Speed Kills! Why Joshua stops Klitschko in round 5
By Andy Hill: If one had to choose a single word to describe Anthony Joshua’s professional boxing career, the word fast would not be far from the top of the list. It took Joshua only sixteen fights to capture a recognized world heavyweight championship belt. Including the two fights that have since followed, on Saturday 29th April, when the bell sounds to signify the beginning of the first round, it will be only 45th round that Joshua has tasted as a professional.
Even if we consider Joshua’s pedigree as an amateur, his Olympic gold medal in 2012 does well to mask a limited spell in the unpaid ranks spanning just forty-three fights. It is staggering to believe that when Joshua steps through the ropes on Saturday night he will have been boxing for a total of six years.
If we compare this to the man who will be standing across the ring from him, it would certainly appear that this fight has arrived too soon for the fighter from North London. When Klitschko steps into the ring on Saturday night, it will be to start his 359th round as a professional fighter. As an amateur, he also captured an Olympic gold. For Klitschko, though, when he captured the Olympic title in 1996, it signified the end of an amateur career spanning one-hundred and forty fights.
Klitschko will certainly be hoping that his vast experience will be the difference between the two fighters on Saturday night. Unfortunately for him, just as speed has characterized everything about Joshua’s career to date, it will be speed that characterizes the events that will unfold in the center of the ring.
For ten years, Klitschko reigned supreme at the top of the heavyweight pile because of his superior size and his relentless ability to wear his opponents down using his machine-like left-hand jab. Unfortunately for Klitschko, seventeen months ago, Tyson Fury showed to the world that a man of similar stature and superior hand speed could nullify Klitschko’s plan A. Even more unfortunately for Klitschko, Fury exposed the fact that he had no plan B. While it is certainly fair to say that Fury’s lateral movement and his ability to punch from angles was more impressive than his fellow countryman’s, what Joshua lacks in the skills of the sweet science, he will make up for in speed and power.
Expect to see a cagey opening two rounds, with neither man willing to take any unnecessary risks. By the middle of the third, Joshua will realize that he can get in and out of the pocket quick enough to land one, two, or even three punches without taking too much punishment in return. At this point, a familiar smile will appear on Joshua’s face as he realizes he has the beating of his opponent. Don’t be surprised if Klitschko goes down in the fourth and my prediction is that the fight will end in the fifth with Joshua stopping Klitschko with a combination of disorientating punches to the head.
Of course, Klitschko will argue that experience and timing will nullify the younger pugilist’s speed and power. He is adamant that a dormant seventeen months has only heightened his obsession for victory and that his preparation in camp has neutralized any potential ring rust that normally follows such a lengthy period outside of the ring. It would be unreasonable to entirely disregard his chances of victory on Saturday night. However, if he is going to regain his IBF title, I pray that he has spent the last seventeen months perfecting a plan B.
To emerge as the victorious man on Saturday night, he will need to forget those ten years spent at the top and transform his approach to become an aggressive front-footed fighter. While Joshua’s combination of speed and power is destructive, he is less of a concussive knockout artist than his eighteen victories inside the distance might suggest. Thirteen of his professional victories have come by way of TKO, rather than KO, and most of his stoppages have come as he pressures his opponent on to their back-foot and overwhelms them with a rapid combination of punches. If Klitschko is willing to come forward and throw his combinations without fear of reprisal, he may be able to neutralize his opponents most dangerous weapon and emerge victorious in front of the 90,000 sell-out crowd at Wembley stadium.
The age-old saying is that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Saturday night will show once and for all whether this is true.