Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko Fight Preview and Prediction to Win
When: Saturday, April 29, 2017
Where: Wembley Stadium, London, England
Weight Class: Heavyweights: 12 Rounds
Titles: WBA and IBF Heavyweight Title
By Loot, Boxing Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Anthony Joshua, 18-0 (18 KOs), Watford, England
Wladimir Klitschko, 64-4 (53 KOs), Kiev, Ukraine
Betting Odds: Anthony Joshua (-240), Wladimir Klitschko (+200)
Over/Under: Over 8.5 Rounds (+105), Under 8.5 Rounds (-125)
Anthony Joshua defends his IBF title against former champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29 at Wembley Stadium. This is one of those classic heavyweight new guard vs. old guard matchups. Joshua, 27, has knocked out every opponent he has faced and is considered the leading candidate to lead this division in the years to come. The 40-year old Klitschko, meanwhile, is looking to build his resume with a big win at the end of his career. Who comes out ahead in Joshua-Klitschko?
Both men are former gold medal winners in the Olympics, with Joshua's coming in 2012, while Klitschko's came way back in the 1996 games in Atlanta. Joshua's resume is starting to come together nicely. After a tough win over Dillian Whyte, he poleaxed unbeaten Charles Martin for the IBF belt and has since defended it twice with stoppage wins over Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina. He looks like he is sculpted from granite and is a big heavyweight, matching Klitschko's 6'6" height.
Klitschko is now 40, a line in the sand when people start asking the hard questions. To his credit, Klitschko is a well-preserved 40. He took some punishment in his three KO losses earlier in his career, but during his title reign, he was barely even connected upon solidly. And even when he lost his belt to Tyson Fury, the punishment he absorbed was fairly minimal. While some might be alarmed that Klitschko has not fought since November 2015, the rest may have helped recharge him physically and mentally, as well. And following a loss and with the light at the end of the tunnel now in plain sight, some greater urgency could be seen with a 2017 Klitschko.
It's important we not confuse merit and popularity with Klitschko. Say what you will about his style, it's still hard to not marvel at his record, with a reign that lasted nearly a decade with 20+ successful title fights. He might be looked at as old news, but when it comes to who holds more big wins over this current crop of heavyweights, it's not even close. Whereas Joshua's best wins have come against Charles Martin and Dillian Whyte, Klitschko holds wins over top-flight opposition like Alexander Povetkin, Kubrat Pulev, and a lot of other heavyweights who remain in the mix to this day.
And there we strike on a big advantage for Klitschko and that's his experience. He brings with him a certain level of reliability, being that he is one of the better-conditioned heavyweight champions of all-time—never in less-than-pristine shape. With Klitschko, we know what we have. With Joshua, we're not so sure. And when looking at the guys Joshua has faced, Klitschko is not merely a jump in class, it's a huge gaping canyon Joshua needs to bridge.
Power is the last asset to vacate a fighter. Heavyweights typically thrive at a latter age. Klitschko's brother Vitaly held up well at a later age, as well. But we'll have to see if Wladimir can still move like he used to and anticipate his opponent's advances like before. While Klitschko went years without getting floored, his chin hasn't always been the best—bad news when poised to take on a fighter with Joshua's power. And Klitschko showed he struggled with fighters who are really on the ball whom he doesn't dwarf. Against Fury, the lack of a height and reach advantage appeared to be very costly to Klitschko. And the ex-champ has never been a very adept inside-fighter, with his whole strategy built to keep his opponent at distance. Anthony Joshua is a fighter who also relies on range, so that might not hurt him in this fight. Still, a whole career built on not getting into exchanges can start to hurt in fights like this. Klitschko is a great boxer and he's pulled through some tough moments before, namely in the first fight with Sam Peter. But he's not really a fighter in the sense that he thrives in give-and-take firefights.
Again, with Joshua, we're talking about an incomplete product, albeit a promising one. His 100% KO percentage attests to the dynamite in his fists. His shots, namely a jab and a straight right, get to the target with suddenness and a lot of power. The way opponents react to getting hit tells a lot. His punches are violent and concussive. He is also a level-headed fighter for being such a young champion and one with relatively little seasoning. Worth noting for the purposes of this matchup, Joshua is adept at maximizing the power of his punches by catching opponents at lone-range. When Klitschko is in range to punch, Joshua will be able to land shots, as well.
The issue with Joshua is that we don't really know until we know. The longest he ever had to go in a fight was when he stopped Whyte in a fight where he was also hurt. He has never seen the 8th round. He has never beaten an elite heavyweight, as opposed to his opponent who beat every pertinent heavyweight from his era except his own brother. It's very lofty to go from Whyte, Martin, Breazeale, and Molina to the most-accomplished heavyweight of the era.
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If looking to be a pessimist, and it needs to be tempered with some rightful optimism, you could say that Joshua's success is somewhat of a mirage. He won the gold medal with the fact that the games were in London likely playing a role. The ability to dig deep for a win is not a skill he has cultivated. In other words, for a world champion with a few defenses under his belt, he is still pretty green. If the going gets rough against Klitschko, what can he call on to get through the storm? Will his power translate at this level? And let's face it, he's no Pernell Whitaker. In fact, he's somewhat stiff---a bit immobile above the waist and straight-up in the tradition of the typical English heavyweight.
The one thing that makes me hesitant to give a whole-hearted endorsement of Klitschko is that he's not immune to some of the above criticism levied on Joshua. While Joshua is stiff, it's not like Klitschko has ever been the most-fluid heavyweight. He's always been somewhat stiff himself, with his movement broken down into a series of consecutive mini-moves without much fluidity. Not that Joshua is Joe Frazier, but Klitschko has eschewed any hint of inside action since suffering those three earlier losses in his career. He might just be more mentally averse to inside action. While Klitschko is fancied as the great outside force, that had a lot to do with his superior physical dimensions. He didn't thrive at long-range against Tyson Fury and again faces a fighter who matches him in terms of physical stature. Let's face it—Klitschko was always wary to commit to offense against fighters who were far more limited than Joshua in terms of firepower and physical dimensions.
Klitschko has shown he can impose his style at the highest of levels. His game plan is a clear one, as there is a definite aim and overall goal to what he does in the ring. I think Joshua is a lot more aimless in his second-to-second work, as everything seems to set up for the power-punches. Klitschko's liabilities could manifest in this fight—namely his avoidance of actual "fighting," his lack of overall durability, the absence of a size advantage, and his age and inactivity. But he has a better jab, which is going to be key and is the far more-accomplished fighter. He can anticipate incoming offense well. If Klitschko can still physically perform close to his peak at this age, I think there is a chance he wins this with room to spare. I'm going to take the underdog and hedge it with the "under."
Loot's Pick to Win the Fight: I'm betting on Wladimir Klitschko at +200 and the "under" at -125. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today and bet the Anthony Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko fight from home by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!