IBF heavyweight champ Anthony “AJ” Joshua and former champ Wladimir Klitschko will step into the ring at Wembley Stadium in London on April 29th. The young British champion faces his toughest test, battling the veteran, in front of 90,000 of his fellow countrymen. Tuesday afternoon was the United States press conference, held at Madison Square Garden.
As is typical of boxing press conferences, the promoters were full of hubris when referring to their respective fighters. But there was also a tone of respect between both camps. Joshua and Klitschko were sparring partners a few years back when the young Brit was coming up. In the past, and at Tuesday’s press conference, Klitschko referred to AJ as the future of the heavyweight division. In a long winded intro, Klitschko remarked on AJ’s exceptional abilities. In perhaps a little gamesmanship he also mentioned the talk within the boxing community that perhaps AJ is too young and not ready for a fight of this magnitude. Employing a little psychology, Klitschko switched his tone at the end of his opening remarks saying that he might be too old to be fighting the young and supremely talented athlete.
In contrast, AJ’s opening remarks were short and to the point. He referenced “mind games” and the mental side of the sport. At which point Klitschko interrupted jokingly and said:
“I am not playing mind games AJ. What you see is what you get.”
Klitschko even made it a point to tell a reporter, that he is not playing mind games. Whether he is or isn’t doesn’t really matter. In boxing you need to make sure your mind is right well before you get into that ring. AJ appeared very poised and focused during the presser, all his responses were about his preparation (mental and physical) and handling what is directly in front of him and what he can control.
I got a chance to ask AJ specifically about being mentally prepared for what is essentially a “home match” for him. See video of his answer below:
Boxing more than most sports goes through periods of bounty and drought in terms of its popularity, specifically here in America. If AJ successfully defends his title and continues to win against quality opponents, he has the charisma and the “it” factor to become a big star.