AP

Anthony Joshua TKOs Wladimir Klitschko in battle of Olympic champs

Leave a comment

LONDON (AP) — Anthony Joshua wasn’t wrong when he raised his hands in victory after knocking Wladimir Klitschko down in the fifth round of what looked like a one-sided heavyweight title fight. He was just celebrating too early.

The rookie mistake allowed Klitschko to rally, nearly taking the lead as the two 6-foot-6 men went to the 11th round — four rounds longer than any Joshua fight had ever gone.

That’s when Joshua unleashed a brutal uppercut that spun Klitschko around, leading to a win that set off British celebrations in Wembley Stadium and beyond Saturday night and cemented the 27-year-old as boxing’s new superstar.

Rounds 5 and 6 featured some of the best heavyweight action since Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis — the latter two sitting ringside — ruled the division.

The two men in the ring were both Olympic super heavyweight champions. Joshua took gold for Great Britain in 2012, and Klitschko won for Ukraine in 1996.

Klitschko, who had barely thrown any power punches before the knockdown, came back to make the end of the fifth round interesting and knocked Joshua down in the next round.

With an entire country screaming for him, Joshua — who had knocked all his previous opponents out by the end of the seventh round — looked tired. But he saved his best for the late rounds, particularly the uppercut that will be a YouTube moment for decades.

Klitschko didn’t fall down after the uppercut, but Joshua was all over the stunned former champ and dropped him with a left hook. Klitschko got up only to take even more punishment. Joshua knocked Klitschko down again and was landing punches to his head on the ropes when referee David Fields moved in to stop the bout late in the 11th round.

“When you go to the trenches, that’s when you find out who you really are,” Joshua said. “In this small little ring here, there’s nowhere to hide.”

The biggest heavyweight title fight in more than a decade had a little something for everyone, and Joshua finished off in style.

“As I said from the get-go, it will be a boxing classic and the best man will win,” Joshua said.

Klitschko’s rally was inspiring, starting soon after he was knocked down in the fifth. By the end of the round, it was Klitschko pummeling a tired Joshua.

Joshua was still feeling the effect of those punches when he was dropped by a right hand in the sixth round. Klitschko began piling up rounds and it seemed like the savvy Ukrainian would quiet the hometown fans, until Joshua turned things around with that vicious right uppercut.

“If you don’t take part, you’re going to fail,” Joshua said. “Just give it a go and you never know the outcome.”

Joshua was up 96-93 and 95-93 on two scorecards, while Klitschko was ahead 95-93 on the third going into the final round. The Associated Press had it 94-94.

Klitschko, who reigned over the heavyweight division for a decade, was fighting both Joshua and Father Time at the age of 41. He looked to be overmatched in the early rounds, but fought his best after he was knocked down.

It was anyone’s fight when Joshua landed the uppercut that proved decisive, much to the delight of his countrymen who packed England’s national stadium for the highly anticipated bout.

“As I said I’m not perfect but I’m trying,” said Joshua, who was fighting for only the 19th time as a pro.

Joshua had never been beyond seven rounds, and it looked like he might be running out of gas as he tried to find his legs following the knockdown in the sixth. Klitschko, in his 29th world title fight, seemed to be taking the advantage in the later rounds, until the uppercut sent him spinning across the ring.

“It was really sad I didn’t make it tonight,” Klitschko said. “I was planning to do it. It didn’t work. But all respect to Anthony.”

Joshua defended his heavyweight titles and his undefeated record in a bout that lived up to its billing as the best matchup after a long drought in the heavyweight division. Already a hero in his native England, he may become one worldwide.

Joshua said before the bout that it was just two men in the ring, and nothing more than that. But it was clear by the crowd’s reaction as he came back to win that it was a lot more to many fans.

It was a battle of massive heavyweights, with both standing 6-foot-6. Joshua weighed 250.1 pounds to 240.5 for Klitschko.

