It wasn't exactly a day that will ‘live in infamy', but a heavyweight that Time labeled “The Monster” probably lived in it.
Today will mark a truly historic day in heavyweight boxing history, as powerful young IBF champion Anthony Joshua (18-0, 18KOs) defends his title and challenges the legendary Wladimir Klitschko (64-4, 53KOs) for the vacant IBO and WBA belts vacated by the very troubled Tyson Fury.
The last time we had a bout in the heavyweight division that kind of felt this seismic, was when Lennox Lewis finally faced Tyson on June 8, 2002 in Memphis. It was the first and only time I'd ever been to Memphis and that weird Pyramid Arena. It probably felt that way to the kid in me because I knew Tyson would lose, and was pretty sure it would be of the slow death variety.
I could hear and damn near feel every time Lewis struck Tyson with a power punch. It evoked the demise of an old Joe Louis launching the legend of Rocky Marciano. But because this fight was occurring at the end both careers, it resonated more that I could also hear the late Emanuel Steward screaming at Lewis that Tyson was, “A dead man!”, and to finish him in vulgar terms.
He understood the historical significance of that fight for Lewis, even if all Lewis could think about was hands that were killing him. Inspired, he went out in the 8th round and shattered his hand while breaking Tyson.
No one will have to tell Joshua, 27, any of this, for the brainy brawler knows the 41 year-old Klitschko was a ‘has been' all-time great against a somewhat hapless Bryant Jennings in April 2015 at Madison Square Garden. I sat and watched live, as a much lesser talent than Joshua realize far too late that Wlad was no longer “Wladimir Klitschko”, and ran out of rounds. That won't happen to Joshua, who will set a blistering pace in a fight that should look a whole lot like a young Joe Louis V Primo Carnera on June 25, 1935.
Carnera was, in an odd way, a lot like Klitschko in many respects. He is generally regarded as perhaps the most disrespected heavyweight champion of all-time. At 6'8 and 270 lbs., Carnera was the biggest heavyweight champion ever, and a mafia controlled creation who used his height and reach to maximum affect. Klitschko is, for all intents and purposes, a modern iteration of Carnera, albeit a very significant upgrade.
An academic genius, Klitschko transferred his intellect to physical and nutritional science, while developing a formula to decode every specimen put in front of him in the ring.The 1996 Olympic Gold Medalist recreated himself as a pro, with the aid of the legendary trainer Steward, who taught him how to manipulate the aura of Lewis.
Joshua will face Klitschko in his first ring appearance since the listless defeat to Fury snapped an 11 year unbeaten run. No matter what happens on Saturday, Klitschko should be credited for boxing's international renaissance of today, for he has been nothing but class while serving as an ambassador for world champions across the globe.
HBO and its nonpareil production has been the home of the great Klitschko, just as the surging SHOWTIME has showcased the arrival of Joshua. In an unprecedented move– one that could significantly super charge boxing telecasts in the near future, both HBO and SHOWTIME will present different aspects of Joshua V Klitschko on Saturday. SHOWTIME will televise its SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING presentation live at 4:15 p.m. ET/1:15 p.m. PT, while HBO will televise its WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING production at approximately 11 p.m. ET/PT.
Bert Randolph Sugar lived for fights like this, and I could only wonder who [or what] he'd compare this to. In scouting Joshua, I don't really see any technical flaws in his game at all. Comparisons to Mike Tyson are very inaccurate in my opinion, for what I'm seeing is a very big Joe Louis with the physical composition of “Iron Mike”. The 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist from Great Britain is actually about to get better, and unfortunately for “Dr. Steelhammer”, that means he's about to get nailed. Expect the official unveiling of the Joshua era at heavyweight to unfold, as the British sensation levels a legend in the 6th round.