Former WBO, WBA, and IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua has named boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko as the toughest opponent he’s faced in boxing.
AJ says he had a harder time fighting Klitschko than Andy Ruiz and Oleksandr Usyk, who are the only two men to beat the Olympic gold medallist.
Back in 2017, in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley and millions of viewers across the globe, Joshua climbed off the canvas to stop two-time world champion Klitschko in the 11th round of a gruelling fight.
While the showdown is certainly the most memorable of Joshua’s career, the 32-year-old insists the Ukrainian is also the toughest opponent he’s faced to date.
“The hardest opponent I’ve come up against would be Wladimir Klitschko, definitely,” Joshua said, speaking at the Oxford Union.
“It’s the passing of the guard. The young lion vs. the old lion. At the time I fought him I feel it was definitely too early, but I fought him in his last fight and if I didn’t fight him then it would have been too late.
“So, it was a risk vs. a reward, and I thought boxing needed it.”
Joshua beat Klitschko in what was just his 19th professional fight and believes his inexperience made the bout much tougher.
“Sometimes due to a lack of experience, we make it harder than it needs to be, but he’s had more knockouts on his record than I have fights and knockouts combined,” he said.
“The guy is like very experienced, very, very strong and he gave me a tough fight.
“Before that stage, I was knocking guys out within six or seven rounds, Wladimir took me 11 rounds, somewhere that I’d never been before. Yeah, he was my toughest [opponent] for sure.”
Since then, Joshua has suffered a seventh-round TKO defeat at the hands of Andy Ruiz, before avenging his first professional loss with a unanimous decision win in an immediate rematch.
Last time out, the British heavyweight was outpointed by former cruiserweight king Usyk over 12 rounds. Joshua will get his shot at redemption when the pair rematch in the Middle East in July.
Klitschko walked away from boxing following his defeat to Joshua but recently revealed he had planned to make a comeback until the war broke out between his native Ukraine and Russia.