On Saturday afternoon, 90,000 spectators will pack Wembley Stadium in London, England to watch local boy and IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) defend his title against 41-year-old boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) in the biggest heavyweight bout in quite some time.
The highly anticipated fight will air live on Showtime on Saturday, April 29 beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET from Wembley.
After losing his WBO heavyweight belt to Tyson Fury in 2015, and having subsequent rematches against Fury postponed numerous times before being cancelled due to Fury being “medically unfit” to fight, Klitschko appears ready as ever to return to action and has consistently used the term “obsessed” to describe his desire to win this bout.
Joshua on the other hand, is still a perfect 18-0 (18 KOs) after besting Eric Molina in December by way of knockout in the third round in front of a packed house in Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom.
On Wednesday morning, Joshua spoke to reporters via phone ahead of the biggest bout of his life and discussed his fight with Klitschko, the path that’s gotten him here, and how excited he is to finally square off in front of 90,000 people on Saturday.
“All roads have led to this and I’ve been training for a long time, I’ve stayed injury free. I’ve ran, I’ve sparred, I’ve done my bag work and it comes to a stage in camp when I’m looking for the buy-in now and that’s where I’m at really. Mentally, I’m excited.”
Along with Joshua, boxing fans in general are excited as this could signal a changing of the guard, and a revitalization of boxing’s most beloved division.
“For the sport in general, come on,” Joshua said about the massive nature of the fight. “For what UK-ers are doing supporting boxing globally, it’s massive.”
Still, with all of those eyeballs, and all of that attention, Joshua maintains that he hasn’t felt any added pressure to win on Saturday night.
“Definitely not,” Joshua said of the pressure getting to him. “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.”
While Joshua has youth, the home crowd, and a perfect record on his side, it’s Klitschko that has decades of boxing wisdom along with an “obsession” to win on his side.
So, how will Joshua handle that?
“I’m meant for this,” he said. 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.”
As far as what the future holds, Joshua seems more than ready to continue doing his part to help revamp the heavyweight division, and is even ready to make the journey into America for fights against the likes of Deontay Wilder to make himself known in the land he called “mecca of boxing.”
“America is the mecca of boxing,” Joshua said. “If we can cross over into the states and keep the fan base in the UK I think we’ve cracked it. That’s mega stuff, that’s global boxing. You’ve got a big guy, heavyweight with a name that’s easy to pronounce and speaks English well. I can relate to the U.S. market. All I have to do is get out there show them what my trade is and hopefully they’ll appreciate it and hopefully we can start talking about setting up major fights and bringing the same attention in the UK to the U.S. That would be phenomenal.”