By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – You’d think boxing before a hostile crowd of roughly 90,000 would be intimidating.
Wladimir Klitschko actually is looking forward to it. One of the reasons the former heavyweight champion was more than willing to challenge England’s Anthony Joshua at Wembley Stadium in London is because Klitschko believes it puts more pressure on the rising superstar to deliver for fans in his homeland.
The 40-year-old Klitschko (64-4, 53 KOs) has spent most his career as the ‘A’ side of promotions, the main attraction for numerous fights in what was once the Ukrainian-born boxer’s home base of Germany. He did box Russia’s Alexander Povetkin three years ago in Moscow, and the result of that title fight – an easy unanimous-decision win – is part of why he is so confident as he prepares to head into unfriendly territory for the Joshua fight.
“I’m happy that I’m not fighting at home, honestly,” Klitschko said Tuesday after a press conference at Madison Square Garden to promote his fight against Joshua. “The fact is that the majority of fans in the stadium are gonna be AJ fans, not my fans. I’m expecting that. I know that is a fact, so that’s my expectation.
“I like to fight not at home. I’ve been fighting guys from [the United States] here at the Garden. I fought a German guy, Axel Schulz, in Germany, where 99 percent were against me [in September 1999]. So I definitely like, as a matter of fact, that I’m not fighting at home. And I think it’s gonna be challenging for AJ to fight at home, in preparation and all of what he’s doing. I prefer to fight in my opponent’s home country and home city, then and now. That’s an advantage to me, honestly.”
There obviously is a ton at stake for Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) in this high-profile fight. The 27-year-old knockout artist still doesn’t think Klitschko has an advantage because there’s intense pressure on the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from the London suburb of Watford.
“Pressure busts pipes or makes diamonds,” Joshua said. “You know what I’m saying? It is what it is. Ninety-thousand in Great Britain. Let’s roll.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.