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MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Anthony Joshua had just outclassed Eric Molina to retain the IBF world heavyweight title when the undefeated British boxer was finally given a proper fight.
Wladimir Klitschko strode into the ring at Manchester Arena, shook hands with Joshua, and the announcement many boxing fans wanted was made.
Joshua vs. Klitschko, Wembley Stadium in London, April 29.
Maybe then, the boxing world will get to find out how good Joshua really is.
Molina certainly wasn’t in his league in Saturday’s fight. The American was knocked down by a straight right from Joshua midway through third round, before the referee stepped in to end the fight as Joshua was reeling off a flurry of punches. There was just under a minute left in the round.
Joshua was the aggressor throughout and it was always a matter of when he would unload on Molina to collect his 18th straight win since turning professional after winning an Olympic gold medal at the London Games in 2012.
“I was slow and patient and that’s all I needed to do,” Joshua said.
The WBA had already sanctioned a fight between Joshua and Klitschko for the spring, but it was left to Joshua’s manager, Eddie Hearn, to announce the date and location from the center of the ring. Molina was still getting treated by his corner.
“Do you want to see a big fight?” Klitschko asked the crowd. “Do you want to see a fight where two Olympic champions are involved? Do you want to see a fight AJ vs. WK?
“You got it.”
In a sign of the respect between the two fighters, who have been sparring partners in the past, Klitschko turned to Joshua and said: “I love you, you are awesome.”
After nearly a decade of ruling the heavyweight division, Klitschko lost his IBF, WBO and WBA belts with a surprise defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015. The Ukrainian boxer hasn’t fought since, with a rematch against Fury postponed twice.
Fury is taking time away from boxing to focus on treatment and recovery from drug use and other personal problems that forced him to relinquish his titles.
When Klitschko gets in the ring with Joshua in front of what could be 90,000 fans at England’s national soccer stadium, it will end an 18-month wait to get a chance to restore his reputation. Hearn said it will be for the WBA, IBF and IBO belts, as well as perhaps the Ring Magazine belt.
“This guy wants his belt back,” Joshua said, pointing to Klitschko.