Klitschko and Joshua: Legacy and Legitimacy

Klitschko and Joshua: Legacy and Legitimacy

The King is dead; long live the King.

Saturday night, Wembley saw a record attendance for a boxing match and a bout that will become the thing of legend. It was more than a passing of the torch: it was a fight for the ages. A reminder why the heavyweight division is the pinnacle of the sport, and a moment in time where long burning questions were finally answered.

Previous perfunctory performances, like the Haye fight, had done little to endear Wladimir to fair-weather boxing fans. They want excitement and edge of the seat action. He played his part in providing this against AJ.

It’s a shame Haye couldn’t bring this side of Klitschko to life. Imagine a world where a slicker, more focused Wladimir stomped on the heavyweight division instead of politely keeping it at arm’s length with a jab.

This writer has always been a fan of boxers that box smart instead of taking risks for the sake of show. Mayweather is a genius that bores the untrained eye. Wladimir to many, was dull and a fallacy.

Of course, these claims are untrue. He was a master technician that painfully learnt his weaknesses in his early fights and adapted style accordingly. Paradoxically, it was his years of methodical experience that went against him on Saturday.

After he put Joshua down, the younger man looked spent. He was there for the taking. Even as AJ launched the final, deadly attack, it was from rocky ground.

But Klitschko was too use to seeing fights out, meticulously choosing punches at the optimum time. Had he ignored this well-tread instinct, the British Gold Medallist would have been surrendering to his Ukrainian counterpart.

Instead it was down to the man without any experience at world level to change the course of the fight: The course of heavyweight history.

Both men left everything in the ring. In defeat, Wladimir Klitschko is humanised. The mechanical, robotic sounding, professor of the punch became a dynamic warrior, ready to go out on his shield with his sword still swinging.

AJ will continue to improve, this was invaluable experience. It means should Klitschko face him again, he’ll have to raise his game even further. At forty-one, that may be too much of an ask. But at least we now know there was something left in the tank. More than a little, as it happens.

Anthony Joshua took a large step to fulfilling the prophecy that he can become one of the all-time greats, should he maximise his potential. The chinks in his armour – ones that had been hinted at – were fully exposed. But he stood tall and kept his relentless hunter mode active.

It may have been Joshua’s first proper fight at world level but he proved he belonged there. For all the hype surrounding him, real calibre shone through when it mattered most. He may still be “vulnerable” in the way Klitschko said, and demonstrated, but the balance of talent versus deficiencies sways in his favour.

Joshua getting better with time must strike fear into every future opponent. The best heavyweight boxer of the last decade, in the finest shape of his life, couldn’t halt his ascension. The legitimacy of Anthony Joshua can no longer be questioned.

Neither can the legacy that Wladimir Klitschko leaves behind. Often overlooked because of the entertainment factor, people miss the point: he made boxers look ordinary and always got the job done.

The Fury defeat can now be placed into context. There was a question as to why Klitschko tried to add extra padding to the canvas. It was a move that a man recovering from injury would take. He didn’t look 100% that night but took the fight anyway.

This isn’t to diminish the Fury achievement, he went with a game plan and executed it perfectly. It was the thing needed to light the fire in Wlad’s belly.

Once burning again, we saw a glimpse of the great man that’s always been there.

His boxing record already ensures Wladimir Klitschko is a Hall of Fame addition. The character and professionalism he’s displayed in every situation signifies what being a champion is all about.

He hands over his crown to Joshua in a fitting coronation. The British boxer has displayed he also has a positive demeanour. In the coming years, it will be tested as fighters try to drag him to the dark side of the sport.

In those moments, he’d be well advised to take a pause and wonder what Wladimir would do.

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Bellew was Haye’s Achilles’ Heel

Bellew was Haye’s Achilles’ Heel

On Saturday night, Tony Bellew shocked the boxing world. If he’s honest, he shocked himself. David Haye’s recovery was an unknown quantity since returning from injury. Two “fights” against men not fit for sparring told us very little. And the fitness question mark will always hang over Haye’s head. That being said, his explosive punching power was never in doubt. What transpired was something straight from fiction but Haye didn’t lose to Bellew in the eleventh round – that had happened months before and was confirmed in the build-up.

