second round with a good combination, something Joshua hadn’t experianced in his professional career. However, Joshua did knock out Whyte in the seventh round and proved once again how much of a professional he is and despite many critics and professionals saying he may not have the stamina to get to the late rounds, he did and he did it very well indeed.
Last night was a completely different fight to the bout against Whyte. Joshua was boxing a very, very negative Eric Molina. He expressed in the post-fight interview that it was difficult to fight a negative boxer as they do not create many opportunities, so you have to create them yourself. This just shows that Joshua is a very intelligent fighter, that may not have the experience of a Klitschko or Haye, but has the knowledge of what to do when coming face to face with different types of boxers. Joshua will probably find that, especially when climbing to the top, he will very rarely come across another opponent like Molina, who was almost flinching at every punch Joshua threw. But it is great experience for him and it will add to the vast fighting knowledge he already has.
So does Anthony Joshua hold the credentials to become the greatest? Could we have another Muhammad Ali amongst us? I believe we do. He is fast, he is accurate, he holds an incredibly hard punch and above all, he is very intelligent, which is an important trait in a future boxing legend.
Other articles you might enjoy: Was David Haye right to verbally assault Eddie Hearn?
By Dean Henwood
Hayemaker made friends with Hearn verbal assault but was the rant justified?
After nearly four and half years since his last big fight, the Haymaker David Haye looked to have that hunger and desire back and it was great to see. But after Tony “Bomber” Bellew finished having his say, what was to come from Haye came as a bit of a shock to say the least. Instead of firing straight back at Bellew he decided to quickly interrupt Eddie Hearn’s introduction of him and go straight on the attack at none other than the Matchroom promoter himself.
Claiming that whilst he has been away from big fights he has sat back and noticed that it’s become the Eddie Hearn show and this will give him the chance to shut his mouth. Does he have a point? Or is this a bit of jealousy kicking in? Over the last three or four years British boxing has risen and a big part of that is down to Sky and the Matchroom stable. But as Haye pointed out, Eddie Hearn does seem to love the limelight. If it’s on a YouTube video, Twitter, walking his fighters to the ring, sharing their interviews or even announcing and asking questions at the press conferences – even when head of Sky Sports boxing Adam Smith is sat right next to him!
Haye claims that Eddie is not letting his boxers become the stars that they deserve to be as he is always there poking his head in front of the camera. What we can say is that Hearn is a top promoter and has helped provide a platform for his fighters, delivering title shots for many of his stable, but other than Anthony Joshua, there are not many of his fighters who have become world stars. If you take Kell Brook for example, a super-talented boxer who came through the hard way and finally got his shot and won the IBF Welterweight title beating Shaun Porter in the US. Now you would of thought this would have made Brook into a big star and open all sorts of doors especially in the States. But since winning that title Brook has gone on to fight low level opponents such as Jo Jo Dan, Frankie Gavin and Kevin Bizier. Yes GGG was a huge fight but it was also a huge mismatch.
In a weight division that has big names such as Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, Timothy Bradley, Jessie Vargas, Amir Khan and even Manny Pacquiao coming back into the mix, Brook has not fought any of these names, yet Porter has fought Thurman and had a big fight with Adrien Broner. Thurman is now fighting Garcia while Vargas just had a big fight with the Pacman.
So yes, Hearn is delivering, but is he delivering big and is he allowing his fighters to become mega stars?
Two fighters who are big names globally are David Haye himself and Amir Khan, who is huge in America, and they are not with Matchroom.
So is the Haymaker right? I’ll leave it with you.
Photo Credit: Mirror.co.uk