The most anticipated boxing match in decades sees a former world champion take on the 2012 Olympic champion. Millions are signed up to watch on TV with a sell-out 90,000 crowd going to London's Wembley Stadium.
The 27-year-old Anthony Joshua (photo left) takes on 41-year-old Wladimir Klitschko at London's Wembley Stadium on Saturday. The pre-match build-up has been notable for interesting exchanges and respectful comments.
Unbeaten in all 18 of his professional fights to date, Joshua said he was prepared to wait for his moment in Saturday's fight.
"He'll probably start fast because he won't be able to keep up the pace," said Joshua, who hopes to add the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) title to his International Boxing Federation (IBF) crown.
Joshua was 7 years old when Klitschko turned professional in 1996 following his Olympic gold medal success in Atlanta. Klitschko has won 64 of his 68 professional fights, 53 of them with knockouts. The Ukrainian has been in fights lasting more than 12 rounds, nine times.
"Experience is something that you cannot buy in a shop. You gain it over the years," Klitschko said ahead of the fight. "People could be in great preparation and great spirit and I've seen that they crumble like a cookie right before the first bell."
Joshua came in four kilos heavier than Klitschko at Friday's weigh-in. At 113.4 kilos (17 stones 12lbs 2oz) Joshua was at his heaviest ever pre-fight weight. Klitschko compared him to body-builder Arnold Schwarzenegger "at his best."
Bad boy turned fighter
In 2009, Anthony Joshua was in a juvenile detention center in the town of Reading in southern England expecting a prison sentence for fighting. It was not his first offense. But instead of jail, he was ordered to wear an electronic tag for a year and keep a curfew. He turned to boxing and bricklaying, and despite one or two setbacks, made steady progress towards his first world title in 2016.
"I became so disciplined when I was on tag. I would be at home by eight o'clock and because I had boxing, I lived the disciplined life. I started reading because I learnt that so many champions educated themselves. Joe Louis, Mike Tyson, Bernard Hopkins. Before it was ‘act now, think later' - but the discipline and reading changed me," he said in an interview in 2015. The following year Joshua became the IBF world heavyweight champion.
His opponent on Saturday, Wladimir Klitschko from Ukraine had been at the top of the world heavyweight boxing tree for nearly a decade before a surprise defeat to Tyson Fury in
Former world heavyweight champion and 1968 Olympic gold medalist George Foreman said he sees Joshua as slight favorite for a win but told "Sport Bild" that "It will be a difficult fight. Klitschko's a good fighter." The 68-year-old Foreman said, "If Klitschko wins, the boxing world will flip out."
It is the most significant heavyweight fight ever to be held in Britain and could earn the pair upwards of 10 million pounds ($13 million, 12 million euros) each.
Added to that Joshua could receive bonus payments from his sponsors who include Jaguar, Sky Sports, watchmaker Audemars Piguet and Lucozade.
"If he wins, he's poised to become the highest-paid British sportsperson of all time. It's that big," sports marketing consultant Nigel Currie told "The Daily Telegraph."
Joshua bought his mother's council flat in north London where he still lives, near the penthouse he bought for the mother of his son, Joseph, who was born in October 2015.
His promoter, Eddie Hearn, said "Avoiding prison was a big turning point for Anthony. He's a bad guy trying to be good."
jm/sms (Reuters, AP)