Klitschko fell to 64-5 in a long career that began in 1996 after he won the Olympic gold in Atlanta. It may have been his last fight.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Jesse Owens’ Olympic gold medals up for auction

2016 Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson wins pro boxing debut

Leave a comment

CARSON, Calif. (AP) U.S. Olympic silver medalist Shakur Stevenson has won his professional debut, beating Edgar Brito by technical unanimous decision in the sixth round.

Stevenson largely controlled his debut bout Saturday night at the famed outdoor ring south of downtown Los Angeles. The fight was stopped moments after the sixth round began when the ringside doctor ruled Brito was cut too badly to continue after an earlier clash of heads.

Brito was docked a point for head-butting Stevenson in the third round, but the challenger otherwise did little to dampen the debut of the touted featherweight from Newark, New Jersey.

Stevenson won every full round on every judge’s scorecard, peppering Brito with the quick hands and agility that have made him one of the most hyped prospects in recent U.S. boxing history.

“Before the fight, they told me not to go for the knockout,” Stevenson said. “Getting rounds in was more important. I give myself an `A.”‘

Eight months ago in Rio de Janeiro, Stevenson became the first American man to win anything bigger than a bronze medal in the past three Olympics. Stevenson reached the bantamweight final before losing a close decision to Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez, a two-time Olympic champion.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. traveled to Brazil to watch, and he predicted Stevenson would become the next big name to challenge his legacy. Stevenson considered signing with Mayweather’s promotional company before choosing Top Rank and promoter Bob Arum.

“It was great work,” Arum said after Stevenson’s debut. “He worked hard. He came through. He got the win. He will only get better.”

Stevenson was accompanied to the ring in Carson by Olympic gold medal-winning Americans Andre Ward and Claressa Shields, and his ring-walk song was “Hail Mary,” by Tupac Shakur. Stevenson’s mother named him after the rapper, who died nine months before her son was born.

Stevenson started out on a Top Rank card featuring three world title fights. He will fight again May 20 in New York, and he plans to train with junior welterweight champion Terence Crawford in Colorado Springs in the interim.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: Ashton Eaton competes on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

[twitter-follow screen_name=’nbcolympictalk’ show_count=’yes’ text_color=’00ccff’

Claressa Shields not at her best, still wins professional boxing debut

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Claressa Shields didn’t feel at her best, but her pro debut was a winning one anyway.

The two-time Olympic gold medalist won a decision Saturday over Franchon Crews in a four-round super middleweight fight, making the transition to the pros after the most successful amateur career for an American woman.

Shields came back from a slow first round to land the bigger punches in an entertaining fight on the undercard of the Sergey KovalevAndre Ward light heavyweight title fight on the Las Vegas Strip.

“It’s not what I wanted but to be called on, last minute, for a fight of this magnitude,” Shields said. “I am proud of myself. We will fight again in the future.”

Both women were fighting without headgear for the first time, but it didn’t seem to be a factor as they traded punches freely before a sparse but appreciative crowd. Shields won all four rounds on the scorecards of the three ringside judges.

Shields, who became the first American woman to win a gold medal in the 2012 Olympics and added another in Rio in August, had vowed to be impressive in her first pro fight. And she wasn’t shy about trading punches with Franchon, a Baltimore fighter who lost to her during the Olympic trials in 2012.

Shields was pushed to the canvas twice by Crews, who started strong but seemed to tire quickly.

“It feels so good to have just made my pro debut,” she said. “This is what I’ve been training for. I’m faster and I hit harder.”

Shields, from Flint, Michigan, weighed 167 pounds to 168 for Crews.

The 21-year-old Shields said she plans to fight up to 10 times in her first year as a pro. Her goal is to one day headline a pay-per-view card of her own.

“I believe 150 percent in my boxing ability,” she said before the fight. “I know I’m a great fighter. I fight better than 90 percent of the men who box now. I just know that, and I’m not at my best yet.”

Women’s boxing has largely been a fringe sport in recent years, and women have rarely appeared on televised cards. While the fight was on the undercard of Kovalev-Ward, it wasn’t a part of the pay-per-view telecast.