Anthony Joshua has revealed the “massive” sense of disappointment he felt when Wladimir Klitschko announced his retirement and ended their plans for a rematch in Las Vegas.
Klitschko’s unexpected announcement, at the age of 41 following his stoppage defeat by Joshua at Wembley, surprised the boxing community as much as Joshua, particularly as he believes the Ukrainian had more to give.
Immediately after April’s fight Klitschko insisted he could have finished Joshua after heavily dropping him in the sixth round and had made a mistake by remaining patient.
He was also widely praised for his resilience and impressing despite defeat, and when Joshua was asked of the disappointment he felt when he was told the news about Klitschko, he saidt: “Massive. It was probably even a disappointment for his management, his trainer (Johnathon Banks).
“(Floyd) Mayweather’s the same age as Klitschko (the American is actually 40), Mayweather’s still going strong; Klitschko still had a good fight in him (in April’s defeat) and I’m sure he’s still got a couple of other good fights in him.
“In my heart of hearts I kind of knew he probably wouldn’t fight again. He was saying how obsessed he was with becoming heavyweight champion of the world again.
“If you fail at the first hurdle, you go again; you knew from my side I was ready for a rematch, making it clear that if he wants to go again, we’ll go again.
“With Klitschko, we weren’t hearing too much, so I just thought he was 50-50, but I had a feeling he might not fight again.
“I, and many other people, wanted to see him compete, but he felt it was best for him to leave the game, hang up his gloves, and I respect the man’s decision.”
Despite establishing himself as the finest heavyweight of the modern era throughout a career in which he secured his financial future, many observers were surprised Klitschko chose not to fight one last time given the significant money on offer.
Joshua is awaiting confirmation of the date and venue to fight mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, with Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on October 28 the favourite ahead of Vegas on November 11, but still understands why Klitschko retired and hopes to take advice from him in future.
“Take the financial side away: this is a sport when you get damaged mentally and internally,” he said. “It all looks good on the outside, but he’s put his body through so many years of impact.
“He’s quite intelligent so has other things to keep him busy, other interests outside of boxing, so he can make that decision comfortably with retiring and focusing his energy on other things.
“I know he’s got some awards nights: I’d love to work with him, present him an award, and keep a good relationship now the fight’s out the way. I’d appreciate it if we just sat down as gentlemen, and he gave me some experience he’s learnt from over the years.