HUBBARD’S CUPBOARD – 4.5.17
By Alan Hubbard
After reportedly trousering the thick end of £15 million, a fraction of what is likely to come his way in the future, Anthony Joshua declared after his stunning conquest of Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday night that his proudest possession remained not a world championship belt but his Olympic gold medal.
Following the dramatic 11th round stoppage of the 41-year-old Ukrainian legend, a fellow former Olympic super-heavyweight champion, Joshua insisted that his victory did not match the high of winning Olympic gold at London 2012.
“Winning the world titles and defeating a boxing icon in Wladimir are special moments but for me nothing will ever match standing on the podium in London with the gold medal around my neck,” he said.
That’s good to hear from a level-headed young man who has turned his life around to become an overnight sensation, self-made superstar, national hero and front runner for Sports Personality of the Year.
He certainly has that world at his fists.
Now Box Office fights with Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder and perhaps even Klitschko again (though I hope the brave and dignified Wladimir willl heed big brother Vitali’s advice to retire) await down the line.
Yet fabulous as the night -and the fight –was, we must not lose sight of the fact that Joshua is still ring rookie.
Previous concerns about his durability certainly proved unfounded as he also demonstrated exceptional heart and resilience to avoid defeat after swallowing that Klitschko right hand and to fight on into the 11th round, where a devastating uppercut set up his victory.
He has, however, still got some way to go before he can call himself the best, despite what a posse of pundits are saying.
In fairness to Big Josh himself, he is pretty rational in his public pronouncements. Those bewitched cheerleaders around him are not quite so circumspect.
The flaws that exist in Joshua’s game were, on occasions, brutally exposed by Klitschko.
That Joshua found the capacity to ride out the storm and snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat is to his enormous credit, a little perspective is required.
Klitschko, remember – albeit with a lengthy delay not of his making – came into the fight off the back of another defeat that occurred in his own back yard against Tyson Fury.
Tyson took the ageing warrior to school on that Dusseldorf night.
Clearly there are parts of Joshua’s game that make him vulnerable. He remains very much a work in progress, so we shouldn’t get too carried away just yet.
To talk about him like he is Muhammad Ali reincarnated is nonsense.
I was lucky enough to go around the world witn Ali, and yes, there are some similarities. He is handsome, personable and has quick, hurtful hands, plus the gift of the jab well as the jab.
But The Greatest was more supple and less predictable with a far superior defence- a one-off. Joshua must be his own man, not a pugilistic pastiche of Ali. With all due respect, he some distance to go fore he can be bracketed with his hero.
In my view ,for all Klitschko’s qualities, Joshua didn’t beat a Liston, Frazier or Foreman but a once-formidable opponent with great heart but ageing legs whose best days were behind him. And like many others I am astonished that two of Transatlantic judges had Joshua ahead at the time.
So while it is admirable what Joshua has achieved up to now, until he fights the currently suspended Fury (who hopes to be back in the ring in in July after an investigative hearing by UK Sport into drugs allegations on Monday), or rival title holders Deontay Wilder or Joseph Parker, bestowing such lavish plaudits on him seems a tad premature.
Personally I think Joshua would struggle to lay a glove on a fighting fit Fury – but it would be fun watching him try.
And here’s a long-term prediction from me. In around three or four years we will be singing the praises of another young British heavyweight just as enthusiastically as we are Joshua’s today.
He is Daniel Dubois. He’s aged 19, is 2-0 after just turning pro, physically is bigger that Josh, bangs even harder and already has more than held own with him in sparring. He’s going to be sensational.
What a great time for British boxing.
And good luck to Joshua. At least, unlike one of his great Olympic forebears, the late Jesse Owens, he won’t have to cash in an Olympic gold medal to secure his future!
Right now he is deservedly sport’s Man of the Moment, a respectful and appetising role model for a sport that, like himself, has climbed off the canvas to win public affection. Long may it last.