No matter what happens on Saturday, April 29 at London's historic Wembley Stadium, history will be made. Either Anthony Joshua will cement his place as "the next big thing" in boxing -- a title that his opponent, Wladimir Klitschko, 41, held nearly two decades ago -- or the most dominant big man of his time will reassume the throne, becoming only the second heavyweight to win a major title after age 40 (George Foreman, 45) and reclaiming the crown he lost so dismally to Tyson Fury in November of 2015.
Which storyline will be fulfilled before one of the largest boxing crowds ever assembled? The time is drawing near (watch the fight on HBO at 11 p.m. ET/PT).
Unbeaten, Untied and Nearly Unscored Upon: Joshua's pro career has been nothing but storybook-quality thus far -- 18 fights, 18 wins, 18 knockouts and two defenses of the IBF title he pounded off Charles Martin's head a little more than a year ago. His three title fights against Martin, Dominic Breazeale and Eric Molina have been an extension of his career as a whole: utter dominance.
In those bouts, Joshua obliterated his opponents in every statistical way: he led 18.3 to 3.9 in total punches landed per round; 7.9 to 1.8 in jab connects per round; and 10.4 to 2.1 in landed power shots each round. Plus, take a look at his percentage gaps : 42%-17% overall, 38%-13% jabs and 46%-22% power.
More amazingly, he has inflicted this damage while averaging just 43.3 punches per round, slightly below the 44.7 heavyweight average. Then again, Martin, Breazeale and Molina averaged a combined 23.6 per round. Of those, Molina offered the feeblest resistance, as he averaged just 12.7 punches per round to Joshua's 39.2 and was out-landed 38-6 overall, 13-1 jabs and 25-5 power. He attempted only 13 power shots to Joshua's 66, a clear indicator of how hesitant he was to risk being hit back. It didn't matter, however; Joshua shrugged his shoulders, hit Molina back anyway and finished the job in impressive fashion.
Add in the Whyte fight and Joshua threw/landed slightly above heavyweight average for total punches (18.2 landed/49.2 thrown) and landed above average with his jab (7.3 per round). Meanwhile, opponents landed half the heavyweight average in all CompuBox categories. Is that a testament to Joshua's power or lack of quality opposition -- or both? Will he do the same to the one-time King of Kings in the heavyweight division?
Rusted Trigger: As has Klitschko aged, his ability to produce sufficient volume has significantly eroded. He averaged just 19.3 punches per round against Fury and reached double-digit connects in just one round (12 in the ninth). His 52 total connects in 12 rounds was, by far, the lowest total of his career in a fight that went 10 rounds or more. Worse yet, his previous low was 134 against David Haye.
His low output was a continuation of a trend: Klitschko averaged a modest 45.4 punches per round in out-pointing Bryant Jennings; 18.9 in stopping Kubrat Pulev; 34.8 in outscoring Alexander Povetkin; and 46.2 in stopping Francesco Pianetta. Taking it further, in his last 14 fights, Klitschko did amass a 10.6 plus/minus rating and landed 8.7 jabs per round (No. 3 among CompuBox categorical leaders).
It's his dependence on the jab and lack of power punching that raises questions. A whopping 66% of Wladimir's thrown punches per round are jabs (28.9 of 43.8 per round), which is 24.5% higher than the CompuBox averge of 41.5% (23.1 of 55.6) and No., 1 on the CompuBox categorical leaders list. Also No. 1: A whopping 60.4% of his landed punches are jabs (8.7 of 11.4), which is 32% higher than the CompuBox average (4.8 of 16.9) and 14.2% higher than No. 2 Mikey Garcia at 46.2% (6.7 of 14.5).
Then there's his lack of power punching: Klitschko landed just 5.7 power shots per round -- the lowest total for any fighter on CompuBox's categorical leaders list (he threw just 14.9 per round) -- also the lowest total for any fighter on CompuBox's categorical leaders list. Can Klitschko possibly recapture a semblance of his former self? He'll have to if he is to have a chance against Joshua, much less beat him.
COMPUBOX ANALYSIS – ANTHONY JOSHUA vs. WLADIMIR KLITSCHKO
Did you know? Klitschko shares the heavyweight record for jabs landed in a round, 38 (vs. Hasim Rahman in round three), with his brother Vitali, who also landed 38 jabs in the first round in his win over Ed Mahone.
Prediction: Throughout history, the heavyweight division has had its "passing the torch" fights. Corbett vs. Sullivan. Tunney vs. Dempsey. Charles vs. Louis. Holmes vs. Ali. Tyson vs. Holmes. Add Joshua vs. Klitschko to the list. Joshua, a model of poise thus far, is younger, bigger, faster, stronger and fresher while Klitschko, coming off his worst performance in more than a decade, is 41 years old, emerging from a career-long 17-month layoff and fighting in the champion's home country. That is too much for the legendary "Dr. Steelhammer" to handle. This is Joshua's moment and that moment will come after scoring a TKO in the middle rounds.