Anthony Joshua says Wladimir Klitschko the “Toughest” opponent of his career

Anthony Joshua surprisingly rates the 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko as the most formidable opponent of his nine-year professional career thus far.

Joshua stopped Wladimir in the 11th round in April 2017 in front of a packed crowd at Wembley Stadium in London, England.

Although Joshua has been soundly beaten twice by Andy Ruiz Jr. and Oleksandr Usyk in the last two years, he still views his fight with Wladimir as more brutal for some reason.

The fight proved to be far more demanding than the 2012 Olympic gold medalist Joshua had envisioned it to be, as he was knocked down hard in the sixth round by Klitschko.

The 6’6″ Joshua was hurt so severely that he was out on his feet from rounds six through ten, and there for the taking if Wladimir had gone for the kill.

“The hardest opponent I have come up against would be Wladimir Klitschko definitely,” Anthony Joshua said to the Oxford Union.

“[It was The passing of the guard,” said Joshua about his fight with the then 38-year-old Wladimir, whose trainer Emanuel Steward had passed away five years earlier. “The young lion vs. the old lion. At the time I fought him, I thought it was definitely too early, but it was his last fight,” said Joshua.

It’s hard to view the Klitschko-Joshua as an actual passing of the guard because Joshua hasn’t been anywhere near the heavyweight that Wladimir was during his career.

Joshua has been flawed from the start, and he didn’t take over the division in the real sense after his win over 41-year-old Wladimir.

“So if I didn’t fight him, then it would have been too late, so it was risk vs. reward, and I thought boxing needed it,” said Joshua about his fight against Klitschko.

“He was experienced and very strong, and it was a tough fight. He was my toughest for sure,” said Joshua.

Despite his brother Vitali Klitschko and trainer Johnathon Banks encouraging Wladimir to finish off the badly hurt Joshua in rounds seven through ten, he wouldn’t do it.

One couldn’t help thinking that if his late trainer Emanuel Steward were still alive at the time, he would have found a way to motivate Wladimir to finish off Joshua.

Had Wladimir beaten Joshua, we likely wouldn’t have seen AJ’s four-year reign as the heavyweight champion. Things would have been different.

Instead, Wladimir chose to box Joshua, thinking he could win a decision despite being on foreign soil in England. That proved to be a massive mistake on Wladimir’s part, as Joshua finally recovered in the 11th round and knocked him out.

It was one of the weirdest fights because Joshua was there for the taking and would have been finished off if Wladimir had shown any kind of offense from the seventh through the tenth, but he wouldn’t do it.