Truth be told, Wladimir Klitschko just did not perform very well when he lost his three heavyweight championship belts to Tyson Fury via unanimous decision in November 2015 in Germany.
Saturday, at age 41, Klitschko has the unenviable task of again trying to become champion when he challenges heavy-hitting Anthony Joshua of England for his title, with another vacant title up for grabs, at Wembley Stadium in London (on Showtime live, HBO same-day tape).
Klitshcko has been out of the ring 17 months, which would seem to reduce his chances of defeating Joshua, 27, who has knocked out all 18 of his opponents. But Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) wants his titles back. He seems almost haunted without them.
“The belts are very important,” Klitschko said. “I’ve been attached to these belts for a very long time. I had those belts in my past fight, and I’m fighting for these belts in this fight.
“The only difference is in my last fight they went to the opposite corner. So my goal and obsession is for those belts to land in my corner, in my hands.”
A two-time champion, Klitschko held the championship for 9 1/2 years in his second run before falling to Fury, so it’s understandable that he misses his hardware. If he gets some of it back by beating Joshua, it’ll be a fine feather in his cap.
Joshua may not have the most impressive list of opponents, but it would be difficult to find many who don’t believe that he is the real deal. At 6-foot-6, he’s as tall as Klitschko. He’s fast, he’s mean in the ring and he seems to have one goal – seek and destroy.
He’s brimming with confidence, too. That was evident when he was asked for a prediction this week during a conference call.
“I win,” Joshua said. “It’s not complicated. Let’s not overthink it. This isn’t rocket science, this is just a fight. Let’s strip it back to what it is – a young lion, ferocious, hungry, very determined.”
It’s this type of mentality that helps a champion stay a champion.
“Carrying the belt hasn’t changed me as a person,” said Joshua, who won the title in April 2016 and has made two defenses. “I just want to represent myself the best way because I know behind me are a million people that walk the same path as me and come from the same background. I think I’m a representation of these people.
“This is another stop. You can’t sit down and enjoy the fruits of your labor. As you sit down on your throne, there is always someone knocking on your door to take you down.”
This is what Klitschko is facing – a terrific young champion with his head on straight. If Klitschko gets stopped inside the distance, it won’t be surprising. Then again, let’s remember one thing – Klitschko has been a heck of a world champion and he has proven his mettle over the years.
And since he is nearing the end of his career, he really has nothing to lose.
“I’m the challenger again,” Klitschko said. “I feel young, hungry and totally obsessed with my goal to raise my hands again.”
There’s that word again – obsessed. Will it be enough?
Joshua doesn’t think so. He’s already planning his victory celebration that would take place in front of the sold-out crowd of 90,000.
“You can’t deny it, this is epic,” Joshua said. “As much as I’m calm, when I look around and see how pumped people are for this fight it gives me energy; it gives me life.
“It would be hard for me to hold myself together after such an event.”
The live Showtime feed begins at 1:15 p.m. HBO’s delayed telecast is at 8 p.m.
GOLOVKIN WILL WAIT FOR CANELO
Middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin originally planned to fight in June while awaiting a possible fight with Canelo Alvarez in September, but those plans have been scrapped.
According to reports out of London this week, Tom Loeffler of K2 Promotions said that Golovkin did get a bit dinged up in his narrow victory over Daniel Jacobs in March and that it would have been too quick of a turn-around to take on fellow champion Billy Joe Saunders on June 10 in Golovkin’s native Kazakhstan.
Moreover, Saunders’ promoter, Frank Warren, apparently wanted to move the fight up a week.
Golovkin has been wanting to get Alvarez in the ring. Alvarez (48-1-1, 34 KOs) takes on July Cesar Chavez Jr. (50-2-1, 32 KOs) on May 6 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas (on HBO pay-per-view). Loeffler indicated he would be interested in having Golovkin fight Chavez should he beat Alvarez.
Interim featherweight champion Carlos Zambrano (26-0, 11 KOs) of Peru will take on Claudio Marrero (21-1, 15 KOs) of the Dominican Republic on Saturday from Sam’s Town in Las Vegas (on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2). … Ivan Redkach (20-2-1, 16 KOs) of Ukraine will tangle with former super featherweight champion Argenis Mendez (23-5-1, 12 KOs) of Brooklyn on Tuesday in the lightweight main event from Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City (on Fox Sports 1). … As a prelude to Alvarez-Chavez, former champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (26-1, 17 KOs) of Cuba on May 5 will take on Robinson Castellanos (23-12, 13 KOs) of Mexico in the lightweight main event at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas (on ESPN2).
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