Rounds 5 and 6 set the tone for the 12-round bout, but round 11 was the defining moment. A powerful uppercut by Anthony Joshua shook Vladimir Klitschko, who went down in the first minute of the round. Seeing Klitschko shaken, Joshua followed with a flurry of punches. Another uppercut and a powerful left hook crushed the veteran heavyweight champion, ending Klitschko’s 10-year dominance of the heavyweight division.
Joshua’s perfect record rises to 19-0, 19 KOs in a career-defining fight. Without a doubt, the heavyweight torch has been passed on to the younger, bigger, taller fighter whose face we will likely see more in the years to come.
“I’m not perfect, but I’m trying, early to,” an elated Joshua said in the post-fight interview aired on Showtime. “If you don’t take part, you’re going to fail.”
Many had wondered early on if the fight had been too soon for the 27-year-old former Olympic gold medalist. Rounds 5 and 6 appeared to indicate so. In the fifth round, Joshua came out of his corner after the one-minute break in an explosive flurry of activity, sending Klitschko to the mat. Joshua then raised both arms in an obviously premature expression of victory.
The Ukrainian is not a veteran for nothing. He stood up, started working his way to Joshua, delivering the classic jab-cross-hook combinations. By the middle of the round, Joshua was spent, his energies spent in the first minute. It looked like he could not go on for another round.
Round 6 saw a revived Klitschko, his knockdown seemingly forgotten. A jab set up a massive right hook that dropped Joshua. From Round 6 onward, Klitschko took control of the fight, cutting the ring and pinning Joshua to the ropes. The veteran was looking to retain his crown.
Until Round 11. Joshua delivered 11 power punches according to Showtime statistics, dropping Klitschko twice and sealing his destiny as the new heavyweight ringbearer. Many had observed if the fight was too late for Klitschko. After round 11, it looked like it.
“The best man won tonight and it’s an amazing night for boxing,” Klitschko said to the cheers of 90,000 people at London’s Wembley Stadium.
Although it was the start of an exciting journey for Joshua, it was an end of an era for Klitschko. Klitschko did not answer a post-fight question on his future, simply stating that he is “interested in analyzing what the heck just happened.”
But at 41, Klitschko’s days of dominance are over, even if his fighting days are not. Father Time has made it more difficult for him to recover from an onslaught of power punches.
Social media exploded with expressions of respect for the Ukrainian champion who was accompanied to the ring by his brother, Vitali, his arm around Vladimir’s shoulders as both awaited the official announcement of his loss.
“A massive shout to Vladimir Klitschko for taking part,” said Joshua, who once sparred with Klitschko. “He’s a role model in and out of the ring and I’ve got nothing but love and respect for anyone who steps in the ring.”
April 29 will not only be remembered as the day a new heavyweight ringbearer emerged. With all 90,000 seats at the Wembley Stadium sold out, the United Kingdom is emerging as the new mecca of boxing, if not yet for the total payout, but for grassroots support. The crowd size matches the British record of 90,000 in the bout between Len Harvey and Jock McAvoy in 1939.
In an interview by Chris Mannix aired on his podcast in February 9, 2017, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearns noted that boxing in the UK remains in touch with the grassroots, while boxing in the US has become too reliant on pay per view (PPV). At an average of $60 per fight, US rates are nearly double that the typical GBP 30 PPV in the UK. Pacquiao vs Mayweather sold at $100 for a fight that left a bad taste in the mouth.
The boxing world has similarly not adapted to the rise and success of streaming services. Netflix and Amazon show a few boxing documentaries but have not been tapped to stream boxing matches. This means that boxing is not tapping the new generation of prospective boxing fans with no cable subscriptions and are instead heavily reliant on streaming services.
Boxing is dead, long live boxing, on the other side of the pond.