Anthony Joshua, described by emcee Michael Buffer as “the fighting pride of England” and Wladimir Klitschko, the decade-long strangle-holder of the heavyweight division, came together at Sky Sports to engage in the final press conference ahead of their Saturday showdown at Wembley Stadium.
The stakes are immense, as evidenced by the fact that 90,000 plus will be on site live to see if the man some if not most believe is the man to lead the marquee division, which has not had THAT sort of sportsman to lead the pugilistic realm, can achieve a regime change.
Again, the stakes…the sport doesn’t resonate the same way when there isn’t a heavyweight lead dog to rise above, to resonate with the masses. Joshua could be that, even if his vocal personality isn’t, arguably, so tailor made for the meme era. He’s a nice guy, doesn’t make ripples let alone waves with shocking prounouncements. But…if he seeks to seperate Klitschko’s head from his shoulders, and if he does indeed succeed in stopping the Ukrainian-born punch and clinch specialist, then that will speak louder than a trash talking sort who can appeal to casuals.
Wladimir Klitschko at the mic promised a short speech. “Can you imagine my next opponent, which is AJ, I’m going to fight a guy whose age is exactly the number I’ve been in boxing, 27 years,” he said.
Is it a “degradation” that he is seen as the underdog? Nah, he said. He’s happy with that role…and he is “totally obsessed” with winning. He realized that “life is a circle” and he sees himself in AJ, he told us. Wlad then said he recorded a video last week, predicting the outcome of his fight. He has it on a flash drive, and he will have that in his robe, on fight night. He will auction off the robe and the video after the fight, and the money will go to his foundation, to help kids, he said.
Sky boss Adam Smith asked WK how proud he was of this promotion. Very, Wlad said, and especially because there is no trash talking or chair throwing.
Joshua then spoke. With headphones slipped around his neck, he with a soft tone, said that he doesn’t underestimate any foe. The Brit said he knows “the best man will win,” and “April 29 is just another stepping stone towards greatness.”
Is this the right time, though? AJ said any fight is the right fight at the right time. He only picked up boxing in 2008, he said, but he has always been one to embrace opportunities. He isn’t feeling fear, he said, he just loves to compete and test himself.
Fight writers were able to ask questions. Lance Pugmire of the LA Times asked what Wlad was looking for when he watched yesterday AJ working out. Scouting his opponent, he said, and just soaking up the show. He would have liked for AJ to watch his, he said.
Wlad was asked what “obsession” means to him. Answer: Love in extremis.
The vet said he definitely wants his belts back.
They were also asked what defeat would mean? AJ paused, and WK answered that “it will help, there’s nothing scary about it.” He then said “I think I answered enough” when the questioner re-asked Joshua what a defeat would mean. (Note: Klitschko has done this, sometimes subtly showing alpha male dominance over a situation, and AJ, often under a guise of well meaningfullness.)
“Fake news,” Wlad barked, humorously, when asked about a supposed eye socket injury.
Wlad trainer Jon Banks said he didn’t recall having a negative premonition that Wlad would lose to Tyson Fury…but regardless, he feels optimistic about this result.
Promoter Eddie Hearn lauded particpants who have come together to craft the event, including Showtime and HBO, as well as Sky, not a Johnny Come Lately, which has been there to show off Naseem Hamed, Ricky Hatton, Joe Calzaghe, and Carl Froch, and now Joshua. He noted that he could have taken a slower boat, and kept allowing Joshua to keep selling out rooms, and growing his skills. But Joshua wanted this challenge, now. (He is not a baby, the guy is 27, so athletically he’s probably near peak.)
Klitschko trainer Jon Banks, the Emanuel Steward protege, said that of course, camp was good, nobody ever says otherwise. Many big bouts don’t live up to it, but this one, Banks said, will likely live up to anticipation.
Trainer Rob McCracken, who handled Carl Froch, spoke and said that Joshua “wants to challenge himself.” That theme kept on popping up, how AJ could have taken a slower road to such a challenge. McCracken says we will only know Saturday if this was too soon. Father Time has been knocking on Wlad’s door and AJ will help the aging process come Saturday, he said.
All in all, a beyond respectful show. The fighters are near chummy, and smiled at each other before staring down. I doubt and hope any of that “let’s make a deal” good humor seeps in come fight time.
— Klitschko (@Klitschko) April 27, 2017
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) April 27, 2017