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Round by round . . . This is how I’ll take Wladimir out

Boxing

LONDON - The road map to victory over Wladimir Klitschko - and onward to superstardom - is set like a satellite navigation system in the bright lights of Anthony Joshua’s mind.

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Anthony Joshua during the weigh-in

Britain’s 27-year-old world champion has rehearsed mentally how he will apply the pressure of youthful strength on the Ukraine legend, who ruled heavyweight boxing for more than a decade but is 14 years the elder.

Joshua can picture how the blockbuster battle for his IBF belt and the vacant WBA title will unfold before a 90,000 crowd at Wembley tomorrow night and millions of viewers in 140 countries around the world.

But first, as the winner by KO in all his 18 professional fights so far, he issues this health warning to Klitschko: ‘I’m not into 12-round boxing.’

Then he charts the pathway to glory, from the first bell.

The opinion in this hard old trade is that he will go for the quick kill, but Joshua says: ‘I will feel him out in the first round. The 20 to 25 rounds we sparred in Wladimir’s camp don’t count because I don’t go to the gym for a fight but to learn and a real fight is very different.

‘In the second and third I can step it up a bit and see what he’s got left. He’s still in great condition but he is 41. Although I know how much experience he has gained through all those fights.

‘Through the fourth and fifth I can start breaking him down. By round six or seven I should have him in a bad place.

‘Then we can get down and dirty. It would be sweet to go in there and knock him out. That’s what heavyweight boxing is all about.’

The mechanics of how he needs to set up the KO against by far the best opponent he has faced are also clear to Joshua.

Klitschko faces constant accusations that he is a jab-and-grab merchant and questions are being asked as to how American referee David Fields will deal with any holding.

Joshua has no such concerns, since he plans to deal with it himself: ‘Holding happens in fights. It can’t be helped. The issue is how you deal with it.

‘You use it to your advantage when you’re in close like that. You can whip in the uppercuts.Most important of all you pound the body.

‘Left to the body, right to the body and you take the wind out of him. Slow him down. Round by round you can see and feel it having its effect. Keep swinging away to the body and it takes the fight out of anyone.’

As for the Klitschko reach advantage, he says: ‘People think I’m only about knockout power. But I practise my boxing skills.

‘I’ve got my right hand to parry his long left jab. I’ve got my left hand to shield and protect me and deflect that big right. I can deal with him at close range and long range.’

He’s ready psychologically, too. He says: ‘Since I’ve taken this fight I’m not thinking, “Oh my god, I’m fighting this icon called Wladimir Klitschko who’s been through everything and I’m doing it in this mega-fight”.

‘I simplify it. I strip away all that, the hype and excitement and look upon it as another fight in which to knock out an opponent inside 12 rounds.’

Even that pared-down approach, however, does not blind Joshua to the rewards which would follow if he can emulate the sensational upset win over Klitschko with which his fellow Englishman Tyson Fury freed up all but one of the heavyweight alpha-belts, his own IBF title included.

This extravaganza will be only the third fight ever broadcast by both the cable TV giants in America, Showtime and HBO.

Of how that priceless exposure can work better for him than Klitschko, who has never fully excited huge interest the other side of the Atlantic, Joshua says: ‘America is the mecca. If we cross over into the States and keep the fanbase here in the UK, we’ve cracked it. As a big guy with a name that’s easy to pronounce and who speaks English as his first language I can relate to the US market. I’ve got to go out there Saturday night and show them what I’m about.

‘Then we can get cracking. The O2 in London has become my second home and it is amazing for me to be fighting in Wembley Stadium. But I will need to go to America and I’m more than ready. I’d love to fight in Las Vegas and New York.

‘Deontay Wilder (the WBC heavyweight champion) is coming Saturday night. A fight with him over there could make it all phenomenal.’

Huge enough for him to realise his dream of becoming boxing’s first billionaire, thereby surpassing Floyd Mayweather’s $600million wealth?

‘Not in boxing,’ he says on reflection. ‘There’s no doubt we’ll make money. Maybe from my investment of all the income including sponsorships. But it’s not my goal to be richer than Floyd. He has raised the bar for what boxers can earn and I’m not putting myself on the same pedestal.’

But Joshua is having the time of his young life.

Even so close to this huge fight he is relaxed and in his usual good humour. He says: ‘I am enjoying this amazing journey. Boxing is good. Boxing is fun.’

Then he leans back in his chair and chuckles at his own good fortune.

May Joshua still be smiling shortly before the witching hour tomorrow night.

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