Cometh the hour, cometh the man is a fitting statement for the IBF Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua who rose from the canvas to emphatically stop former heavyweight ruler Wladimir Klitschko in the eleventh round before a record 90,000 that crammed into Wembley Stadium in London, UK.
Going into the contest, question marks surrounded the level of opposition that Joshua had faced up to that point with uncertainty for some on how he would handle a fighter of the pedigree of Wladimir Klitschko, a question which he answered quite resoundingly.
Klitschko also had his own point to prove, showing that there was more life in the old dog as he looked to upset the odds which he quite nearly accomplished in sixth.
The early rounds were fought tentatively, Joshua looking for a home for his right hand whilst Klitschko found his rhythm, using a long jab to gain distance and control of the centre of the ring.
It wasn’t until the fifth that things started to heat up, Joshua the bigger of the two men coming into the contest looked to assert that size as he landed several shots on his former sparring partner before pouncing on the opportunity using his strength to keep Klitschko from holding before landing a hard left hook which dropped Klitschko to the canvas.
Joshua like most in the stadium thought the job was done, Klitschko looked up with noticeable bruising to his face whilst sporting a cut over his left eye, gingerly made it to his feet.
Joshua was now in seek and destroy mode as he landed a few more hard shots before Klitschko turned the tables, rocking Joshua with a hook of his own towards the end of the round.
Klitschko now knew he could hurt the Londoner, going into the sixth with purpose on reversing the scores lost to the knockdown, doing so with a hard overhand right that dropped Joshua for the first time in his career.
Legs now looking increasingly heavy, Joshua was in trouble, Wladimir pushing and prodding him with the jab in the hope of finding another of his straight right hand, but Joshua did enough to survive the round.
A deep intake of air Joshua looked exhausted, spitting out his gumshield at one point in an attempt to get some rest from the oncoming Ukrainian steel that was now looking for an opportunity to get a portion of his titles back.
The pace slowed after the seventh which suited Joshua, for the first time in his career he was entering the championship rounds.
Scorecards around ringside were split with uncertainty of who was ahead but none of that mattered in the eleventh, Joshua taking the decision away from the judges with a well-timed left hook that had Klitschko holding on before moments later he succumbed to a uppercut which set up for the second time in the evening a trip to the ring’s canvas.
Klitschko was given a stay of execution early in the bout but it wouldn’t happen a second time, Joshua raining down shots which dropped the former ruler again.
Klitschko to his credit showed courage in again making it upright but after another wave of punches, referee David Fields brought 90,000 fight fans to their feet in appreciation as he waved off the contest.
“As boxing states, you leave your ego at the door and you respect your opponent,” an emotional Joshua said afterwards. “A massive shoutout to Wladimir Klitschko for taking the fight. I don’t want to say too much, because I don’t know if he wants to come back and fight me [again]. He’s a role model in the ring.”
“Of course we have a rematch in the contract,” a dejected Klitschko said. “I need to analyze and see what the heck happened. I wish I could have raised my hands, but congrats to him. He got up, he fought back and he won the titles.”
Joshua is tied to the rematch clause in the contract meaning that if Wladimir wanted a rerun he could opt to do such, although there was one name more pressing for Joshua who called from ringside.
“Tyson Fury, where you at, baby?” Joshua said. “Come on — that’s what they want to see. I just want to fight everyone. I’m really enjoying this right now.”