ANTHONY JOSHUA will be entering unchartered territory as he steps into the ring to face Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley on Saturday evening.
Before a punch is thrown the fight will go into the record books as matching the best UK attendance of 90,000 set when Len Harvey squared up to Jock McAvoy at White City in 1939. IBF champion Joshua intends to add the vacant WBA and IBO heavyweight crowns to his collection by extending his perfect record to 19 wins from 19 professional fights. But it could be the first time he will have had to go all the way.
AJ has never been tested in a full 12-round battle as all of his 18 previous contests have ended inside the distance, with five of his opponents falling in the first. Joshua grabbed the IBF title from Charles Martin in just two rounds and only a couple of his 18 fights have been taken beyond a third round. Dillian Whyte and Dominic Breazeale put on the strongest defence but even they only lasted until the seventh. In total Joshua has needed to compete in just 44 rounds of professional boxing ahead of this fight while Klitschko has negotiated his way through more than that in his five most recent scraps.
The Ukrainian has battled through 358 total rounds in 68 professional bouts, suffering just four defeats – the last being at the fists of Britain’s Tyson Fury in November 2015. That contest was decided on points, while his other three losses came through a KO.
In his 64 victories, 53 were stopped inside the distance and in that time he made 18 successful defences of a world heavyweight title and also enjoyed an 11-year unbeaten run. If we were to be guided by statistics alone it would point to Joshua being favourite for an early finish, with Klitschko’s chances improving the longer that the fight goes on. But that doesn’t cater for the big-fight hunger of the 27-year-old Brit or the slowing effect of age on his 41-year-old opponent.
For me it has to be Joshua all the way.