There’s just a week to go until Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko make history by boxing for the world heavyweight crown in front of 90, 000 fight fans at Wembley Stadium.
It’s going to be a very special occasion. It couldn’t be anything but.
Ahead of a hype-filled final week of preparations, Adrian Clarke cuts through the noise to give us his early impressions…
Is AJ too calm before the storm?
Anthony Joshua once said that a smile is the simplest form of intimidation, and while that’s easy to say when you have an eight-pack and biceps the size of an elephant’s thighs, I’m inclined to go along with the theory.
Sometimes you can over-do it though.
Flashing his pearly-whites to all and sundry, acting like he’s the epitome of cool, it’s felt like the IBF champion has become obsessed with coming across as unfazed by the prospect of facing a man, that until recently, was unbeaten in over a decade.
Is the smile masquerading his nerves? I hope so.
For if the inexperienced AJ is genuinely feeling as tranquil as he looks ahead of the biggest night of his life, then he may be in for a rude awakening.
Wladimir Klitschko, at the age of 41, has a legacy-defining victory in his sights.
On such a cavernous stage this could be the fight he is always remembered for. So rest assured, the Ukrainian isn’t coming to London for one last payday.
That’s why I found it strange to hear Joshua get drawn into a social media spat with Tyson Fury this week, after earlier claiming that a scrap with the ex-champion is the ‘biggest fight’ out there for him.
Taking his eye off the Klitschko ball is unadvisable.
It’s also 1-0 to the veteran when it comes to the training camps.
While both fighters are predictably praising the way preparations have gone, former world title challenger Gerald Washington did reject the chance to spar with Joshua, in favour of impersonating the Brit during dozens of rounds with Klitschko at his Austrian base.
The respected American felt he could learn more from a man that’s participated in 50 extra pro fights than Joshua’s 18. That’s fair enough, but it will still have irked the Londoner.
While most believe Joshua is too young, too strong, too fast to lose (he’s currently the 11/25 favourite) the closer we get to fight night, the more I’m hearing those in the game lean towards a possible upset.
After 17 months out of the ring since losing his belts to Tyson Fury, Klitschko will be at his most vulnerable in Rounds 1-6 (AJ is 9/4 to end the fight by KO in that period) but there is a consensus he’ll grow into the bout, and use his skills to wear the English upstart down.
AJ, who has still never tasted the 8th round onwards, could be treading water late on if ‘Dr Steelhammer’ has used his back foot jab to get his man chasing.
The truth is we don’t yet know how the popular Joshua will react to leather prodding into his face for the full duration. Has he got the mental strength and skillset to cope with that, but still win on points rather than the usual KO?
Interestingly Grosvenor Casinos have both men at 11/2 to have their hand raised if it goes to the scorecards.
Is there too much respect between these two?
Once inside the ropes that should dissipate, but if Joshua is sucked into showing too much professional courtesy early on in the fight, allowing his opponent to settle, it’s a move that may backfire.
In my view he has to come out fast, and try to catch his man cold.
Keep your eye on AJ’s body language this week. He can’t just turn up to win this one. His head needs to be in the right place.
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