LONDON: Anthony Joshua delivered one of the great nights in British boxing annals by stopping Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in the 11th round of a heavyweight world title fight that is being hailed as an epic.
In a tumultuous atmosphere at Wembley Stadium on Saturday, 90,000 fans saw the undefeated 27-year-old add the World Boxing Association (WBA) title to his International Boxing Federation (IBF) belt sparked by a devastating right uppercut that led to the 41-year-old Klitschko being felled in the 11th.
The Ukrainian former world champion rose unsteadily before being floored again. He bravely got up once more but referee David Fields waved it off soon after as he was unable to defend himself against a barrage of Joshua blows on the ropes.
What was hailed as the biggest fight night ever staged in a British ring, watched by the largest crowd for a boxing show in Britain for 78 years, lived up to its billing.
It was a thrilling contest which saw both combatants clamber off the canvas seemingly on the verge of defeat.
Joshua survived a knockdown for the first time in his professional career in the sixth round and looked close to surrendering his unbeaten record until his late bombardment forced the stoppage.
In a sensational fifth round, Joshua knocked down Klitschko only to end up hanging on desperately at the end of the round as the Ukrainian launched a remarkable comeback.
The veteran had even looked the more likely winner as he defied a 14-year age gap and was outboxing Joshua in the latter stages until the Briton produced a blistering finish to take his unbeaten record to 19 straight stoppage wins.
Both men had to dig deep and both looked close to exhaustion before the 27-year-old Joshua’s youth, fitness and sheer power took over in a penultimate round that sent the huge crowd into ecstasy as two barrages sent Klitschko down.
“As I said from the get-go, it will be a boxing classic and the best man will win,” Joshua said.
It was Klitschko’s first stoppage defeat since Lamon Brewster beat him in 2004 and leaves his record at 64 wins and five defeats.
“The best man won tonight and it’s a massive event for boxing,” said Klitschko after his second defeat in succession at the hands of a British heavyweight following the loss of his titles to Tyson Fury 17 months ago after an 11-year reign.
“Two gentleman fought each other. Anthony was better today. It’s really sad I didn’t make it.”
Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2017