When Kipling wrote of triumph and disaster and treating those two just the same it would be fair to say he did not have a boxing match in mind. However, Saturday night's encounter demonstrates what a fine line exists between these two often quoted imposters within the theatre of sport.
Last week's prediction was looking decidedly accurate when Klitschko hit the deck in round five. There are spectacular knockdowns and unspectacular knockdowns and this was very much the latter as he stumbled, almost apologetically to the canvas. One round later, his catching of Joshua with the overhand right most certainly was spectacular. It seemed unlikely that Joshua would meet the count as he gingerly regained his feet and there was palpable fear that the great hope of British boxing was to be found wanting. Klitschko did not take advantage of Joshua's visit to Disneyland (registered trademark, acknowledges rugby league commentator Mike Stephenson), likely to be as a result of tiredness on his part. Crucially, Joshua made it to the end of the round and seemed to regain his composure and sanity.
Then came the single most impressive feature of Joshua's performance; the so called second wind. He was in uncharted territory in the later rounds but seemed paradoxically to get stronger. One might suggest that the reasoning behind this comes with his training regime, the good work of the support team and the age advantage he had over his opponent. The judges were split but two knockdowns in round eleven and a Klitschko trapped on the ropes, seemingly without an answer meant that the opinions of those at ringside were not called for. Joshua had risen from the canvas to emerge victorious.
Examining the fight from a safety point of view is interesting. Klitschko's early knockdown seemed a case of a boxer caught with a good shot but off balance at the time and was fine to continue. Joshua's knockdown was very different and the slowness of him rising would have put some doubt in the referee's mind but he came forward on request and, in the absence of a further onslaught appeared to regain his composure. The stoppage, when it came seemed correct. The knockdowns in round eleven were considerably more brutal than the earlier one and, possibly conscious that this was a later round, the referee was well within his rights to stop the contest. Some may suggest that the second knockdown should have singled the end but I am of the view that the referee was entitled to allow the boxer to continue if they are clearly responsive. What continues to concern me is that when fights are stopped, rings fill up with people too quickly. It would seem that the majority of those people in the ring are surplus to requirements and have the potential to get in the way of medical teams if they are necessary, particularly following a fight as brutal as that one was. One hopes that my perception is wrong and that nothing has the potential to interfere with medical intervention but one also hopes the powers that be have a look at this. It must be remembered that boxers can appear healthy before deteriorating quickly and speedy response is of fundamental importance.
The fight itself was brutal and uncompromising. Concerns that it could turn into a grapplefest proved unfounded. Klitschko's tactics of attacking Joshua in the early seconds of the round and then keeping his distance were certainly having some success and it was seemingly Joshua's decision to adopt those same tactics on Klitschko that turned the fight. Joshua's power did become too much in the end, albeit rather later than I and many others believed. This was a very different Klitschko to the one so subdued in the fight with Fury and, if the latter can get himself back to health, the logical next fight is between Joshua and Fury. I would tip Joshua for that one as well but I would probably tip him to beat the Incredible Hulk currently! There are many that may disagree but in my opinion, he is the real deal.
Klitschko's future is less clear. At 41, he is passed his peak and Joshua would have little to prove with a rematch despite the talk. He has been a fine ambassador and no-one would blame him for walking away. It seems he has a contract for a couple additional fights which he may take but the curtain for him is coming down. His conduct in defeat acts as a lesson for those in sport about how Kipling was right about triumph and disaster. Disaster however, is much easier to take when you walk away with supposedly £10 million!