Wladimir Klitschko insisted on Saturday night that “all the pressure” would be on Anthony Joshua when they meet at Wembley in seven days and that he was “relishing being the underdog” in his comeback fight.
The former world heavyweight champion, who will arrive in the UK on Wednesday from his training base in the Austrian Tyrol aware that the talk in the sport is of a ‘new Joshua era’ in the division, will seek to capitalise on that pressure this week.
Joshua, who has stopped all 18 opponents so far in his career, said to Klitschko’s face 10 weeks ago that he would win by knockout. “There is a lot of pressure on him. He needs to knock me out as he promised,” said the Ukrainian, who goes into his 69th contest having lost just four times, and having been champion for six months shy of a decade until he was deposed by Tyson Fury 18 months ago in Germany.
“AJ wants to become a billionaire,” Klitschko said. “Well, he needs to impress, and he needs to show what he is capable of doing and I think that all of that in combination is tremendous pressure, unbelievable pressure.”
“He can only judge on what he knows. He is 27 years old and he has 18 professional fights, so his judgment is only based on his experience.”
Klitschko insisted that he was “more comfortable” ahead of this contest than before facing Fury in Düsseldorf in November 2015, when the Lancastrian outboxed the out-of-sorts champion to win on points.
“All the pressure is on the other side – not on me,” he said. “I don’t need to defend my titles, I don’t need to break the losing record I had. I just want to enjoy myself in the ring, I want to enjoy the atmosphere, I want to enjoy my performance, I want to impress myself of my capabilities and my knowledge of what I am capable of doing and that’s what I’m focused on and that’s what I am obsessed with. I have a lot of obsessions regarding the fight and my world is very small right now. My time is ticking only to April 29, there is nothing else.”
Any nerves, the 41-year-old said, would all be Joshua’s. “If he is not nervous then he is doing something wrong, he had better be nervous,” Klitschko said. “His promoter [Barry] Hearn said it is going to be a painful night for Klitschko, so Joshua needs to deliver a painful night for Klitschko.
“I understand that I am the underdog, that I’m old and over the hill, so whatever Joshua is worried about or is confident about or is nervous about, that’s not my business. I am just all focused about me, me, me. My ego and me and my obsession and the fans in this beautiful Wembley Stadium.
“I’m relishing the underdog status. I love it. It makes me feel hungry. I’ve missed that. I was a strong underdog in other fights, people probably forgot about it. It was the guy from Nigeria, Samuel Peter, and they said I was a ‘dead man walking’.”
Klitschko was knocked down three times in a points victory over Peter in 2005, but when they met again in 2010 he stopped Peter with a 10th-round knockout. “But look what happened [both times]. I love being considered the challenger. My obsession has reinvigorated me.”