The boxing world seems all set for a changing of the guard. Rising star and current IBF heavyweight world titlist Anthony Joshua is being pushed towards next level superstar status. The stage is set this coming April 29 at London’s Wembley Stadium for his emergence as the face of boxing with his bout against former long-time kingpin Wladimir Klitschko.
Live boxing betting odds indicate that the 27-year-old Joshua is the betting favorite over the former consensus and universally-recognized world champ. Right now, the UK native is a -220 betting favorite– astonishing odds considering that the now-41-year-old Klitschko had dominated the heavyweight division right up until being decisioned by Tyson Fury in November of 2015.
The odds are also astonishing when considering the fact that Joshua has a paper-thin resume and has yet to be tested against anyone even remotely at the world class level. As of right now, Joshua’s toughest opponents have been at the veteran journeyman level like Kevin Johnson or against unproven fringe contenders like Eric Molina and Dominic Breazeale. Even the IBF belt came from a remarkably soft touch in the person of Charles Martin, who managed to nab the IBF strap after Tyson Fury was forced to vacate the title. Joshua’s toughest battle to date has been against UK rival, the tough but limited Dillian Whyte in December of 2015, who actually managed to stun the rising star before being stopped in the seventh round.
Meanwhile, of course, Klitschko has been Mr. Everything in the heavyweight division for about a decade, destroying every top heavyweight challenger to come around to the point of turning the division into a boring exhibition under his reign. The star from the Ukraine was utterly dominant right up until losing on points to Fury.
All of this leads to the question of whether the odds and general expectations of the upcoming Joshua-Klitschko bout are more about hopes and expectations than actual reality.
Yes, age and general career trajectory seem to indicate that the two fighters are meeting right at the point where one star is rising and the other is falling. That usually means that the younger guy is in the right spot to topple the older fighter.
It’s also true that, despite his dominance, Klitschko has never quite fought anyone as big, as athletic, and as all-around good as the 6’6″ Joshua. The tall, strong, athletic “Dr. Steelhammer” will be meeting someone, for the first time in his long career, who is every bit his physical equal– only younger and, presumably, hungrier.
However, boxing logic would seem to indicate that Joshua is just not a better than two-to-one favorite or, at least, he shouldn’t be.
Maybe the oddsmakers are ahead of conventional wisdom on this one. It certainly wouldn’t be the first time they were ahead of the game. But maybe, just maybe, there’s a great degree of wishful thinking involved in these odds. It remains to be seen just how Joshua will react to a heavy, accurate shot by the still-powerful and mentally-sharp former champ.
The world could bear witness to an upset on April 29, one where the old guard regains his throne and his status as top heavyweight in the world. Despite the odds making that possibility a relative long shot, it wouldn’t be that much of a shocker if it did.