Anthony Joshua faces his biggest challenge as a professional when he defends his IBF heavyweight title against Wladimir Klitschko on April 29. Wembley Stadium will be filled to capacity for what could be the defining fight of Joshua’s career so far.
The British fighter has a perfect professional record of 18 knockout victories from 18 fights. He is in peak physical condition and confident of overcoming the challenge from the former unified heavyweight champion.
Klitschko hasn’t fought since losing his titles in a points defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015. Some say he will be ring rusty whilst others have suggested he is past his best. However, it would be foolish for Joshua, or indeed his fans, to take the Ukrainian lightly.
He is the second longest reigning world heavyweight champion of all time and has a record of 64 wins from 68 professional fights. He has won 53 by way of knockout and taken away twelve unbeaten records during his career.
Although he hasn’t fought for 17 months and looked out of sorts in that defeat to Fury, Klitschko isn’t known as “Dr Steelhammer” for nothing. He possesses brutal strength, which many good fighters have succumbed to in the past.
Here, we look back at five of Klitschko’s best knockout victories.
Najee Shaheed (July 1998)
Shaheed had won 16 and drawn one of his 17 fights before challenging Klitschko for the WBC International Heavyweight title. It was his first fight outside the USA and one he will not look back on with fond memories. A solid right from Klitschko put Shaheed down in the first round.
In fairness to the American, he did attempt to stand up. However, after stumbling around the ring, the referee rightly called a halt to the fight.
Frans Botha (March 2002)
The South African had a record of 44 wins, three losses and one draw before fighting Klitschko. Those defeats had all come against great fighters in Michael Moorer, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
Botha insisted he was in the best shape of his life and had never boxed so well, although it didn’t stop Klitschko battering him in a one-sided affair.
The fight was stopped in round eight, after Klitschko unloaded a combination of punches ending with a left hook that put his tough opponent on the canvas.
Ray Austin (March 2007)
After missing out on a unification fight with WBC champion Oleg Maskaev, Klitschko was forced to defend his IBF crown against mandatory challenger Ray Austin.
This fight didn’t last that long but is known for Klitschko not using the famed big right hand that had earned him his nickname. Instead, he hit Austin with a flurry of left hooks 87 seconds into the second round and put the challenger down.
The American got back to his feet but the fight was already well and truly over.
Eddie Chambers (March 2010)
Chambers had lost just once in 36 fights, on points to Alexander Povetkin, and was rightly given a shot at all of Klitschko’s titles.
It was a pretty one-sided fight, with Klitschko winning every round despite having a lower than usual work rate. Trainer Emanuel Steward berated the champion for not fighting aggressively enough, which prompted a reaction in the final round.
The Ukrainian upped his work rate and threw more punches, eventually catching Chambers with a thunderous left with literally seconds to go in the fight. The challenger was completely knocked out and stayed on the canvas for several minutes after the fight had finished.
Kubrat Pulev (November 2014)
Pulev, nicknamed ‘The Cobra’, possessed a record of 20 wins from 20 professional fights before taking on Klitschko. He had beaten previously undefeated Alexander Ustinov and the experienced Tony Thompson to earn himself a shot at the IBF title.
In the lead up to the fight, the Bulgarian claimed the champion was “like a girl” but his arrogant comments would come back to haunt him.
Klitschko set about a demolition job on his challenger and knocked him down twice in the first round. Pulev got up both times and again in the third. However, he wouldn’t last much longer.
A thunderous left hook in the fifth put Pulev flat on his back and the referee counted him out.
After the fight, Pulev continued to show his arrogance by claiming Klitschko was ‘lucky’, which was a strange thing to say for someone who suffered a concussion and needed a CT scan after being knocked down several times.
This is just a small glimpse of what Klitschko is capable of inside the ring. He is an experienced, technically sound, durable and extremely powerful boxer.
Anthony Joshua will definitely have his work cut out trying to keep hold of his world title at the end of April.
Peter Reynolds, Pundit Arena