By Josh Williams
Former unified world heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko says Anthony Joshua is his signature fight Emanuel Steward used to promise him.
Klitschko (64-4 53KO) challenges Britain’s Anthony Joshua (18-0 18KO) on April 29 at Wembley Stadium, London, for the IBF, WBA ‘Super’ & IBO world heavyweight titles.
The 40-year-old is well into his 21st year as a professional – ‘Dr Steelhammer’ made his debut in November 1996 after an illustrious amateur career – Klitschko claimed gold at the Atlanta Olympics three months prior to his debut, but as for his signature, defining fight, which his late coach Emanuel Steward always spoke of, is finally here on April 29.
“I want to do it for Emanuel Steward,” Klitschko said. “He was my biggest admirer, and he definitely shaped me as a fighter and also as a person.
“I think I owe him this fight as well because he was always saying, ‘well Wladimir, your signature fight is going to come up, just trust me’.
“Was David Haye the one? Kind of, he was a pumped up cruiserweight, got into the ring and tried to make a fight. But now, It’s a signature fight. It’s something that I was definitely looking for and something that I probably owe to Emanuel – to not just be part of this fight, but to win this fight.”
Before a shock defeat to 6ft 9inch undefeated Brit Tyson Fury, the Ukrainian was largely untested for over ten and a half years. David Haye, Mariusz Wach and Alexander Povetkin were some of the victories during Klitschko’s utterly dominant decade-long reign over the heavyweight division.
Since capturing gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, Anthony Joshua’s career has been guided in a careful, predominantly risk-free way, leading the undefeated heavyweight to IBF glory after a routine win over Charles Martin in his 16th fight.
With Klitschko now challenging for world honours without holding any titles himself – a situation he hasn’t dealt with since April 2006 when he stopped American Chris Byrd to claim the IBF & IBO straps, the Ukrainian admits it feels strange but it’s provided much-needed motivation.
“I’m still struggling to say I used to be champion because I used to be ‘The Champ’, now suddenly I’m in this situation where I am challenger and it’s different to me, and it’s more motivating to me,” he said.
“Whether I’ve still got it or not, these questions will be answered on April 29.
“If I couldn’t believe in myself I wouldn’t be here.”
After the one-sided points loss to Fury, Klitschko’s trainer Jonathan Banks faced scathing criticism from boxing pundits and trainers – ‘Fury made Klitschko look every bit of his age’ and ‘Klitschko had no plan B and simply couldn’t adapt’ were just some of the remarks made.
When asked if there will be any tweaks to his team and preparations for April 29, Klitschko said: “I will not change my team, and if someone is in doubt that some of the team members are not good, I will crush their doubts.
“I believe for every team member in my team it’s a challenge and something to prove that whatever it was – we’ve been successful for a long time, that we can fix it. The mistake that was made, and the loss that we had, has given us all strong motivation.
“I definitely have utilised my team moving forward to the goal.”