The War Report: Touchdown (Week 17, 2017)

Anthony Joshua (IBF/WBA 200+) | Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

You’d have to go back a long time to find a heavyweight fight that is comparable to the one that transpired on Saturday night. How far back is subject to the depth of one’s memory bank and to the opinion of their example, but no matter what, Anthony Joshua’s eleventh round stoppage win over Wladimir Klitschko is probably the best heavyweight fight of this millennium.

It had everything: A raucous crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium cheering on their fellow Brit —unified titles on the line — fierce exchanges from the sport’s heaviest fighters — swings of momentum that featured both behemoths crashing to the canvas — the young prospect maturing before our very eyes while the cured legend looked youthful in moments— two efforts that revealed each man’s character in their most dire moment— a definitive ending. Not only did it live up to the hype, this event shot through the moon.

Using that momentum, Joshua, 27, catapults himself into what looks to be certain stardom, and his potential has the same limitations as space. In a sport driven by stars, boxing has had plenty in recent memory, but none of which have been in it’s glamour division — where the biggest men make the bigger impact both in and outside the ring. Boxing could never have too many transcendent stars, and Joshua could be the next one if he already isn’t. At least that’s the case already in the UK, but America might be a little behind.

No thanks to it’s poor coverage of this event, the American main stream media failed to provide the unknowing public about a great happening in boxing. Sure, there wasn’t an American involved in the fight, but that really isn’t the case when compared to other niche sports in the U.S. like tennis, golf and soccer — a synonym for the world’s biggest sport that takes a backseat to America’s pastime— football.

The NFL Draft did take place over the weekend, and that might’ve distracted the main stream TV sports media. Should that really be the case, it would be an ironic example of American boxing being purged by the NFL as potential heavyweight athletes get drafted by teams. There was even a comparable crowd that showed up on Thursday night for the Draft’s first round, and all they came to see were prospects in suits walk down some elaborate stage. Joshua, a heavyweight prospect in his own right, had a stage like no other to prove his worth in his first step-up fight, and he went on to score a remarkable touchdown that can’t be compared to the ones those future football players will one day achieve.

Maybe a touch down on American soil will get Joshua the mass recognition stateside, but those awaiting that arrival shouldn’t hold their collective breaths. Joshua doesn’t really need to get here at the moment, but it sure is inevitable one day. Knowingly, Showtime signed Joshua to a multi-fight deal three outings ago, but that is likely to be up once he makes his way across the Atlantic. HBO, who also broadcast Joshua-Klitschko on a tape-delay Saturday night, was able to capture the star making performance under their own lens, and once he becomes available for a new deal, the two networks are sure to be in a bidding war for boxing’s next big thing.

Fight of the Week

Anthony Joshua TKO11 Wladimir Klitschko (IBF/WBA 200+) | April 29 — London, England

After a nervous jabbing contest in the first three rounds, Klistchko started to let go of his right hand in the fourth after having been outboxed early on. It was the decision that sparked a fight and the two big men proceeded to deliver a captivating six minute stretch in rounds five and six.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

In the opening seconds of the fifth, Joshua jumped on Klitschko with a right hand followed by a left hook that had Wladimir startled. After an accumulation of more punches including a right hand to the temple, Klitschko fell forward to his knees for a knockdown with 2:30 still left to play out, and once getting up, blood trickled down his face from a cut above his left eye.

Photo credit: Nick Potts / Associated Press

Joshua celebrated that knockdown by raising his arms high up in the air as Klistchko bowed toward him on the canvas. It was an opportunity for cameras to capture a photogenic moment, but the celebration was premature. Once time resumed, Klistchko bounced around the ring in order to recover while Joshua sought the kill shot, but during those 30 seconds of desperation from both men, Wladimir started unraveling a lead left hook Joshua hadn’t seen up until that point. One of them caught the chin of Joshua in the middle of the round and momentarily left his feet in the mud. Klistchko had seemed to recover now as he got the better of some thunderous exchanges — one’s that sometimes came with Joshua’s hands down. It was an indication of Joshua’s inexperience as he made it easier for Klistchko to land his right hand, and perhaps another example was his heavy breathing through the mouth as it seemed he had punched himself out already.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

Klistchko continued his success into the sixth round as Joshua was still flat-footed, and midway through, one of the prettiest one-twos he’s ever portrayed hurt Joshua badly. The right hand off the jab landed perfectly on Joshua’s chin, and all 240-pounds of Klitschko’s weight was behind it. Joshua crumbled to the canvas before Klitschko could land a follow-up left hook, and he took his time getting up from the first knockdown of his professional career. Joshua managed to elude another devastating shot in the remainder of the round, but with the momentum fully swung back the other way, he was out-boxed rather easily in the seventh as he was still lumbering.

