The British sensation Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) and Klitschko (64-4, 54 KOs) will unify the heavyweight division as they meet for Joshua’s IBF World Championship and the vacant WBA World Championship in front of record-setting 90,000 fans at Britain’s largest stadium.
Here is what Joshua had to say about facing Klitschko:
Do you feel there is more pressure on you?
“Definitely not. I knew the significance of this fight before I took it. So I would never put that pressure upon myself if I didn’t want to deal with this pressure. I would have taken another route. But I want to fight guys in the division who are good. I don’t want to wait like eight years, nine years, six years before I start making a move on the heavyweight division – let’s get it on now. So if this is what comes with stepping up a level and a division I’m all for it. I’m not going to start saying ‘because I’m champion I’ve got pressure and I don’t think I’m going to perform.’ For me as a champion I don’t feel that pressure but I can relate to where he is coming from. As a champion you’re supposed to throw down like there’s no tomorrow so I’m not going to say because I’m a champion I’ve got so much pressure on my hands.”
How do you bridge the experience gap between you and Klitschko?
“I think it’s just destiny. I’m meant for this. I’m built for this. Let’s say we strip away what you just said, the excitement, the hype and just put us together. Go at it for 12 rounds, get down and dirty. I have the ability to come out on top and that’s how I take it. I don’t look at it like, ‘Oh my God, I’m fighting a guy who has been through it’, I don’t look at it that way. I just look at it as ‘I’m going to fight this guy called Wladimir Klitschko’ and we’ve got 12 rounds. I simplify it.
I practice boxing. Long range jab, jab to the body. I think I’m very capable of hitting someone continuously until they break down. So I think I’ll keep on plugging away, round 6, 7 and I should have him in a bad place. I just have to take the fight and break it down round by round.”
How will to deal with Klitschko’s reach:
“I’ve never fought him so I can’t say for sure. But what will I do about his reach? I’ve got my right hand to parry a jab, I’ve got my left hand to shield and protect me, to deflect his right hand. It’s no problem if he wants to grab. I can whip in a body shot and that would definitely slow him down. If you keep getting hit to the body at 41 that will take the fight out of anyone. On the outside I have got ways to deal with the majority of his shots. On the inside I just have to keep on swinging to the body and round-by-round I’ll start seeing an effect.”
What motivated him to take such a significant fight so early in his career:
“It was bound to happen. I felt the division needed it. I’m not doing it just for myself. I’m always about the industry. A lot of my friends from the amateur system have a chance to express their skill on the undercard, and it’s a massive platform. I think, as I said, the division needed it … Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder, let’s keep it going. Let’s start mixing it up because we’re in the same division, and it’s our era. What type of era are we if we don’t come together and have some trilogies and bring some excitement. So I’m all for it and that’s why I really wanted to take the fight.”
When was the first time you saw Klitschko and thought you could fight him?
“Not until last year. In 2015 I wasn’t really focusing on fighting Klitschko. I was moving towards maybe after [Eric] Molina we could have done [Kubrat] Pulev as a mandatory and gone that route of dominating the European market, but the opportunity came up. It’s a big fight, it’s a good challenge and let’s get it cracking. As I said, it’s good for the division and the attention it has brought is phenomenal. I think it benefits everyone so let’s be a part of that, and let’s be at the forefront of this.”
When do you think Klitschko was at his best?
“When he fought Marius Beck. He was a bit of a bigger guy and he controlled him with the jab and the one-twos. Remember he went twelve rounds. So he had to control a bigger man who was potentially heavier and stronger and he controlled his boxing skill and I think that’s when he was at his best. As I studied him that’s when I saw him at his best so I have watched fights around that era.”
What is your history in sparring with Klitschko?
“I’m not a gym fighter so I did not go to try to prove anything with the sparring. I mainly went to go to see how a champion sets up his training camp. While I was sparring, it was good. Wladimir is technical. He will try to maneuver you with his lever hand to put you in a position to throw his right hand. That’s what I got from Klitschko. He is patient, he was just trying to set me up so he could throw his shots and I was just working on moving, jabbing to the body, jabbing to the head and I would go back to the corner and Andy Breshear would say ‘stick it on the champ’ and I would say ‘no I’m not here for that, I’m not here to prove anything.’ I wanted to watch, I wanted to analyze. That’s what I got from sparring with him. To learn how he operates in the ring and I learned how a champion sets up training camp.”
On the strength of Klitschko’s chin:
“He’s got a good chin. How long has he reigned, 10 years? Yeah, he’s got a good chin. You can’t be a championship fighter for 10 years if you have a bad chin. That’s the thing about the heavyweight division, it takes one shot. All these fighters that we claim have got good chins are the ones who get knocked out by Wladimir, so he must be doing something right. I remember Samuel Peters had a granite chin but they still end up getting knocked out down the line and they don’t go on to do great things. So, regardless of the chin, I think he’s got something right that works.”
The opinion of Klitschko’s Career:
“He is underrated. Heavyweight boxing comes with bigger prize money, more attention. To stay that disciplined for that long is a serious task. He and his brother have done well to reign for that long … I would want to go down as one of the greatest because I reigned for so long. No one could beat me for the last 10 years. It’s a good achievement and I would want to be recognized for that achievement.”
How much of a concern is Klitschko’s holding?
“The holding is natural. But what do you do when someone is holding? How do you fight them off? You bring in the upper cut, you whip in a right hand to the body until the ref tells you to break. It’s a fight so I can’t prevent the holding but it makes it interesting to see what fighter does when they’re being held. When I’m being held I’m just going to throw the right hand to the body, left hook to the body and that will start taking the wind out of Klitschko.”
On Klitschko’s last fight against a British fighter David Haye:
“I think my fights will be entertaining. It is important for me to be entertaining. It’s not only winning, but it’s about how you win. I’ve always tried to go in there and perform to that level. It would be sweet to go in there and knock Wladimir out, because that’s what heavyweight boxing is about. So that would be sweet. I’m not into the 12-round boxing.
“David Haye was up against it because you had Klitschko, who was a champion. Emanuel Steward, who trained the champion. Then you had David Haye, who wasn’t a champion and Adam Booth, who wasn’t a heavyweight championship trainer. He was up against it and he found it tough. It just showed that the bigger, stronger man would win. He just got the job done and that’s what led him to here. He got the win and I’m happy or we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Joshua v Klitschko is live on Sky Sports Box Office from 6pm UK time this Saturday night. The fight is also live on Showtime in the US and RTL in Germany