Joshua vs Klitschko: How does Anthony Joshua's career compare with other heavyweights?
By Neel Khagram
Last Updated: 02/05/17 8:10pm
Anthony Joshua's thrilling victory over Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium on Saturday night extended his unbeaten record to 19 fights and maintained his 100 per cent knockout rate.
'AJ' retained his IBF title and acquired the vacant WBA belt to unify the heavyweight division just three-and-a-half years after turning professional. We compare the 27-year-old's successes to other prominent fighters in the heavyweight division.
The evolution of heavyweights
Anthony Joshua joined The Gloves Are Off for a one-off in late-2013 alongside Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, Tyson Fury and Scott Welch.
Louis is regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight champions of all time. The 'Brown Bomber' won the world title in 1937 and made 25 successful defences of his crown until 1949. His first 19 fights were quite understated in comparison to the rest of his career, winning all but four inside the distance as the undefeated 20-year-old at the time prepared himself for world domination.
Ali was an undefeated up-and-coming heavyweight contender when he knocked out Henry Cooper in his 19th fight at the old Wembley Stadium in front of 35,000 people to break British hearts. The fight was his first outside the United States. Unlike Joshua, Ali had not become world champion yet, but was aged 21 at that point of his career.
'The Greatest' would go on to become a three-time heavyweight champion and be involved in some of the most memorable fights the sport has ever witnessed.
Frazier had an unblemished start to his career, stopping 18 of his first 19 opponents as he built towards a world title shot. 'Smokin Joe' then knocked out Jimmy Ellis in 1970 to become unified heavyweight champion in his 25th fight aged 26 before suffering his first professional loss and his reign as the undisputed king of the division in 1973 to George Foreman.
One of the Olympic golden heavyweights to burst on the scene and blast his way into the record books down the line. He made his pro debut at Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Joe Frazier fighting Jerry Quarry and took less than 10 months to get to his 19th fight. 'Big George' won 16 of them, with the biggest surprises being Roberto Davila, Levi Forte and Gregorio Peralta - taking him the distance. Ironically it took Foreman another 19 to be crowned world champion, flattening Frazier six times in the Ring Magazine's 1973 Fight Of the Year.
Leon Spinks produced one of the biggest upsets in boxing when he defeated Muhammad Ali in his eighth professional outing to become unified heavyweight champion of the world in 1978 aged 24. By his 19th fight, Spinks had lost the rematch to Ali and a further shot at heavyweight glory against Larry Holmes.
While the iconic trio were bringing their rivalry to a close, a young man from Georgia entered the equation. The best heavyweight of the decade and arguably the best jab in the business, the 'Easton Assassin' pinged his way to a perfect 19-0 like the rest. Holmes had to wait another nine fights before taking the WBC strap from Earnie Shavers and then went on a ruthless run of 16 title defences, switched to the IBF and missed 19 defences by one, to Michael Spinks.
'The Real Deal' is the former unified cruiserweight and heavyweight champion of the world and the only boxer in history to be a four-time heavyweight king. He had already unified the cruiserweight division by his 19th fight, winning the WBA strap against Dwight Muhammad Qawi in his 12th outing before acquiring the IBF and WBC titles in bouts 15 and 18 respectively. Holyfield was still undefeated when he stepped up to the glamorous division to knockout James Douglas in his 25th fight to become unified heavyweight champion for the first time, aged 28.
'Big Daddy's first 19 fights saw him win seven of them in the first round but like many of the time, he had to bide his time to become a world champion. Bowe at least did it in style, becoming unified champion (WBA, WBC and IBF) at the expense of Evander Holyfield and the emergence of a trilogy that will remain in the heavyweight memory bank. Bowe also picked up the WBO later, beating Herbie Hide, giving him a full house, that even the very best failed to achieve.
Tyson amassed a formidable record during his first 19 fights as a professional, winning every contest by knockout, 12 of which came in the first round. 'Iron Mike' then etched his name in boxing history when he defeated Trevor Berbick to become the youngest heavyweight champion in the sport's history aged 20 years, 4 months and 22 days. This was his 28th professional contest. He ended his career as a two-time heavyweight champion after high-profile losses to James Douglas, Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.
Lewis is regarded as the finest fighter to come from British shores having reigned as undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. His 19th fight against Levi Billups in Las Vegas was his fifth outing outside the UK in a career which had seen him capture the British and European titles up to that point. The Olympic champion would go on to win the heavyweight world title in his 23rd fight against Tony Tucker aged 27 before successfully reversing shock losses to Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman to become a three-time king and cement his place as the dominant heavyweight of his era.
The elder of the brothers was actually a title-winner in his 19th professional. The WBO inter-continental strap had been vacated by the man who knocked out Vitali as a kick-boxer, Pele Reid. It didn't take the Mayor of Kiev long to pick an established world strap, in his 26th bout. He ended his career a two-weight world champion, the coveted WBC replacing the WBO. Vitali thought he had won it at the first attempt against Lennox Lewis, only for a dreadful cut forcing it off in the sixth.
Having won Olympic gold in 1996, Klitschko embarked on a steady rise to his professional career, winning the WBC International title against Cody Koch in his 19th fight aged 22. A first world title would follow two years later, before devastating losses to Corrie Sanders and Lamon Brewster threatened to derail his career. Dr Steelhammer then modified his style under the guidance of legendary trainer Emanuel Steward to become the stand-out fighter in the division over the last decade, making 18 successful defence of his crown, second only to Joe Louis in the heavyweight history. The knockout loss to Joshua meant he failed in his pursuit to become a three-time world champion.