Fools rush in: Both Joshua and hasty Hearn will benefit from Klitschko delay
The world heavyweight champion would have plenty to gain by beating the 40-year-old, but also plenty to lose in defeat...
True mega-fights are rare in boxing.
Such is the premium placed on undefeated records and title belts that many of the world’s best fighters are unwilling to fight each other.
So it is refreshing that Anthony Joshua, a relatively inexperienced world champion, was willing to stake his enormous reputation on a bout with Wladimir Klitschko.
The Londoner, clearly, would have plenty to gain by beating the 40-year-old, who held Joshua’s IBF world title belt for nine years before losing it to Tyson Fury last November.
But he also would have had plenty to lose in defeat.
The WBA’s apparent unwillingness to sanction the bout for their vacant ‘super’ title – along with the Ukrainian’s calf injury – have postponed the fight for now.
At the moment, it looks certain to happen in the spring, barring an unexpected defeat for either boxer in the meantime.
There is no rush, then, for Joshua’s camp.
They will get the chance to fight a credible opponent – something the Watford-born heavyweight’s career has sorely lacked so far.
His eagerness to fight Klitschko as soon as possible is hardly surprising.
Few fighters have had the opportunity to face Dr Steelhammer following a defeat. It has only happened four times in a 68-fight, 20-year career.
But pushing on with just six weeks’ notice to stage the bout in the 21,000-capacity Manchester Arena would be a wasted opportunity.
Considering Joshua’s prominence and Klitschko’s pedigree, this fight could feasibly surpass Carl Froch’s rematch with George Groves in 2014 – Britain’s biggest boxing match of the past decade.
A record crowd of 80,000 fans filled Wembley Stadium on Eddie Hearn’s greatest night as a promoter, and a similar gate would certainly be expected for a heavyweight unification bout.
So rushing into a fight with Klitschko makes little sense, either from a business point-of-view or in relation to Joshua’s meticulously-planned career to date.
Hearn has guided him to a world title and made him one of the country’s most marketable sportsmen, all without facing an opponent with a realistic chance of beating him.
His desire to make a sudden step up, then, would represent a dangerous deviation away from the plan.
Klitschko’s status as a legend of the sport means that defeat would not – or at least should not – be catastrophic for Joshua.
He is only 27, after all.
But the label of being a failed Great British hope is a difficult one to shed once your reputation is revealed to outweigh your ability.
Just ask David Haye, who has never recovered from being beaten by Klitschko five years ago.
Or Amir Khan – so highly touted after winning silver at the 2004 Olympics – who has more doubters than any other high-profile boxer in the UK.
Joshua is so famous in this country, and carries such high expectations that anything less than constant, uninterrupted success betrays everything that his career has promised up until this point.
He needs competitive fights, but he also cannot afford to suffer defeat against the first top-tier opponent that he faces.
Preparation and patience are key, so a tune-up in the interim against another contender from abroad, or a recognisable but wholly beatable Brit like David Price, makes perfect sense.
Klitschko will still be there in 2017, and a fight that good is surely worth waiting for.