Imagine the scenario: a cruiserweight hounds and pesterers the perceived best heavyweight on the planet. The attacks are verbal and public. The heavyweight struggles to go about his daily business because the yapping cruiserweight will not go away.

So the man in the weight division above finally gives in and agrees to a bout he’s sees as nothing more than an inconvenience – a money spinner, maybe – but still a major unnecessary distraction.

The fight goes ahead and the outcome is what the heavyweight expected: he wins.

That heavyweight was Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye was the annoying cruiserweight. It’s why he hated Bellew so much in the build-up to their fight. The Liverpudlian had out-Hayed Haye. He’d been backed into a corner through persistence, his planned plot back to the top delayed.

Now the question becomes: was that outpouring of anger something deeper rooted than a mere dislike for changing his plan? Was he worried Bellew – a fighter looking like he’s still on the way to finding his prime – could expose his newfound flaws? There was a reason Haye hadn’t taken a proper bout since his shoulder injury.

This doesn’t mean anything should be taken away from either fighter. Both Haye and Bellew gave good accounts of themselves on Saturday. After the first round, Haye took control. It was when he decided to trade blows in the centre of the ring in the middle of the fight that his night unravelled. It looked like something from a Rocky movie at the time and was described that way by Haye afterwards.

Then the extent of the injury to Haye became obvious. He dragged his foot around the ring like he was auditioning for a role in The Walking Dead. But he was a zombie that hung on and kept coming back for more.

The damaged heel isn’t an excuse for his loss, but a reason to consider retiring. He can’t keep going to the well when it’s nearly running dry.

Naturally there will be calls for Haye’s corner to be examined. The criticism being they should have thrown in the towel earlier. The Reflective takes the opposing view. He wasn’t taking dangerous head shots and they can’t pull a proud man early when he still wants to go toe-to-toe.

Haye played the role of bad guy beforehand but he showed heart and spirit when many others would have taken the easy way out.

Eventually that pride had to give way to the inevitable fall. It was a physical descent and a metaphorical one from grace. Not that he’d ever shown much of that, but his royal standing was removed, humility served. A career that remains in intensive care.

About the distasteful side of Haye in the promotion of the bout: he needs to be cut some slack. He remembers when the benchmark for heavyweight trash talking was set by Tyson, saying he’d eat Lewis’s children. It’s panto. Brutal panto, but panto all the same.

The PC brigade have no place in softening boxing’s bravado. And before they jump on that one line: I’m not saying comments that marginalise or discriminate race, colour or sexual preference are acceptable. But nasty words between two men absorbed in their roles is okay. It’s expected. They do have tickets to sell.

And it’s now Bellew that holds a wad of offers, all resulting in more life-changing paydays. Make no mistake, this was always about winning the payday lottery for the Scouser. It follows a trend of boxers seeking bouts beyond their ability, in weight divisions above, for one highly publicised contest.

Except the result was within Bellew’s grasp and he snatched it.

Eddie Hearn won’t want a rematch – that alone could retire Haye if he’s unable to avenge the defeat – he’ll be eyeing the suspect pair that have box office seats, Deontay Wilder and Joseph Parker.

Whatever Tony Bellew decides his legacy is already secure. As he continued to point out: he’s a current world champion. He’s also a legitimate heavyweight that deserves to, finally, be taken seriously.

The Mayweather and McGregor Problem

The Mayweather and McGregor Problem

Floyd Mayweather, the greatest boxer of his generation, is heading toward a bout with brazen MMA star Conor McGregor. There’d be no reason to keep prodding public opinion if it wasn’t a strong possibility. Mayweather laying down financial terms during an ESPN interview brings it a step closer.

