Billed as one of the greatest sporting events of 2017, the waiting is so nearly over: Fight-night is nearly upon us.
Come Saturday night the war of words will be over, for 12 three-minute rounds at least, as Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko let their gloves do the talking.
It’s student against master, but who will come on top when the dust settles to claim not only an enormous amount of bragging rights, but three titles to their name?
Ninety-thousand fans will squeeze into a packed-out Wembley, with a fight too tough to call unfolding in front of their eyes, and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Joshua and Klitschko will descend on North London for one of the most hotly-anticipated bouts in years, with millions of eyes firmly on them in the world heavyweight clash.
History has already been made with this being the most tickets ever sold for a fight at the stadium, with the two set to touch gloves at 10pm on Saturday night.
Joshua will be defending his IBF world title for the third time, while the WBA title will also be up for grabs, as will the IBO world title.
There is also an additional, historical intrigue to throw into the ring with Joshua serving as the Ukrainian’s sparring partner back in 2014.
But all past history will go out of the window when these two go to war.
HEAD TO HEAD
Youth versus experience, an unbeaten record against a wounded warrior, Joshua at 27 is very much the junior, with Klitschko fourteen years his senior.
The Brit also stands with a perfect record in the ring, 18 bouts yielding 18 knockout wins, all of them coming before the end of the seventh round.
Klitschko meanwhile boasts a 64-4 record, a mammoth 53 of those coming by KO, going on an unbeaten run lasting 11 years before defeat to Tyson Fury in November 2015.
Both fighters are 6ft 6ins tall, with Joshua having a slightly longer reach at 82 inches to Klitschko’s 81, though the latter is set to be lighter, 17st 7lbs in his last bout compared to the Brit’s 17st 11lbs.
Youth and ambition, strength and power, there’s very little that isn’t in Joshua's armoury. You don’t get 18 knockouts from 18 fights down to luck, and the Watford fighter certainly knows how to pack a punch.
Entering his fourth year as a professional, Joshua showed what he was about right from the outset with a second-round victory over Paul Butlin in only his second professional fight.
But his success goes long before the rings of the top table, becoming the Super Heavyweight Olympic gold medallist at London 2012, with the then novice well and truly thrusting himself onto the international scene.
Even then Joshua already boasted world silver, with his power the undoubted key strength as he pins opponents back onto the ropes.
A fast-and-furious initial onslaught may therefore be his weapon of choice, exactly the style in which he first became IBF heavyweight champion when defeating Charles Martin in April 2016.
Since then, challengers have been left wanting in their bid for his crown, with Eric Molina the last to feel the Brit’s brilliance back in December, the contest over by the third round.
Immediately after Joshua had defeated Molina at the Manchester Arena, Klitschko was invited into the ring, with the two confirmed there and then to be doing battle this very weekend.
“I know the huge significance of this fight for boxing, the heavyweight division and the kids in the position I used to be in who I can inspire to follow my journey out of their economic struggle in life. Boxing is a sport for good,” said Joshua.
“But this chance has come at this time and I didn’t see myself waiting around six or eight years before cracking on with the mega-fights. Apart from my own ambitions, boxing needs this. Too many big fights don’t happen and that kills the excitement and development of the sport.
“Heavyweight boxing needs its epic trilogies.
“Almost every boxer loses at some time. If I take a loss I will do what great fighters have done before – look and learn why it happened, how it happened and make the adjustments.
“Then if Klitschko still feels he has more of this in him at 41 we can see where we go. I am thrilled to be in fights of this significance.”
What he may lack in other departments, Klitschko certainly makes up for in his experience.
From title fights to big-money contests, the Ukrainian has been there and done it all in his 41 years – and he’s far from over the hill.
With a knockout rate of 78 per cent, he is a man who knows how to use his fists – and his longevity could potentially be a crucial attribute in Wembley.
Of Klitschko’s last 15 fights, 11 have gone past the sixth round, and with Joshua a man not used to what it takes in the later stages, tactics and stamina could be the all-important assets.
He is also a man keen to dictate the tempo and orchestrate the pace of the fight, pressure Joshua perhaps won’t necessarily be used to in his career so far.
Klitschko has not fought in 17 months however – with Joshua fighting four times in that time – ever since his defeat to Fury.
That saw him lose out on the titles he is looking to reclaim. If a boxer is a dangerous man, then one with a point to prove goes to a different level, while he will also be looking to upset the apple cart of Joshua fighting in front of his home fans.
He said: "I understand I don't have titles any more, but in a certain way I feel relieved. I feel calmer, more free. Before it was all defending and caution.
"Now it's different, and I like the feeling that I don't have any pressure. I have nothing to defend so I need to bounce back and be the hunter.
"Joshua has the title and it's something I will need to get. It will be a totally different attitude. I will not hold myself back."
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