Anthony Joshua stops Wladimir Klitschko by way of TKO
Untested was the criticism that clung so closely to Anthony Joshua before Saturday night’s heavyweight title bout that lured a record post-World War II fight crowd of his countrymen to Wembley Stadium.
In a rousing display of his toughness and fighting skill, Joshua picked himself off the canvas and hammered Wladimir Klitschko relentlessly in the 11th round, winning by technical knockout in a showing that vanquished the tag of inexperience.
“I’m not perfect, but I’m trained,” Joshua told the 90,000 roaring for the man who took a major step toward becoming the sport’s next big thing. “Sometimes you can be a phenomenal boxer. But boxing’s about character, and sometimes you go into the trenches.
“I said it’d be a classic. I came back to fight my heart out. That’s what I’m about.”
Joshua, who won the country’s heart first by claiming the gold medal at the 2012 Olympics in London, had never fought beyond seven rounds.
And the 27-year-old’s interest in flexing his younger muscles and power punches on the 41-year-old former long-reigning champion was pulled from the same script that allowed Joshua to win his first 18 fights by knockouts to become International Boxing Federation champion.
With Klitschko’s old World Boxing Assn. belt also on the line Saturday, Joshua (19-0) stood stoutly upright and threw heavy blows that caused Klitschko to back off even after the veteran hit Joshua with a good punch early in the second round.
Joshua pressed the attack in the third round and nailed Klitschko with a good counter in the fourth, then pursued the kill in an exuberant fifth round.
Starting with an immediate punch to the face, Joshua unleashed a string of scoring blows in the fifth round that left Klitschko covering and leaning forward toward the canvas.
Anthony Joshua of Britain celebrates after defeating Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine by technical knockout for the heavyweight title.(Nick Potts / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko bump fists after their heavyweight championship bout on Saturday.(Nick Potts / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua knocks down Wladimir Klitschko during the 11th round of their heavyweight title fight in London.(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
Referee David Fields begins to count out Wladimir Klitschko during the 11th round of the heavyweight championship bout against Anthony Joshua (not pictured).(Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua sends Wladimir Klitschko reeling with a big right hand during the ninth round.(Ben Stansall / AFP / Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua is knocked down by Wladimir Klitschko during the fifth round of their title bout.(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua clobbers Wladimir Klitschko with an overhand right during their heavyweight title bout.(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua sends Wladimir Klitschko to the canvas during the fifth round of their heavyweight fight.(Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)
Anthony Joshua begins to celebrate after knocking down Wladimir Klitschko in the fifth round of their heavyweight bout.(Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)
Referee David Fields begins to count after Wladimir Klitschko was knocked down.(Nick Potts / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua tries to evade a punch thrown by Wladimir Klitschko during their heavyweight fight.(Richard Heathcote / Getty Images)
Wladimir Klitschko lands a left jab against Anthony Joshua during their championship bout.(Nick Potts / Associated Press)
Anthony Joshua lands blows as Wladimir Klitschko tries to protect himself while against the ropes during their title fight.(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)
And downward he’d continue, as Joshua reloaded and struck Klitschko further to send the 1996 gold medalist to the deck.
“I tried to take him out. When I hurt someone, I know I can get them, so I was searching — boom! — and they were just skimming his face. It does take a lot of energy out of you to hit someone hard,” he said.
Klitschko, the fitness guru, survived by rising and convincing referee David Fields he was cognizant.
Joshua was breathing with his mouth opened, stepping back a little. He had tired himself out with the onslaught. And Klitschko made him pay with a series of well-landed blows that left Joshua on the run, scurrying to his stool for rest that was needed as badly as the oxygen that had escaped him.
While a cornerman attended to Klitscko’s cut above his left eye, the old champion schemed.
He met the tired Joshua in the middle of the ring and soon enough found an opening like the ones that led to 53 of his knockouts, planting a straight right hand on the face of Joshua, who went down to the canvas and caused the massive crowd to believe its new king’s reign would be over a year after it started.
It was now a test of resolve.
A dazed, laboring Joshua did some holding of his own to help end the round and even in the seventh and eighth rounds he spent time staying out of harm’s way and conserving energy as the scorecards narrowed. Feeling some recovery, Joshua said later, he told Klitschko, “You’re in a bad place now. This is my second wind.”
“What I really remember was those last few rounds, thinking, ‘Stick with it now, this is where you’ve really got to start pushing him.’”
Joshua’s activity increased in the 10th round and then he blitzed Klitschko with his best punch, a right uppercut that set up a knockdown flurry in the 11th. Klitschko went down again after another Joshua onslaught of punishing and creative punches.
Then, with Klitschko backing to Joshua’s corner, the young champion went for the kill as Klitscko’s head rocked through the damage until referee Fields stepped in and stopped the fight at the 2-minute 25-second mark.
“Both men were giving their best. The best man won the fight,” Klitschko said. “It’s really sad that I didn’t make it tonight. I was planning to do it. It didn’t work.”
Klitschko retains a rematch clause, but Joshua called out Tyson Fury afterward. The fellow Brit beat Klitschko in 2015, but vacated his titles after drug issues.
“I need to analyze and see what the heck happened,” Klitschko said when asked what he’d do next.
Follow Lance Pugmire on Twitter @latimespugmire
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