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What we learned about Joshua

Frank Monkhouse | 28 May 2017

How AJ answered his critics on Saturday

Anthony Joshua put in a career best performance to answer his critics and stop boxing great Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday night, winning the WBA, IBF and IBO world heavyweight titles in the process.

That famous win in the 11th round over Dr Steelhammer at a sell-out Wembley Stadium stretched the 27-year-old’s record to a perfect 19. 19 fights, 19 wins, 19 KO’s, the numbers add up to British boxing having another heavyweight superstar on our hands.

Despite his devastating form, AJ is not without his critics – such is British sport. There were a number of question marks hanging over the Watford banger going into Saturday’s career defining bout, here we look at the three biggest doubts, and how he answered them.

Wladimir Klitschko (L,Ukraine) and Anthony Joshua (Great Britain) in action at the WBA Super Heavyweight Championship in London, England, 29 April 2017. Photo: Axel Heimken/dpa

Can he take a shot?

This one was relevant before the off. David Price was in a similar situation back in 2013, dishing out the hurt to a number of opponents before stepping up and getting found out, stopped in back-to-back fights against Tony Thompson. Joshua’s chin hadn’t been fully tested before the Klitschko fight, Dillian Whyte the only man to throw with any real intent, but AJ passed the test with flying colours.

The Londoner was sent to the canvas in round six, and looked in all kinds of trouble. At that point of the night, many thought the writing was on the wall, but he was able to clear his head, steady his legs, avoid the big finishing punches of his experienced opponent, and get back into the contest. Not only did he win the fight, he got off the canvas against a fighter with a 77 per cent KO average to do it. Impressive stuff.

Verdict – Joshua has the chin to compete at the highest level.

Wladimir Klitschko (Ukraine, R) in action with Anthony Joshua (Great Britain) during the fight at the WBA Super Heavyweight Championship in London, England, 29 April 2017. Photo: Axel Heimken/dpa

All muscle and no stamina

Compared to Frank Bruno by many, it was a worn-out, flimsy criticism thrown at Joshua over the last year or so. He was all muscles and pose, enough to see him push over lesser fighters, but when stepping up and being dragged into the later rounds, he’d gas and be found out. It was obvious that Team Klitschko would look to expose that inexperience on Saturday, remaining cautious in the opening stages and pulling their man out into deep water.

It can’t be argued that the pace of the fight was getting to AJ in the second-half, and he was spotted throwing some lazy, half-hearted jabs, but he held it together and retained  the punch power to trouble his man near the end. Round 11, looking like he was fading fast, Joshua had enough in his legs to cut off the ring and deliver a combo of such power it ended matters, dodging what would’ve been a very interesting points decision. At the time of the stoppage, two judges had AJ ahead, one went with his opposite number.

Verdict – Joshua proved he can fight long into the night, and with the rounds under his belt, will only get better. We sometimes forget he’s only had 19 fights.

Wladimir Klitschko (r,Ukraine) and Anthony Joshua (Great Britain) in action at the WBA Super Heavyweight Championship in London, England, 29 April 2017. Photo: Axel Heimken/dpa

Struggles against technical boxers

Hitting small, on-rushing opponents is simple enough, but when progressing against a master tactician and technical boxer in 6ft 6inch Klitschko, the champ was expected to come up short. This one was probably put together with Tyson Fury’s awkward style in mind, drumming up interest in that fight British super-fight, but critics seem to overlook Joshua’s amateur pedigree all too easily.

Winning a gold medal at London 2012, he came up against, and beat, a wide range of opponents at international level as an elite amateur, and called on that ring craft to win on Saturday. It was all too easy to admire the brutal punches being thrown by the victor to get the win, but when watching the fight back, pay close attention to his footwork, as he cuts the ring off, walks a tiring Wlad onto the ropes before putting him to the sword. He knew enough to get off the line and avoid Klitschko’s piercing jab when needed, and there’s not many in the fight game with a better range-finder than Saturday’s opponent, even at 41.

Verdict – Joshua isn’t a come forward brawler, he showed intelligence to evade Klitschko’s power shots, and the feet to move when needed.

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