By Jake Collins @MelancholyFolly
Firstly, it’s fantastic to look back on such a high profile Heavyweight fight and say – “Yeah, that was brilliant”. This fight had pretty much everything: technical craft, heart from both fighters, explosive power, both fighters hitting the deck, an overall pretty even affair and both AJ and Wlad come out of the bout with their heads held high. The subsequent media attention to an ignored sport might be a little sickening, as might the idea that Wlad suddenly stopped being ‘shot’ all of a sudden but even a cynic like me took resolute joy in watching such a big fight deliver in a bar full of strangers.
I’d just moved home over the weekend and was distraught to find out I had no means of watching the fight. Apoplectic, I stormed out of the building and found 12 paces to the left a small conspicuous bar showing the fight with seemingly German commentary and £3.50 pints (I live in London). Watching fights in bars/pubs isn’t usually for me but I’m overly glad I made an exception.
As you’d expect, a fight like this was watched by an awful lot of people who don’t often watch boxing. When the media gets behind a fighter like that are with Joshua, the attention begins to transcend regular viewers. Many people seemed enthralled with the idea that both fighters were showing ‘respect’ and acting in a serious manner, as opposed to other British boxers of recent times who haven’t quite rallied public support. Wlad has pretty much always been this way and his gracious manner in defeat endeared him to a new audience. A bit of a shame such adulation evaded him during his decade of dominance really but dominance doesn’t sell as well as drama when the currency is entertainment. Joshua is much the same. There is debate as to how genuine his ‘humble’ mantra truly is but it’s totally irrelevant; people are accepting of it and it’s doing his career a world of good.
Now for the fight itself. I had Wlad winning before the stoppage but it was still a pretty close fight. Something happened in the 5th that to my eyes hadn’t happened for a long time; I scored the round for the guy who got knocked down. Wlad’s response to going down was exceptional and he showed a level of courage we hadn’t really associated with him. The right hand he dropped Joshua with in the next round was something I expected to happen eventually and in a way I think going down from that right hand saved AJ in that fight. Wlad followed that up with a left hook that had a lot of momentum in it but as AJ was crumbling to the floor he was unable to make a clean shot. Either way, AJ did the smart thing and didn’t rush out the next round; he took his time and recovered. The lighter Klitschko was showing to have the better boxing pedigree which wasn’t all that surprising.
Interestingly, Wlad hadn’t really used his clinching tactics an awful lot and as a result had started to control the fight a bit better. When he did attempt to clinch he got absolutely smashed with the uppercut from Joshua which was reminiscent of the bomb his brother Vitali ate against Lewis all those years ago. To Wlad’s credit, he took it well. To AJ’s credit, he finished the show. At 41 years of age and a 17 month layoff, I’m surprised Wlad was doing as well as he was at that stage of the fight.
The ‘Wlad being shot’ stuff came up after the Fury fight but it was really about styles. The punch stats from the fight (in context they can sometimes be useful) show he only threw an extra 25 punches against AJ and as tiresome as cliches can feel styles really do make fights. All the same, Wlad has been past his best for a few years now, that isn’t a secret. But let’s give AJ his props here without having to mention Fury too much. He still managed to KO a guy who I think would be a favorite against anyone left in that division. And with that, I hope Klitschko decides to retire on a high. He VERY nearly took out the guy many consider to be the next dominant force at Heavyweight (although it is my opinion that he will never dominate the division as convincingly as Wlad did) and acquitted himself excellently during the whole event. There are plenty of enticing fights coming up for AJ which don’t have to be a Klitschko rematch – hopefully none of those involve Tony Bellew either.
We were treated to another great weekend of boxing, which even brought with it some unity – those who thought AJ was all hype can see he is legit and those who believed he is already Ali saw he is beatable. Sometimes boxing just gets things right.by