Joshua had never seen round eight before in his young career, and while Klistchko persisted his jab, right hand and left hook, the later rounds seemed destined to be in the Ukrainian’s favor. In the waning seconds of the eighth, however, Joshua showed signs of having his legs back under him. The ninth round confirmed that notion as he went on to outland Klitschko with body shots and right hands upstairs. Joshua graved adversity entering the championship rounds, but he wouldn’t let the calamity rear it’s ugly head a second time.

Just as he did in the opening seconds of the fifth, Joshua hurt Klitschko with a right hand early in the eleventh. Klitshcko was on his horse in the opening minute of the round, and just when it seemed like he had recovered, Joshua unleashed the game changing shot of the fight. It was a wonder how Klistchko could even stay on his feet once Joshua landed a perfect right uppercut to the chin. Seconds later, however, Klistchko found himself back on his knees for the second time in the fight, and was flummoxed as he sought the ropes to help leverage himself back onto his feet.

Photo credit: Esther Lin / Showtime

Once he got there, Klistchko was noticeably shaken, and the first right hand Joshua threw once time resumed landed perfectly on his chin. Klitschko was confound to mere instinct as Joshua had him hurt again, and after an accumulation of shots that was finalized by a left hook, Klistchko was dropped hard to the mat for the third time in the fight. Amazingly, Klistchko got up again, but once trapped in a corner moments later with Joshua letting his hands go, referee David Fields waved off the contest at the 2:25 mark and the 90,000 witnesses went wild as they just saw one of the best fights of 2017 so far.

Honorable mention

Omar Chavez TKO2 Ramon Alvarez (160) | April 29 — Chihuahua, Mexico

Lasting less than six minutes, Chavez (36–3–1, 24 KOs) forced a stoppage of Alvarez (24–6–2, 16 KOs) in the second round of an action fight that took place in front of a fiery crowd. Alvarez, 30, let his hands go once feeling the first flush right hand and that decision sparked a quick melee that played into Chavez’s favor. Chavez, 27, ended the fight with consecutive left hook’s that forced a referee’s stoppage and avenged a 2014 unanimous decision loss to Alvarez.

Of course, the fight was a prelude, or cheaper version rather, to the big showdown this weekend in Las Vegas. Chavez’s older brother Julio will take on Alvarez’s baby brother named Canelo, and if that one resembles the version of their next of kin in any way, boxing fan’s are in for a thriller.

KO of the Week

Claudio Marrero KO1 Carlos Zambrano (126) | April 29 — Las Vegas, Nevada

90 seconds was all it took for the Dominican southpaw to land a clean left hand that folded Zambrano (26–1, 11 KOs) onto his knees and pounding his fists on the canvas once counted out for his first defeat. Marrero (22–1, 16 KOs) couldn’t have done it at a better time with this match-up taking place on the main event of a Fox Sports 1 telecast, but it had serious ramifications in the WBA featherweight rankings. Zambrano (26–1, 11 KOs) was ranked №1 within the organization, and with Marrero ranked №3, the 28-year old likely finds himself in that slot. Leo Santa Cruz currently holds the WBA title at 126-pounds.

Honorable mentions

Nathaniel Gallimore TKO6 Jeison Rosario (160) | April 29 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Ladarius Miller TKO8 Jesus Gutierrez (140) | April 29 — Las Vegas, Nevada

Fighters of the Week

Anthony Joshua (19–0, 19 KOs)

Wladimir Klitschko (64–5, 53 KOs)

Klitschko, 41, had one of his best fights ever late in his career and in a defeat. It was also the first time Klitschko had consecutive losses in a career that captured the heavyweight championship twice. “Dr. Steelhammer” was gracious in defeat as well in what was a fantastic post-fight interview. On a TWR note — Klistchko joins Roman Gonzalez and Daniel Jacobs as the only fighters to grace this section after a defeat.

