The old lion can still roar. And at this point, he still has the teeth left to deliver a serious bite. But the question is looming: can the old lion handle the young cat’s agility and speed, let alone his hunger?
This Saturday at Wembley Stadium in London, the most dominant heavyweight of this century will face off with the man many fans view as the future of the division, when 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko takes on undefeated Anthony Joshua.
Depending upon who you ask, Klitschko is either one of the most dominant champions in history or else a chinny, overly cautious, middling talent who benefitted from a historically weak era.
The truth is a bit of both. The heavyweight division in the 21st century has certainly wanted for charisma. And Klitschko’s jab and clinch style, while incredibly effective, has also turned off fans, at least on this side of the Atlantic. But it is tough to fault an athlete for taking the most sure route to victory. And Klitschko cannot be faulted if the opponents of his era have been substandard. He has dodged nobody.
To judge by Klitschko’s last trip into the ring, it is hard to still view him as the true king of the jungle. Against Tyson Fury in November 2015, his performance was timid and listless. He dropped his championship in one of the worst bouts in heavyweight title history. He spent the entire years of 2016 on the shelf, waiting for his rematch. Fury’s own mental health problems prevented it from occurring.
I have a hard time believing that an older fighter who could not defeat Fury is going to handle Joshua. The 2012 Olympic gold medalist is now 18-0 with 18 KOs. At 6’6″ and 240 pounds, he has the stature to back Klitschko up and destroy his cautious style.
Of course, boxing writers are quick to build up a potential champion, especially when he is a heavyweight. Joshua has faced nobody on Klitschko’s level at this point. But expect him to force Klitschko into a hard-fought fight. And I personally expect him to knock the former champion out.