Joshua names Klitschko as toughest opponent and targets Usyk knockout

Anthony Joshua insists epic win over ‘old lion’ Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley was his hardest ever fight… and promises to go for the knockout when he bids to regain his titles by avenging defeat to Oleksandr Usyk

  • Anthony Joshua has named Wladimir Klitschko as his toughest opponent to date
  • The heavyweight knocked out icon Klitschko in an epic at Wembley in April 2017
  • Joshua has twice lost the two boxing titles he claimed from Klitscho with that win
  • Knocking out Oleksandr Usyk is Joshua’s target as he eyes up regaining the belts

Anthony Joshua has named Wladimir Klitschko as the hardest opponent he has fought and revealed his is aiming to knock out a Ukrainian great again when he seeks revenge against Oleksandr Usyk.

Heavyweight superstar Joshua added Klitschko’s WBA (Super) and IBO belts to his IBF title when his spectacular 11th-round knockout consigned the boxing icon to defeat in his final fight.

Since that classic contest at Wembley Stadium in April 2017, when Klitschko knocked Joshua down earlier in the bout, the Londoner has lost the belts twice, regaining them from Andy Ruiz in December 2019 before losing to Usyk in September 2021.

Anthony Joshua (right) and Wladimir Klitschko (centre) traded knockdowns before an epic KO

The British boxing favourite rates Klitschko, who earned 53 knockouts, as his hardest ever test

Klitschko was the most celebrated fighter Joshua has beaten, although he appeared to have far greater problems in his unsuccessful bid to solve the riddle posed by unbeaten Usyk in their cagey showdown at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

‘The hardest opponent I have come up against would be Wladimir Klitschko – definitely,’ Joshua told an enraptured Oxford Union audience.

‘The passing of the guard. The young lion versus the old lion. At the time I fought him, I thought it was definitely too early but it was his last fight.

‘So if I didn’t fight him then, it would have been too late. It was risk versus reward and I thought boxing needed it.

Oleksandr Usyk was too tricky for Joshua when he won their bout on points in September 2021

‘Sometimes, due to a lack of experience, we make it harder than it sometimes needs to be.

‘He had definitely more knockouts on his record than I have fights and knockouts combined. He is experienced and very strong and it was a tough fight.

‘Before that stage, I was knocking guys out within six rounds and seven rounds. Wladimir took me 11 rounds – somewhere I had never been before. He was my toughest, for sure.’ 

In the five years since he stunned Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans, 32-year-old Joshua has suffered the first two defeats of his career – and he admits he had never used a stringent set of tactics before his current camp for the Usyk rematch, which looks set to take place on July 23 in Saudi Arabia.

Joshua struggled to trouble Usyk and took plenty of punishment as the ex-cruiserweight shone

Joshua said: ‘If I’m honest with you, this is the first time in my career I’d say we are specifically working to a game plan.

‘It will all make sense after July 23. I’ve based a lot of my success on raw ability, with the right coaches, experienced coaches.

‘But they probably knew I had ability. It’s just about neutering that ability. What tends to happen is, we overthink things too much when there isn’t a game plan, because things don’t always go our way when it’s based on raw ability.

‘Raw ability wasn’t enough, so now I’m going to try out this new game plan, training and see how it goes.

Joshua regained his titles from Andy Ruiz in 2019 in Saudi Arabia, where he is set to fight Usyk

‘I believe that you have to have an a, b and c. I’m only as good as my team. I’m quite stubborn; if you tell me to go out there and knock out this guy, I’ll believe I’ll be able to do that.

‘The fight with Usyk, in my mind, was to go the 12 rounds – that was my game plan because I felt I could compete with him as a boxer.’

Usyk looked the more likely man to score a knockout on his way to a comprehensive points victory against Joshua.

‘AJ’ reflected: ‘He won two more rounds than I did. The plan now is to go for the knockout.

The 32-year-old claims he is working to a game plan for the first time in a bid to knock out Usyk

‘My style is to be up close and personal and to make it personal for the opponent, so that’s the game plan.

‘Usyk’s classed as a pound-for-pound opponent. I still don’t know what that means. The thing I know is that people like winning and knockouts.

‘I’ve never been into winning or pound-for-pound, I’ve never really been into rankings.

‘He’s one of the best across all the divisions. What Usyk means to me personally is someone I fought true to my values, and that means fighting the best of this generation.

‘You have boxers that you knock out that make you look good, which is like eye candy in boxing.

‘Usyk is a top-tier opponent, an Olympic gold medalist, a former cruiserweight undisputed champion and now a heavyweight champion.

‘He should go down in boxing history and I take him on in three months. God willing, with praise and hard work, I will get the win and become a three-time heavyweight world champion.’

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