Donnie Nietes (40–1–4, 22 KOs)

Nietes, 34, joins Manny Pacquiao and Nonito Donaire as the only Filipinos ever to win a world title in three weight classes. With a unanimous decision over Komgrich Nantapech, Nietes won the vacant IBF flyweight title in Cebu City, Philippines on Saturday night.

Results

From this past week

World title bouts

IBF/WBA 200+ | Anthony Joshua TKO11 Wladimir Klitschko | Joshua defends the IBF heavyweight title a 3rd time and unifies it with the vacant WBA belt

Photo credit: Richard Heathcote / Getty

IBF 112 | Donnie Nietes UD12 Komgrich Nantapech | 117–111, 115–113, 117–111 | Nietes wins the vacant IBF flyweight title

Photo credit: SunStar Foto/Arni Acla

Notables

200+

Kubrat Pulev UD12 Kevin Johnson (120–108, 120–108, 119–109)

Charles Martin TKO2 Byron Polley

168

Ronald Gavril TKO4 Decarlo Perez

160

Omar Chavez TKO2 Ramon Alvarez

Nathaniel Gallimore TKO6 Jeison Rosario

147

Arnold Barboza Jr. KO5 Markus Morris

Yordenis Ugas TKO2 Nelson Lara

Jaime Munguia UD10 Johnny Navarrete (100–90, 100–90, 99–91)

140

Levan Ghvamichava UD10 Carlos Molina (98–92, 98–92, 97–93)

Ladarius Miller TKO8 Jesus Gutierrez

135

Luke Campbell TKO9 Darleys Perez

Casey Ramos UD10 Miguel Beltran Jr. (97–93, 96–94, 96–94)

Erick De Leon TKO3 Daulis Prescott

130

Tevin Farmer UD10 Arturo Santos Reyes (98–94, 98–94, 97–93)

126

Scott Quigg UD12 Viorel Simion (117–111, 117–111, 115–113)

Claudio Marrero KO1 Carlos Zambrano

112

Moruti Mthalane KO4 Genisis Libranza

Imminent Conflicts

This week’s boxing schedule

Television (U.S.)

Tuesday, May 2

Fox Sports 1 (9:00 PM ET / 6 PT) | Sportsman’s Lodge — Studio City, California

Ivan Redkach vs Argenis Mendez (135)
Brandon Figueroa vs. Luis Fernando Saavedra (122)

Friday, May 5

ESPN2 (8:00 PM ET / 5 PT) | MGM Grand Garden Arena — Las Vegas, Nevada

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Robinson Castellanos (135) 
Abraham Lopez vs Jesus Rojas (126)
Yamaguchi Falcao vs. Morgan Fitch (160)

UniMas (11:00 PM ET / 8 PT) | Reno Sparks Convention Center — Reno, Nevada

Jose Ramirez vs Jake Giuriceo (140)
Oscar Vasquez vs. TBA (126)
Gabriel Flores Jr vs TBA (135)

Saturday, May 6

HBO pay-per-view (9:00 PM ET / 6 PT) | T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas, Nevada

Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (164.5)
David Lemieux vs. Marco Reyes (160)
Lucas Matthysse vs. Emmanuel Taylor (147)
Joseph Diaz Jr. vs. Manuel Avila (126)

Notable fights not on U.S. TV

Friday, May 5

Rustam Nugaev vs. Deiner Berrio (135) | Ekaterinberg, Russia

Evgeny Gradovich vs. Hugo Berrio (122) | Ekaterinberg, Russia

Saturday, May 6

Joseph Parker vs. Razvan Cojanu (WBO 200+) | Manukau City, New Zealand

Umar Salamov vs. Emil Markic (175) | Manukau City, New Zealand

Ryan Garcia vs. Tyrone Luckey (135) | Las Vegas, Nevada

Matias Rueda vs. Diego Santillan (126) | Buenos Aires, Argentina

Ronnie Rios vs. Daniel Noriega (122) | Las Vegas, Nevada