Has Joshua made a mistake in taking this super fight?
It’s hard to beat the magic of a big fight night and scraps don’t come much more exciting than Anthony Joshua v Wladimir Klitschko vying for the world heavyweight crown in front of 90,000 fans beneath the Wembley arch.
Adrian Clarke looks ahead to this young against old clash, and hints that a shock could be on the cards…
Until now, promoter Eddie Hearn has steered Anthony Joshua’s career with immaculate precision, picking the right fights at the right moments for his treasured golden boy.
His carefully thought-out route has ensured the former Olympian serenely continues on the pathway to heavyweight greatness.
Patience and risk aversion have been two of the Matchroom Boxing impresario’s most admirable qualities, but there’s a part of me that fears the allure of a megabucks clash with Wladimir Klitschko has clouded his judgement.
He couldn’t say no to a 90,000 sell out, and nor could his hungry champion – but was this the most suitable bout for his young star?
Just 18 fights in, I believe there’s a very real danger the wily 41-year-old Ukrainian has come too soon for AJ.
He didn’t show it against Tyson Fury (that night he was weirdly too spooked to throw a serious punch) but the former undisputed champion knows how to bang.
Check out the left hand bombs that dismantled Kubrat Pulev three fights ago.
If they land on Joshua’s chin; he was rocked badly by Dillian Whyte remember, this contest could be turned right on its head!
Both fighters to be knocked down is priced up at 9/1, and looks like its worth a tickle.
Regardless of knockdowns, if the bell sounds for round 9 or 10 on Saturday evening, my instincts were correct – and Mr Hearn will be shifting very uncomfortably in his seat.
Jabbing away on the back foot, Klitschko’s plan will surely be to stay out of trouble early doors until he’s worn his man down. Using his superior ring craft is the obvious tactic.
It’s an unusual situation, but that’s why the longer this scrap goes on, the more it will favour the older man.
Joshua is built and trained for knockout power, not a 12-round dance-off, and no one knows if he has the stamina to out point Klitschko if needed.
The 27-year-old Brit will, as he always does, chase the early KO.
With his opponent ring rusty from a 17-month spell on the sidelines, it makes sense to try and catch his man cold. This represents Joshua’s best chance of success.
We know he’s a Mr Nice Guy that turns into a ferocious animal between the ropes, and providing he maintains that attitude – instead of being over respectful – it’s not hard to envisage a spectacular stoppage from Joshua within Rounds 1-6 (15/8).
That said, knowing how smart Klitschko can be at keeping his distance, using his reach advantage properly, I’d lean towards Rounds 1-3 (6/1) as the best time for the hometown hero to get the job done. He must fly at him right from the first bell.
This is a genuinely difficult contest to read.
The formbook says Klitschko is washed up (he was awful against Fury) and at 27 you’d imagine this will be a night for AJ, the younger man to clean up with ease.
But there are too many unknowns surrounding Joshua at elite level to be fully confident he has what it takes.
He has the speed, but does he possess the skill to breach Klitschko’s defence? He has never fought a man of his calibre.
Can he handle left jabs into his face every few seconds? It will be a new experience.
Does he have the stamina to take the Ukrainian out late on, if he’s taken to the well? Not even he knows the answer.
In a straight forecast I’d rather take a chance on the legendary challenger to provide an upset at 2/1 than the odds-on IBF champion, but my heart says Joshua is a superstar that will smash Klitschko out as early as Round 3 (14/1).
Either scenario could happen.
That’s why this is a clash of the ages that’s well worth tuning in for. Joshua may not be ready.