Fight fans the world over experienced a truly special night at Wembley on April 29 of this year. There have been some great fights this year, a number of them Fight of The Year candidates – Srisaket Sor Rungvisai-Roman Gonzalez, fight-one, Badou Jack-James DeGale and Gennady Golovkin-Canelo Alvarez being real highlights from 2017 – but the heavyweight rumble has to be the pick for FOTY.
But although there was no shortage of fan interest ahead of the two-belt showdown, some people did worry the fight might prove to be a dull affair. Klitschko, in the past, had given us some less than thrilling affairs, and some fans were concerned the hype would not be matched by the actual action once the 41 year old former champ got in the ring with new star AJ. No way were such worries necessary.
In showing how childish trash-talk and the trading of insults is not in any way needed to produce a smashing fight full of venomous punching, trading and knockdowns, Joshua and Klitschko gave us not only 2017’s FOTY, but also the best world heavyweight title fight since Lennox Lewis went to war against Wladimir’s brother, Vitali.
That rumble from 2003 lacked a conclusive ending, but April’s fight left no doubt. Joshua, with his back from the brink victory, became The man atop the heavyweight division. Overcoming a hurtful knockdown, serious fatigue and incredible pressure, Joshua roared back to bludgeoned Klitschko to eleventh-round defeat. For his part, Klitschko showed class in defeat, offering no excuses having done so, simply stating how “the better man won.” And, somewhat ironically, Wladimir, in his final ring appearance, gave us the most exciting fight of his entire career – one that undid plenty of the damage his dull fights inflicted on his legacy.
In winning The Fight of The Year, Joshua showed he has a chin, he showed that he has tremendous courage, and he also reconfirmed that he has the brutal punching power we already knew he had. Overcoming a determined, even desperate Klitschko, A.J made his biggest move yet in becoming the new superstar of the division.
April’s battle, fought before a staggering 90,000 crowd with millions more watching on TV, was engrossing, thrilling and savage. The two giants started off cautiously and respectfully, but in the middle rounds a firefight broke out. Joshua, showing fast hands, began the fifth-round with a blazing combination that hurt the ex-champ. Soon, in stunning fashion, Joshua had Klitschko down and seemingly in tatters.
But, even more alarmingly, AJ ran out of gas, apparently totally spent and looking for all the world like a beaten man. Then in the sixth-round, Klitschko unloaded one of the best right hands of his entire career, decking the much younger man and sensing the WBA and IBF belts were his for the taking. But Joshua dug deeper than we previously knew he could and he fought back. It was great theatre, it was The Fight of The Year.
Klitschko was badly cut, Joshua was more tired. In the end, though, the 250-pounder found his second (or third) wind and dramatically closed the show – the right hand bomb of an uppercut he blasted Klitschko’s head with being genuine highlight material.
Together, Joshua and Klitschko rekindled some of the glory days the premiere division of the sport used to enjoy on a far more regular basis.