For Anthony Joshua, Saturday night was supposed to be his coronation as the future of the heavyweight division in boxing. At one point, it seemed like that would come relatively early. At another, it appeared as though it was never going to happen.
After a relatively slow start between Joshua and former two-time world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, the London-based phenom got things going. Klitschko had opened rounds two through four with scorching rights to the head, but in the fifth, Joshua saw it coming and drilled the Ukrainian with a right of his own. Klitschko’s legs turned gelatinous and, with a cut opened over his left eye from the ensuing onslaught, he was down. Klitschko beat referee David Fields’ count, but he was unsteady on his feet. Joshua charged in for the kill, but the longtime monarch of the division intelligently cleared his head and survived the round.
With Joshua gasping for air at the end of the fifth and early in the fifth after blowing his proverbial wad in trying to take his challenger out, Klitschko, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, found renewed vigor inside the ropes. “Dr. Steelhammer” cracked the defending IBF champ with a laser of a right to the jaw, sending Joshua sprawling to the canvas. It was the first time in the 27-year-old’s career that he had been dropped and he was in serious peril. Like Klitschko, though, Joshua survived the round but it took a while before he got things going again.
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With Klitschko (64-5, 54 KOs) winning rounds seven and eight, Joshua slowly seized control back and captured rounds nine and 10. The fight was virtually dead even going into the championship rounds, but Joshua made sure that their encounter would not go to the three ringside judges. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist rubberized the future Hall of Famer’s legs as soon as the 11th began when he crushed Klitschko’s face with a straight right. Unlike in the fifth, Joshua took his time and when the moment arrived, he slammed a right uppercut square on his foe’s jaw, dropping him in a heap.
Klitschko somehow struggled back to his feet, but he was felled moments later when a blistering three-punch combo upstairs found its mark. With one last breath to salvage the fight, the Ukrainian arose on extremely shaky legs, only to be bludgeoned by a furious assault. Fields eventually had no choice but to intervene when Klitschko was covering up in a corner, on the verge of being put to sleep. The official time of the TKO came at 2:25 of the frame, giving Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) his biggest win yet in front of 90,000 rabid fans at Wembley Stadium (online betting).