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.

The Magic of the Cup

The Magic of the Cup

In days gone by the FA Cup Final was the curtain closing showcase end to the English football season. As a boy I’d wait excited all day by the television. Watching the teams arrive at the stadium in their special FA Cup suits. Later doing their special pitch walk. All of them looking relaxed but bubbling with the sense of the big occasion just like the fans watching. Winning the FA Cup may not have given a team bragging rights about being the best in the land but the desire on that day matched the league campaign. If a team managed the league and cup double it was a mark of excellence.
 
Nowadays the cup clubs want in their double, sometimes before the domestic league itself, is the Champions League. The prestige of the world’s greatest and oldest domestic cup now sits above the League Cup as a consolation prize or a good addition to the Premier League/Champions League double. It doesn’t take priority. Which is a shame. It doesn’t even get to be the closing game of the season due to Wembley staging the Champions League final this year. Over the years its value had been left to erode to the point the cause take its slot as the season closer.
 
There is a paradox in this, and I love a paradox. The chase of the Champions League dream and most recent English success came by way of Chelsea. They failed to finish in the top four that year but were crowned Kings of Europe. Back in the old European Cup format at least when teams like Liverpool had their successes they deserved that mantle without question. And the FA Cup still had its importance. Clubs chase the Champions League dream when on paper it should be the one devalued. Unless they’re chasing the cash flow of competitions regardless of other factors. I’d love to see the FA Cup winners be awarded a spot in the Champions League in place of the fourth placed Premier League side. Of course UEFA will never allow that but it’s one way to make the Cup illustrious again.
 
Despite the current state of the Cup compared to its former glory days, come final day it is the biggest game on Earth for the two teams. This year we’ll see Manchester City face Wigan Athletic. Both sets of fans appreciating the trip to compete like it was ten Champions League finals rolled into one. It wasn’t so long ago Manchester City dreamed of the current success they’re currently experiencing and Wigan probably started this season with the aim to avoid relegation. Neither will have enjoyed the league this year so the Cup provides a welcome distraction.
 
It’s more than just a distraction, though, they’ll both desire a win immensely. For Manchester City a season without something in their trophy cabinet will be seen as a massive failure. Whereas Wigan may well be thinking this could be their only chance for a long time to take some silverware. Even the managers’ futures could hang on the result. City’s Mancini could be given more time, as he deserves, should he take the FA Cup back to Manchester like he did a few years ago. Wigan’s Martinez on the other hand could be lured away if he wins a trophy with a small club.
 
The ramifications of success and defeat won’t be felt on the day. For that special time at Wembley the fans and players alike can be lured into the spell of the FA Cup and will willingly partake in the belief it’s the only game that’s mattered all season. If there’s any doubt whether or not this cup is craved look at the faces of the winners after the final whistle. The magic of the cup will be etched on every one of them.