Ready for Joshua-Klitschko II?

Britain's Anthony Joshua (right) connecting on a right-hand punch in his world heavyweight title fight against Wladimir Klitschko. Despite being knocked down for the first time in his professional career, Joshua managed to recover and win the bout in
Britain's Anthony Joshua (right) connecting on a right-hand punch in his world heavyweight title fight against Wladimir Klitschko. Despite being knocked down for the first time in his professional career, Joshua managed to recover and win the bout in the 11th round.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

New heavyweight champion is willing after thrilling bout, as Ukrainian ponders rematch

LONDON • World heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua declared he was willing to give Wladimir Klitschko a rematch after his 11th-round win on Saturday, but the Ukrainian would not confirm if he would box again.

The Briton retained his International Boxing Federation (IBF) world heavyweight title for the third time, and also claimed the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) belt against the former champion after an epic battle was settled by Joshua's 19th consecutive stoppage.

In a thrilling fight which swung one way and then the other, Joshua sealed victory during a thunderous 11th round.

"I don't mind fighting him again, if he wants the rematch," Joshua said after the fight in front of 90,00 fans at Wembley Stadium.

"Big respect to Wladimir for challenging the young lions of the division. It's up to him, I don't mind. As long as Rob (McCracken, Joshua's trainer) thinks it's good, I'm good to go."

Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn said that if a rematch were to take place in Britain later this year, it would likely be at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff.

"I MISJUDGED HIM"

I thought he would not get up. I thought I could have done more to finish him after he went down. I was pretty sure it was going to be my night.

WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO, former world heavyweight boxing champion, on failing to capitalise on knocking down Anthony Joshua.

"It was one of the best heavyweight fights I've seen and Klitschko will probably say he wants a rematch," Hearn told reporters.

"We're not opening negotiations with any other fighter until he knows what he wants to do."

Klitschko refused to make any commitment on his future and whether he would retire after a second successive defeat.

"I'm not going to consider anything, I'm not going to make any statements, I will take my time and let you know," said the 41-year-old. "I have a rematch clause in the contract which I can execute."

He suffered his first stoppage defeat since 2004 when he was overwhelmed by Joshua's precision and power in a ferocious 11th-round assault. But Klitschko showed there is still plenty of fight left in him.

Joshua had lost control of the epic encounter after flooring the Ukrainian in the fifth and appeared to have punched himself out.

Klitschko landed a right to the temple in the sixth round which dropped Joshua for the first knockdown of his professional career.

"I thought he would not get up," he said. "I thought I could have done more to finish him after he went down. I was pretty sure it was going to be my night so I took my time."

Joshua, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist, became subdued as Klitschko, who won the Olympic title in 1996, clawed his way back into the fight until the Briton unloaded a series of combinations to seal victory.

"I took a round off to get my breath back and then I said, 'You're in a bad place'," Joshua recalled.

"I tried to recover and then step it up in the later rounds, that was the plan. I learnt I can knock out anyone. Sometimes you have to ride a few shots and take a few shots before pushing on for victory."

His powerful right uppercuts featured in all three of the knockdowns but the fight was close at the time of the stoppage: one judge had it 95-93 to Klitschko, while the other two scored it 96-93, 95-93 for Joshua.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 01, 2017, with the headline 'Ready for Joshua-Klitschko II?'. Print Edition | Subscribe