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As Anthony Joshua admitted himself after getting off the canvas to finish Wladimir Klitschko and unify heavyweight titles during Saturday’s dramatic slugfest, he’s not perfect.

But his record remains so as Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) proved he just might be the perfect fighter to make boxing’s heavyweight division relevant once again.

In front of an electric crowd of 90,000 at London’s Wembley Stadium, Joshua scored a pair of knockdowns in Round 11 to finish off an incredibly game Klitschko (64-5, 53 KOs) by TKO in a bout that marked the former champion’s return after losing his trio of world titles 17 months ago.

“[I’m] 19-0, three and a half years in the game,” Joshua said. “As I’ve said, I’m not perfect, but I’m trying. I dig deep. It is what it is. As I’ve said, if you don’t take part, you’ll never know the outcome.”

Joshua, 27, a rising star who won gold for England at the 2012 London Olympics, made the third defense of his IBF title and picked up the vacant WBA belt in the process. But he was forced to overcome severe adversity to get there after running out of gas and suffering a mid-fight knockdown — the first of his young career.

In a big-time heavyweight showdown that not only lived up to but exceeded expectations, Joshua closed the show emphatically after entering the championship rounds leading on two of three scorecards.

Joshua rocked Klitschko, 41, with a vicious right uppercut and sent him down with a flurry that followed. Klitschko was knocked down a second time after a combination against the ropes, but he continued to fight back despite being hurt until referee David Fields jumped in to rescue him as Joshua was teeing off.

“Both fighters gave their best. The best man won tonight, and it’s amazing event for boxing,” Klitschko said. “Two gentlemen fought each other. Anthony was better today than I. It’s really sad that I didn’t make it tonight. I was planning to do it. It didn’t work. But all the respect to Anthony and congratulations.”

Klitschko put forth an incredibly gutsy performance despite proving unsuccessful in joining Muhammad Ali and Evander Holyfield as the only men to win the heavyweight title three times. But he redeemed himself from his lifeless loss to Tyson Fury in 2015, which ended his 10-year reign on the division, one that included 18 consecutive title defenses.

After getting up from a knockdown in Round 5 with blood trickling from a cut above his left eye, Klitschko rallied to put Joshua on his heels to close the round. In Round 6, with Joshua beginning to fade, Klitschko caught with a right hand from distance that knocked him down for the first time in his career.

“This is boxing. I’m only going to improve,” Joshua said. “Sometimes you can be a phenomenal boxer, but boxing is about character and when you go to the trenches, that’s when you find out who you really are. In this sport, there is nowhere to hide. As I said from the get go, it will be a boxing classic and the best man will win.

“As you can see, I fought and I won. That’s how far I had to dig.”

Joshua outlanded Klitschko 107-94, according to CompuBox. Two judges had Joshua ahead (96-93 and 95-93) at the time of the stoppage, while the third had Klitschko leading (95-93).

Outside of the flurries that hurt him to open Rounds 5 and 11, Klitschko did well to control the pace and distance of the fight with his jab. He also didn’t rely on holding and leaning, as he has in recent fights. In fact, it was Joshua who initiated more of the clinches over the second half of the fight.

“As boxing states, ‘You leave your ego at the door and you respect your opponent,'” Joshua said. “A massive shout out to Wladimir Klitschko for taking part. I’m not going to say too much because I don’t know if he wants to come back and fight me again, but in terms of the boxing Hall of Fame and the boxing arena, he’s a role model in and out of the ring.”

Both fighters signed a two-fight deal ahead of the bout, and Klitschko appeared interested in a rematch when asked about it after the fight.

“Of course, we have it in the contract,” Klitschko said. “I am right now interested. [I need to] analyze what the heck has happened. I did enjoy the night. I wish I could raise my hands instead of being someone who didn’t make it and win the titles back. But congratulations to Anthony. He fought back and won the titles.”

Joshua used his time in the ring after the fight attempting to hype up another heavyweight showdown, this one against Fury, who gave up his titles last October to deal with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“Tyson Fury, where are you at, babe?” Joshua said. “I enjoy fighting. Tyson Fury, I want to give 90,000 people another chance to witness another lovely night of boxing. I just want to fight everyone in the division.”

Joshua vs. Klitschko scorecard

R1 R2 R3 R4 R5 R6 R7 R8 R9 R10 R11 R12 TOTAL
Joshua 10 9 10 10 10 8 9 9 10 10 TKO 95
Klitschko 9 10 9 9 9 10 10 10 9 9 94

ABC Sports

Sports

Mo Farah aiming to challenge Kipchoge, Wanjiru in London Marathon

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AFP — LONDON – British athletics great Mo Farah admitted Tuesday he faces an uphill battle to win Sunday’s London marathon with the likes of two-time winner Eliud Kipchoge in the field but says he will fight for a podium place.

The 35-year-old Somalia-born runner — who twice achieved the 5,000-10,000m Olympic double — said one bonus for his third attempt is that he no longer has to think about conserving energy for a track campaign.

Farah, who stopped at the halfway point in the 2013 race and finished eighth in 2014, retired from the track at the end of last season after just missing out on a third successive world championship 5km-10km double in London.

“It’s a great feeling not to have the same pressure as I do on the track,” Farah told a pre-race press conference.

“If the guys set off at world-record pace, I’ll go with them, why not? A win would be amazing for me. It’s going to be different but every race I go into I aim to fight for a podium place.”

Farah, whose decision to not train full-on for the 2014 London Marathon paid off as he went on to win European gold at 5km and 10km, said he had mapped out a strategy for the race.

“My aim is to stick to my own plan,” said Farah. “The team at the London Marathon have put together an amazing field with guys like Eliud Kipchoge and Daniel Wanjiru.

“I’m only ranked 27th, so I just have to stick to my plan and see what happens.”

Farah, now living in London after splitting from controversial US coach Alberto Salazar, said he had no regrets about switching to the road even though he cast an envious glance at the competitors in the distance events at the Commonwealth Games.

“I watched the Commonwealth Games and I wondered whether I could have done that double (5,000m and 10,000m),” he said. “Maybe. But as an athlete you have to set yourself new challenges. You have to enjoy what you do.”

AFP

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Canadian Mohammed Ahmed wins silver medal in Commonwealth 5,000M

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CANADIAN PRESS — GOLD COAST, Australia — Canadian Mohammed Ahmed earned silver Sunday in the 5,000 metres on the first day of track and field at the Commonwealth Games.

Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei won gold in 13 minutes 50.83 seconds, ahead of Ahmed in 13:52.78 and Kenya’s Edward Zakayo in 13:54.06.

“I’ve been at the cusp for many years, but I finally get to stand on the podium and hopefully (one day) I get to climb one more step,” said the 27-year-old Ahmed, who was fifth in the 5,000 and sixth in the 10,000 at the 2014 games in Glasgow.

Ahmed was sixth in the 5,000 and eighth in the 10,000 at last year’s world championships, both Canadian-best finishes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, he was fourth and 32nd, respectively, in the races.

Born in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ahmed spent the first 10 years of his life in Kenya before his family moved to St. Catharines, Ont.

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Briefing Room

Around 500 Somali youth participate in historic marathon

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Somalia has hosted its first mini-marathon in three decades. The event is aimed at seeking international support for Somali youth; and was organised by the country’s ministry of sports. CGTN’s Abdulaziz Billow is in Mogadishu and filed this report.

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