The highly anticipated bout between British boxer Anthony Joshua and Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, who has dominated the division in the past, has been postponed until March or April of 2017. It was initially thought that the pair would meet on 10 December at the Manchester Arena.
It was believed that Klitschko’s reason for opting out was due to a calf injury. However, speaking to The Telegraph, the Ukrainian has said “that isn’t the reason why I won’t be fighting again this year”. Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn argued that the fact that it was not made explicit whether the WBA belt would be contested was a key factor in Klitschko’s decision.
Furthermore, Klitschko’s manager Bernd Bönte, again speaking to The Telegraph, said that “for the planned date, we’re simply out of time”, and added that Klitschko would have been physically ready to take on Joshua. In spite of this, Joshua will still be kept busy as he is scheduled to defend his IBF world title on that same day.
Fellow Brit David Price was a possible contender for the showdown on 10 December but American heavyweight Eric Molina was chosen instead. Comparatively, the fight will be more low-key than Joshua’s duel with Klitschko, but it will be a step up from Price, who reached the Olympic podium in 2008.
The American Molina challenged compatriot Deontay Wilder for the WBC belt last year but was knocked out. While the calibre of Molina is a long-shot from Klitschko he was still able to hold Wilder for nine rounds before being knocked out, despite Wilder’s near flawless undefeated record – 36 of his 37 bouts have been technical knockouts.
Both the IBF and the WBC titles were held by Klitschko, as well as the WBO belt, until his defeat to British boxer Tyson Fury. Fury has since given up all his belts following the revocation of his license for cocaine usage. The heavyweight has taken time out to focus on treatment for his depression.
George Foreman has insisted that the bout will be the biggest in years. By the time the bout comes around next spring, the veteran heavyweight Klitschko will be turning 45. Even though he is at the tail end of his career, Klitschko is still likely to be 27-year-old Joshua’s most seasoned and toughest competitor yet.
Prior to the decision to fight, in 2014, Klitschko praised Joshua and admitted that he was a better talent than other British boxers such as Derek Chisora and David Haye. The latter was defeated by Klitschko in 2011 by a unanimous decision. In an interview with Don McRae, Klitschko said: “Anthony has really great potential and a huge talent. I feel he is carrying something special inside him and I’m convinced he can make it and become a great champion.”
Of course KIitschko will hope that Joshua does not become a champion until after he has retired from the sport, but there is still no mention of hanging up his gloves from the Ukrainian. However, this year is Klitschko’s third title challenge to be called off, although the first two were postponed by Fury: the first was due to an injury, and the second was for his mental health issues.
The lacklustre performance against Fury that led to his defeat will certainly raise questions as to whether Klitschko will have enough firepower to take on Joshua.
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