From the Mayweather camp, this has been a carefully plotted case study. The Berto fight aside – when it appears he just wanted an easy go-home party – Mayweather uses social media to determine where the best payday can be found.

He drops hooks in the trending waters and waits to see what catches a bite. For years, fights have been selected or pushed on this principle. The obvious one that didn’t need it – Pacquiao – was delayed for actual sporting reasons. And perhaps, a consideration of legacy but we’ll get to that in a moment.

What appear to be throwaway Tweets are in fact examples of Mayweather mining for information. The strongest hit since Pacquiao has been McGregor. The Irishman has transcended UFC. Even a defeat to Nate Diaz (which he avenged) did little to halt his emergence as a global superstar. Since then, he has gone on to become the UFC’s first double belt holder.

He can make demands on Dana White that few, if any, have been able to get away with in the past. From borrowing Tyron Woodley’s belt when he wanted to parade two titles, to demanding a cut, in the way of shares, following the sale of UFC for $4.2 billion.

McGregor is a money printing machine for MMA and Mayweather likes to be synonymous with his self-given nickname.

Floyd looks at Conor and sees one last, easy, payday. He has every right to believe if 49 trained boxers couldn’t effectively penetrate his defence (save the De La Hoya chat for another day) then a mixed martial artist, who has only recently acquired a boxing licence from the state of Nevada, stands no chance.

The talk of how “it only takes one punch” or “he might prove too unorthodox to handle” is conjecture for another day. Dealing in things we do know, it can be said such a bout will forever tarnish Mayweather’s impeccable record.

Perhaps retirement has proven to be boring for Mayweather because this is the first time he’s actively chased a fight. In the past, people vied for position to get a shot at Mayweather. It was a privilege to be considered. Boxers, like Amir Khan, planned their entire schedules around the hope Mayweather, sat like Caesar, would give a thumb up.

Now it is Mayweather in front of cameras calling someone out. His air of indifference replaced with desire. Floyd may be trying to gain some ground back by offering “only” $15m to his $100m but it is McGregor that has been pulling the strings and provoking the boxer.

Floyd now wants this fight. It reveals an ugly side to a man that deserves to be considered in greatest of all time discussions. The Money moniker is less caricature, more true reflection.

He claims it would be a business decision. This is bad for business. As a businessman, he should recognise retired boxers profit from their legacy. Decades from now, regardless of the outcome with McGregor, the existence of the fight would diminish the perfect record he’d set as an active boxer.

The Pacquiao fight, unfairly, left a bad taste in most people’s mouths. This will confirm all the claims against him as a competitor.

The idea a part of him was humble, respected Rocky Marciano’s record and didn’t want to be mentioned in the same breath, will disappear if he ties the achievement against a MMA fighter in a non-competitive, money spinning exhibition bout.

Mayweather has been in WWE, McGregor is routinely connected, this could turn into a Sports Entertainment type grapple. Picture Thunderlips and Balboa in Rocky III. Would McGregor, with his brash, colourful personality, really stand and be humiliated for several rounds. Or would he turn it into an even bigger spectacle, get disqualified, and commence a brawl.

In a gimmick fight, you wouldn’t bet against it.

Post-fight, the draw of chasing down victory 51 and surpassing Marciano will build until his business brain marries with his in-ring ambition. But where could the satisfying conclusion to his career come from? Gennady Golovkin is simply too large for them to compete at a catch-weight – Floyd has even encouraged the middleweight to go up a division – and the rest of his fight record answers every possible question.

Only Amir Khan offers a high payday, intriguing bout. For all the Bolton fighter’s inbuilt faults, he does offer a dangerous style that won’t appeal to a man coasting for easy cash.

Floyd Mayweather should take a step back from the precipice. A fight against Conor McGregor may earn him in excess of $100m but no money in the world could repair the long-term damage to his legacy. The only time the pair should trade blows is in one of Vince McMahon’s wrestling rings. Not in a sanctioned boxing match.

WrestleMania has no place in the sweet science.