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19 April 2024

Joshua, Klitschko in heavyweight battle of ages

Anthony Joshua (L) and Ukraine's Wladimir Klitschko (AFP)


Heavyweights Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko meet Saturday in a bout which pits the young and seemingly invincible champion against the ageing and deposed former title-holder.

The Briton's International Boxing Federation title and the vacant World Boxing Association belt will be disputed in the most significant heavyweight fight ever to be held in Britain, which will reportedly earn the pair upwards of £10 million ($13 million, 12 million euros) each.

Joshua, 27, has shown no signs of strain in dealing with the scale of Saturday's bout.

A crowd of over 90,000 - Britain's largest attendance for a boxing event since 1939 - is expected at London's Wembley Stadium, with millions more watching on television in over 140 countries.

"It's a military mindset," said Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist. "I'm a fighter. I'm not caught up with the entertainment."

Joshua does not even see this as being the most important fight he will ever have.

"I don't think so, because it won't be the end of my career," he explained.

"When he (Klitschko) gets beat that could be the end of him, that's why it could be defining for him."

'No denying Father Time'

Joshua believes he will be too young and sharp for his 41-year-old opponent, who has not boxed for 17 months.

"He will probably start fast because he won't be able to keep the pace," Joshua said. "Father Time is something no one can deny. Father Time is genetic."

Meanwhile England-born Joshua, whose parents are from Nigeria, said he would be able to cope with the biggest crowd seen in British boxing for decades.

"Don't get me wrong all of us face nerves when we fight and this is a stage I haven't faced before, the attention, amount of people," said Joshua, who has knocked out all 18 of his professional opponents.

"But when it boils down to it, you get lost in the fight. I don't think it becomes an issue that there are so many people there, once you are well engaged with your opponent," he explained.

Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) is fighting to show he is not finished after turning professional in 1996 following his Olympic gold medal success earlier that year when Joshua was aged seven.

'My event'

The Ukrainian was last seen in a ring when outboxed in a defeat by Joshua's compatriot Tyson Fury, which ended his reign as champion of nine-and-a-half years, in November 2015.  

Klitschko, who saw Fury twice pull out of a re-match, is banking on his greater experience being a decisive factor. While Joshua has never been beyond seven rounds, Klitschko has been 12 rounds nine times.

"Experience is something that you cannot buy in a shop, you gain it over the years," Klitschko said.

"In the fight, people could be in great preparation and great spirit and I've seen that they crumble like a cookie right before the first bell," added Klitschko, bidding to become a three-time world heavyweight champion like his older brother Vitali, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Muhammad Ali.

However, Klitschko did not downplay the task in front of him, saying: "I've never seen AJ (Joshua) as big as he is right now. He is as big as Arnold Schwarzenegger at his best."

Nevertheless he insisted: "I'm the man, this is my event and I'm the winner. This is my event even if he (Joshua) is home.

"It is not about Joshua's style that makes me comfortable. It is about my own peace. Why worry? He's a puncher. I'm a boxer that can punch."

Klitschko hopes his performance will boost the morale of his fellow Ukrainians.

"Ukraine is going through a lot of challenges, geopolitical and economical," Klitschko said.

"Those challenges make good motivation and, as Nelson Mandela said, sport has the power to change the world. In this crazy world, through sport you can clear people's differences."