Wembley showdown with Wladimir Klitschko doesn't faze Anthony Joshua
ANTHONY JOSHUA says he is unfazed by the prospect of facing Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium after their world heavyweight title unification showdown was sealed for April 29.
Klitschko clambered into ring after Joshua's three-round demolition of Eric Molina in Manchester on Saturday night to confirm the pair have agreed the details of what will be a record-breaking post-war showdown.
It will be a mark of how far the 27-year-old Londoner has progressed since his Wembley Stadium debut on the undercard of Carl Froch's bout with George Groves in May 2014, when he dispatched Matt Legg in his sixth professional bout.
Joshua said: "The last time I fought at Wembley, it was in front of about 3,000 people at 5.30 in the afternoon. But it's a fight and, whether it's in front of 90,000 people or nine people, it makes no difference.
"I remember the ring was tiny and before I knew it he was in my corner swinging hooks. I was a bit raw then so I took a few and I managed to get him out of there. I was happy to go on first, so I could watch Froch against Groves later on."
Three years later, Joshua's status will be rather different, after a series of clinical demolitions of the likes of Molina which captured him the IBF version of the title and underlined his position as one of the undoubted rising stars of the sport.
Joshua's success was enough to convince Klitschko to travel to Manchester to witness his development at first hand, and the Ukrainian made the unusual step of taking the ring announcer's microphone to confirm their contest.
Molina played his part as the last hapless obstacle to be swept aside, barely landing a shot as Joshua set about his work with almost casual intensity, hammering home a left hook in round two before opening up to finish it in the third.
A brutal right hand knocked Molina to the canvas and although the 34-year-old Texan gamely scrambled to his feet, referee Steve Gray wisely saw enough in the inevitable barrage that followed, and waved the contest off.
While Molina was no Klitschko, there was a readily-available world-class comparison in the fact he had lasted nine rounds against reigning WBC champion Deontay Wilder last year, whereas Joshua's assault lasted less than nine minutes.
"The difference between Molina and Klitschko is that Molina wasn't giving me opportunities so I had to create them, but Klitschko will be in standing in front of me and giving me those chances," added Joshua.
"A lot of this fight was asking about what's going to happen in the future and I always said let's focus on this fight first. But it was always buzzing about and to see Klitschko here made it real and I can now focus on 2017."
Such is Joshua's pulling power that a host of leading heavyweights crammed into the sold-out Manchester Arena to witness his successful second defence, including David Haye and Tony Bellew, who were kept apart by layers of security at ringside.
In contrast to the hype and bluster which regularly accompanies the promotional aspect of dealing with the big men, Joshua and Klitschko clearly share a mutual respect which should make their big-fight build-up a relatively sedate affair.
Joshua added: "We're all predators in this sport but we come together to represent boxing. We've very clear on the mutual respect we've got but we're very clear on the competitive aspect as well.
"In order to beat Klitschko I know I need to improve to another level and I will probably do that in my next training camp. The fight has been made and I will be able to prove myself on April 29."
Former foe Dillian Whyte muscled in on the heavyweight title picture with a split decision win over Dereck Chisora after a surprisingly explosive undercard contest which went some way to eclipsing its distasteful build-up.
Billed as an eliminator for a shot at Wilder's WBC crown, it was Whyte who seized his chance with more consistent work while Chisora, who enjoyed success in spurts, will be left to contemplate his future.