Joshua vs Klitschko prediction
I think it is close to a 50/50 fight.
AJ is so inexperienced to be taking a fight at this level, the truth is we really don’t know if AJ is an elite level fighter because he hasn’t yet really been in any elite fights. Not one of his current opponents was considered a legit top 10 fighter at the time he took the fight (though many now rate Dillian Whyte on the fringe of the top ten).
And some of his biggest flaws to date (little or no head movement, vertical upright orthodox style, few or no feints, or lateral movement, poor distance control) play to Wlads strengths (strangely those flaws were all Furys biggest strengths and why he won so easily).
Now you can equally make a strong argument that AJ has never shown any of these things because he has never needed to, and that he has consistently improved against each opponent and added things as he has gone. He is of course an 18 fight novice in the pro game and can’t be expected to be the finished article right now…
But that does mean I worry that simply because he has never had to do it he will lack the required smarts for the kind of ring generalship you need against such a canny fighter as Wlad.
Having said that….
Wlad has been noticeably slowing down since the Bryant Jennings fight, and I can’t see how this won’t have been exacerbated by 17 months out of the ring and the fact that he is now 41….
And Wlad has always been so risk averse. He doesn’t like getting hit, or taking punishment, not many fighters Wlad has ever been in will hit as hard as AJ clearly does. So much of his reign was based on utilising home crowd advantage and friendly refs, combined with a massive size and strength advantage to clinch and nullify threats before they happen. Then take the opponent into deep water and either bank a comfy points win or get a late low risk stoppage when opponent on their feet.
He simply won’t be able to do that at Wembley, with AJ size, speed and frightening power. It will require a very different game plan for him to win. Moving, boxing on the outside and taking risks. Maybe even just trying to dominate the centre of the ring and push AJ back. This surely won’t be in Wlad’s comfort zone at any stage in his career and surely not right now.
I think there is a good chance that Wlad just won’t want to know once he starts getting hit. And for someone who has always liked to counterpunch he might find that a 27 year old with real dynamite in his gloves gives him a massive surprise on the “take one, to land one stakes”.
So much of Wlad’s game was in using his excellent jab to counter punch the leads from the opponent, one thing that requires though is excellent reactions to get the timing right. I think most people agree that Wlad has by far the more educated jab (a big criticism of AJ for me is that he has often just pawed his jab as a rangefinder rather than as a weapon) but if Wlad’s reactions are just a split second slower that is going to make it a risky strategy.
Let’s be honest when was the last time that Wlad was in the ring with a puncher who had the ambition to take his power and actually knock him out? Probably Corrie Sanders I’d say and that didn’t end well for Wlad. Even Fury had no intention of trying to actually hit Wlad hard, most people just came to survive. For all Wlad’s experience the experience he has of ambitious punchers who stand toe to toe and have come to win is mostly mixed!
When ever I think about it in those terms I become sure AJ is a big favourite.
But then I think about AJs whiskers, and mostly if he has a decent set. I don’t think Whyte is that big of a puncher but he definitely had AJ in trouble. And Wlad really is a monstrous puncher…
And whilst the bodybuilder/ rubbish Frank Bruno jabs are a little over egged, we really don’t know what happens when AJ get’s taken into deep water. Does he have a 12 round engine if in a war and taking punishment. Can he fight on the back foot?
There are so many unknowns here. Which makes it a fascinating fight. The young lion versus the wily old fox. I honestly can’t remember anticipating an heavyweight title clash this much since Lewis vs Tyson.
But my final thought is this. There is a reason why very, very, very few elite athletes are still competing at the very top when north of 40. I saw Steve Bunce say “Father Time is, and always will be, undefeated in the ring”. At 41, and after so much inactivity, I just don’t quite believe that Wlad will be able to for 12 rounds not give AJ an opportunity to punch him on the chin really hard at least once. And I think that if AJ lands hard on Wlad’s chin it is game over.
So after all that Waffle, and assuming that Wlad doesn’t score a knockout first, I think AJ knocks out Wlad rounds 6-9!
Also published on Medium.