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Wednesday, 23 January, 2019

Joshua has the potential but Klitschko could be better value

Dismiss Dr Steelhammer at your peril

Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko ho head to head
1 of 1

Main event
Sky Box Office, 10pm Saturday

Since winning Olympic gold at the London Olympics in 2012 Anthony Joshua has fought 18 opponents and knocked out every one.

If he extends that KO streak to 19 by beating the 1996 Olympic champion Wladimir Klitschko he could become one of the most famous, and potentially richest, sportsmen on the planet.

Everything he has ever done since he first laced up a pair of gloves as a troubled Watford teenager has been leading to this moment.

In one of the biggest events ever staged in the history of boxing, 90,000 people will pack into Wembley Stadium to see if Joshua can complete the journey and topple the dominant heavyweight of the modern era.

Most of the fans in attendance are expecting to see him fell the veteran giant, and it’s not hard to see why.

Joshua was rightly hailed a hero after striking gold in London and ever since he has bludgeoned all-comers into submission while hardly breaking sweat.

With most of his fights over in the blink of an eye, the smiling, articulate Joshua has been able to give post-fight interviews with such ease you could be forgiven for thinking he had just jogged up the road to catch a bus.

He has seemed an invincible, unstoppable force of nature and Sky Sports have been only too happy to bang his drum loudly, whipping the British public into a frenzy as the fight has got closer.

But for those who want to bet, this has had a dramatic effect.

With defeat to the aging Eastern European seemingly out of the question, people have been falling over themselves to back the Brit, regardless of the price, and with the overwhelming amount of money placed on AJ the odds on him emerging victorious have continued to tumble.

When the fight was announced Klitschko was priced as an 11-8 underdog. He is now 9-4, and by the time they enter the ring his odds could be even bigger. While Joshua’s potential is undeniable, there is little evidence to suggest he should be such a short-priced favourite.

The reason can be summed up in one word: hype.

That’s not to say Joshua is all hype. He is clearly a phenomenal athlete and a talented fighter. He may defeat Klitschko and go on to dominate the division. But if you back Joshua to beat Klitschko you are not getting good value at the odds currently on offer.

The fact is that there are too many unknowns around both fighters to confidently predict what will happen.

Klitschko, at 41, is nearing the end of his career. He has been inactive for 18 months since losing his crown as the king of the heavyweights in dismal fashion to Tyson Fury.

But it is no accident that he dominated the heavyweight scene for over a decade and it would be foolish to write him off.

He certainly represents an enormous step up from anyone Joshua has fought before, and has the power and the skill to send the Joshua gravy train flying off the tracks and into the abyss.

Joshua, for all his highlight-reel knockouts, has been very lightly matched as a professional. Apart from one punch from Dillian Whyte, he has barely been touched, let alone been in the trenches.

Everything has gone his way since he turned pro, but we do not know how Joshua will react when the going gets tough, and he has never been beyond seven rounds.

His biggest problem is likely to be Klitschko’s jab. Joshua has never faced anything like it and if he cannot find a way to deal with it he will probably lose.

Klitschko is a simple fighter to work out. He has built his entire style around two punches – the left jab and the right cross – with the odd left hook thrown in for good measure. He brings nothing unorthodox to the party, but he does those fundamentals extremely well. And for 11 years between 2004 and 2015 he remained unbeaten, largely due to his dominant jab

When David Haye fought Klitschko in 2011 he claimed his speed and power would bamboozle the “robot”, but the reality was that Klitschko’s ramrod jab kept Haye off balance and out of range, and he cruised to a comfortable win.

Klitschko’s winning run came to an end in his last fight against Fury, and it was the jab which again was key.

Fury is often derided by the British mainstream media, but he is an extremely intelligent and underrated boxer with an outstanding jab, and has the rare benefit of having a significant reach advantage over Dr Steelhammer.

For the first time in years Klitschko was unable to establish his jab and he had no answer to Fury’s game plan.

Joshua’s height and reach are almost identical to Klitschko’s, and there is no evidence to suggest he will dominate with his jab.

What he does have is an ability to throw combinations faster than any heavyweight in the modern era, a wicked counter, fantastic timing and an obvious advantage in age – at 27 Joshua is in his physical prime, while at 41 Klitschko most definitely isn’t.

But with age comes experience – Klitschko has fought in 28 heavyweight title fights, more than any heavyweight champion in history, and has defeated ten current or former world champions.

It’s a fascinating master v apprentice match-up, which could go either way. But while the sheer weight of money on Joshua makes Klitschko the value call, there is an excellent way to hedge your bets.

Joshua is odds-on to win by a knockout, and if he does, in front of 90,000 people at Wembley, it will be rightly considered one of the standout achievements by a British athlete for many years, let alone in 2017, so back him to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

You will have to wait a few months for your money, and the price has been smashed into over the last few days, but if you can still get on at 7-4 it seems a better-value bet than the odds on him to beat Klitschko.

W Klitschko
1pt 9-4 bet365, Sky Bet
A Joshua to win 2017 Sports Personality of the Year
1pt 7-4 general


While Joshua’s potential is undeniable, there is little evidence to suggest he should be such a short-priced favourite
E.W. Terms
Sky bet