Anthony Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn recently told Boxing News about how Wladimir Klitschko’s older brother Vitali, himself a man-mountain and former heavyweight titlist, tried his best to intimidate A.J at Wembley on April 29th.
As Joshua paced in his corner waiting for Michael Buffer to finish the introductions so that he could finally step out to meet Wladimir at centre-ring, Vitali apparently fixed an intense gaze on the Englishman. According to Hearn, Joshua stared back with a similar intensity.
In a recent interview with Colin Murray, Joshua acknowledged the pre-fight tension between he and the 45-year-old Ukrainian, and revealed what he was thinking in those moments.
“So when I got in the ring, there is the Klitschko brothers,” Joshua said. “So, Vitali, [Wladimir’s] brother, was in the ring[as well]. Wladimir is staying focused and prancing up and down the ring and then his brother is staring at me and I’m thinking, ‘Mate, don’t worry about that, we can do a few rounds as well if you want.’ Because the way he was looking at me, I forgot who I was fighting. So, I’m staring at him, then I feel his brother staring at me, and I’m looking at them both and I’m like, ‘Listen, I’m from the streets, we can do a handicap match if you want.'”
In the end, Vitali’s mind games didn’t seem to affect Joshua. Though he experienced a real crisis in the middle rounds, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist stormed back to finish Wladimir in the 11th. With the win, A.J added the WBA heavyweight title and an IBO trinket to the IBF title that he ripped from American Charles Martin in April of 2016.
According to Hearn, though, the pre-fight staredown didn’t bring an end to the hostilities between Joshua and Vitali, as the pair were involved in a heated verbal exchange after the fight.
Joshua and ‘Dr. Iron Fist’, as Vitali was somewhat bizarrely nicknamed, will likely come into contact with each other again later this year, as all indications are that A.J will rematch Wladimir sometime in the autumn.