By any fair assessment, Wladimir Klitschko has had a great boxing career. Alongside his brother Vitali, he has been the top heavyweight of this century so far. But the criticisms he has faced have not been without merit. Three times he had been knocked out by opponents of middling talent. He has been a bit of a front-runner–able to dominate when his stature allows him to dictate the pace and range behind his piston-like jab, but extremely vulnerable when a determined opponent manages to land on him.
So his reputation may actually take a bump, even in the wake of his loss to Anthony Joshua last Saturday in London. Facing a younger, stronger opponent who was able to fight on even terms at long distance, Klitschko stayed calm and aggressive in the pocket. When he was knocked to the canvas in Round 5, he got back to his feet and pressed the action in the later part of the round. In the following round, he evened the score, dropping the big Brit to the floor.
What we saw in that fight was a 41-year-old man facing a man of 27. Even in this age of advanced sports medicine, Father Time holds ultimate dominion. I give Joshua full credit for defeating an excellent opponent. But I have to believe that the difference in age played a deciding factor in a fight as bruising and active as this one.
With his victory, Joshua has to be viewed as the No. 1 contender to Tyson Fury’s lineal championship–the only title claim that ultimately means anything. When Fury defeated Klitschko for that title in November 2015, he did it in ugly fashion. It was the worst heavyweight title fight I can remember.
By contrast, Joshua’s stoppage of the Ukrainian legend was something like a thriller. Still, Fury does deserve credit for fighting a clever, awkward fight against Klitschko. I hope he will return to action this year to face his countryman.