LONDON — When Wladimir Klitschko fights Anthony Joshua for two world heavyweight titles in April, it will end an 18-month wait to restore his boxing reputation.
Klitschko’s career has been on hold since losing his IBF, WBA and WBO belts in a surprising defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015. Two attempts at a rematch failed because of Fury’s personal problems, leaving the 40-year-old Klitschko in limbo after nearly a decade ruling the heavyweight division.
“I was not sitting back, doing nothing and drinking beer in the past year. I was training, preparing for the fight that never happened,” Klitschko said Wednesday during a media event at Wembley Stadium, which will host the bout.
“I think this gave me, in a certain way after 26 years being active in the sport, a break I probably needed.”
Refreshed and with his motivation “as high as the sky,” Klitschko has been given a tough assignment on his return to the ring.
In the Ukrainian’s absence and with Fury taking time away from boxing to deal with personal issues, the heavyweight belts have been scattered and Joshua is now regarded as the future star of the division.
The British boxer has won all 18 of his fights since turning professional after winning the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012. His most recent win was a third-round stoppage of Eric Molina in Manchester on Saturday, after which, the fight against Klitschko was finalized.
It will take place at the home of English soccer on April 29, and around 90,000 spectators are expected. Joshua’s IBF belt will be on the line, as well as the WBA ‘super’ title vacated by Fury.
Joshua said a win will turn him from a “champion to a legend.”
“These are the fights that change the way people view you,” he said. “I’m IBF champion of the world, but this is the start of a legendary campaign.”
Klitschko said it is a “50-50” fight.
“Our size, strength — age is just a number. We have a competitive fight with two fighters with the same qualities,” said Klitschko, who will be 41 when he fights Joshua. “It’s special and I don’t know the next time a fight like this can happen.”
Joshua’s trainer, Rob McCracken, said it will be the biggest test of his fighter’s career.
“We’ll see if he’s got enough experience at that stage,” said McCracken, who also trains Britain’s Olympic boxers. “But his development has been fantastic. He’s moved quicker than any fighter I’ve ever seen.
“He has speed, power, balance and grace, which lights the arenas up.”