by B.A. Cass
On Friday, Tyson Fury took to social media to go after Anthony Joshua, claiming that the public should reconsider the potency of Joshua’s victory over Wladimir Klitschko.
Fury is certainly not the “Don of the heavyweights.” If the prefix “Don” can be applied to Fury at all, it is because, like Marlon Brando who played Don Corleone in the Godfather, he shares a habit of gaining too much weight between professional gigs. So let’s put aside Fury’s ridiculous claim and consider his more legitimate point about Anthony Joshua.
After going all out—and failing—to score a knockdown of Wladimir Klitschko in Round Five, Joshua was spent. The only thing that kept him standing for the remainder of that round is the fact that Klitschko was a bit tired too. Joshua planted himself and likely prayed for the sound of the bell. He made it, but in Round Six, Klitschko scored a knockdown.
The Joshua-Klitschko fight was exciting to watch. Both men had to push themselves beyond what it seemed their bodies were naturally capable of. Joshua went on to defeat Klitschko by TKO in the eleventh round. However, we should remember that Joshua is a fighter in his prime and Klitschko, coming off a recent loss to Fury, was clearly past his best days.
Whenever a young fighter faces an aging fighter, it is natural to ask what would have happened if both fighters could have faced off when each was in his prime. Would a twenty-eight-year-old Wladimir Klitschko have defeated a twenty-eight-year-old Anthony Joshua? We can never know, but it’s fun to speculate.
Klitschko had been beaten four times before he met Joshua in the ring, and it took Joshua—supposedly the next great heavyweight of the world—eleven rounds to finish him off. It’s unlikely the fight would have ended that same way had Klitschko been in his heyday.
In his next fight, Joshua faced Carlos Takam who, it should be noted, is also much older than Joshua—nine years older to be exact. Joshua defeated Takam by tenth round TKO, but his performance wasn’t spectacular.
There’s a reason Tiger Woods never competed against Jack Nicklaus. By the time Tiger Woods began to compete in the PGA Tour, Nicklaus was already competing in the Senior PGA Tour. If Woods and Nicklaus had competed, the younger man would have handily won.
In boxing, we have weight classes to even the playing field. Why not have a cut off for age as well? That will never happen, of course, but age does matter in sports. Muhammad Ali was done as a fighter several years before the age of thirty-eight when he was brutally dominated by his former sparring partner Larry Holmes, who was eight years Ali’s his junior.
We should never be surprised when a younger fighter beats an older one. It wasn’t a big upset that Joshua won his two most recent fights against older men long past their prime. The only thing that should have come as a surprise to us is how much Anthony Joshua struggled along the way.
Follow B.A. Cass on Twitter @WiththePunch