Science Behind Joshua vs Klitschko

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Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko has been on the cards since September, and now it has been officially announced that Britain’s boxing superstar will be taking on the heavyweight boxing legend at Wembley on Saturday 29th April.

There is a divide in opinion from boxing fans and critics, as they weigh up the contest considering AJ’s relative inexperience and the fact that Klitschko will be turning 41 years old in March, and entering the ring after 18 months of inactivity.

People are wondering whether too much too soon for AJ? or too much, too late for Wlad!

What we need is … The Science Behind Joshua vs Klitschko!

In this article, Boxing Science will be look at the numbers and training methods to breakdown the science behind this heavyweight mega-fight

An Ageing Klitschko!

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Age is just a number… but the numbers run out in sport, especially in a sport that is so physically demanding.

A lot is made of athletes being over the hill by the time they reach 30. But physiologically there’s probably not much difference, all things being equal.

Where we might see older athletes competing less well is probably due to a complex interaction of past injuries (that limit effective movement) or reasons for decreased motivation (due to years of mundane training camps).

Excessive weight gain and loss can also affect a boxers metabolic rate. This can increase difficulty in making weight – draining an athlete during camp and negatively affecting training and, in turn, strength and fitness.

Fortunately for Klitschko, he has stayed in really good shape and quite active throughout over the past 20 years. However, this has been his longest period of in-activity of his 68-fight career, and many questioned his battle with father-time following a poor performance and defeat to Tyson Fury. 

It was clear to see that against Tyson Fury, Klitschko was not as active, aggressive and using his backhand. Fury was tricky and slippery from a Southpaw stance, that threw off Klitschko’s normal tactics.

Compubox stats report that Klitschcko threw an average of 19 punches per round, landing just 4 punches. This is a bad turn out in anyones eyes, but how do these compare to past performances?

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Compubox

So did Wlad get beat by Tyson because he was old?

Based on punch stats there are no obvious signs of a steady decline as his recent performance against Bryant Jennings had higher punches landed, average thrown per round and percentage success rate than some of his previous fights.

However, his success rate against Tyson Fury was not that far away from the David Haye fight. What does this tell us?

Did both Fury AND Haye Provided The Blueprint

Although very different performances and outcomes, both Tyson Fury and David Haye reduced Klitschko’s success rate and total punches thrown.

Looking at the list above, Fury and Haye stand out to have better movement and defensive skills than Klitschko’s previous opponents.

This suggests that to reduce Klitschko’s success, AJ may need to adopt the tricky head movement and fast feet of his British predecessors.

This could be the key areas for Joshua to focus on during this camp – very technical work, but how can sport science help him physically?

Trunk conditioning to help the head

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Slips, dips, lean backs, rolls are all effective head movements requiring different movements of the core.

AJ should start the camp by developing core strength from various angles through heavy-loaded / stabilisation exercises that resist forces, such as Suitcase Deadlift, Supine Holds, Landmine Rotations.

Explosive medicine ball throws should be integrated into the second phase to develop the stretch-shortening of the core muscles. This will help improve the speed and force generated by the core when moving the head and delivering hurtful counterpunches.

High-Intensity Conditioning

Wladimir Klitschko is by far Joshua’s biggest test to date, therefore he should be more durable than AJ’s previous opponents and could be the first to go the distance with Joshua. So, it doesn’t take a scientist to tell you that Joshua will need to be fitter than ever, but the question is what type will benefit AJ best?

Well, we can’t provide the answer! It all depends on AJ’s current physiological profile and previous training.

However, if he looks to be the bigger guy (mentioned later), he will need to develop the muscle’s ability to extract and utilise energy as more muscle mass will create higher energy demands.

You can do this by targeting peripheral adaptations using 30 second max effort sprints with 3 minutes recovery.

30-seconds sprints will help your boxing performance by increasing your upper-capacity for high-intensity performance. This will allow you to do what you want, when you want.

Watch the video below to find out more

Plyometrics – Fast feet!

AJ will have to be nimble and move effortlessly around the ring. Plyometrics can help this, particularly calf conditioning. We would look at targeting plyometrics at different intensities, changing speed, height and complexity of movement.

Download our Plyometrics for Boxing webinar FOR FREE.

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The Maturity of AJ – One Step Ahead.

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Joshua’s epic British title encounter against Dillian Whyte in December 2015

AJ has mentioned in many recent interviews that he is “always preparing for the next 2-3 fights after”.

Although we don’t encourage overlooking opponents, we love this mentality as we always structure our programs with long-term visions and goals in mind. We don’t just prepare boxers for one fight or a 10-week camp, we take them on a sport science journey.

How has AJ been preparing for Klitschko?

Let’s look at his recent punch stats.

 

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Throwdown Scoring

Some of the stats above are incredible, but a lot have resulted in one sided victories under just three rounds. The big question that still looms over AJ is how can he perform over the championship distance.

AJ’s fitness was questioned massively when he faced Dillian Whyte in December 2015. He took a big shot in the second round and looked like he struggled fitness wise.

However, there was a reason….

AJ threw a massive 59 punches per round, this is 32% higher than his average punches per round (40) from previous six fights mentioned above.

This meant AJ was much busier against ‘The Bodysnatcher’, and that he struggled physically due to a massive overload in punching volume.

Furthermore, these figures were over 11 punches above the heavyweight average per round (46, Compubox).

This meant AJ’s physical fatigue may not be down to poor fitness levels, but may be due to pacing strategies and shot selection during the fight.

What did AJ learn from Whyte?

Since his encounter with Dillian Whyte, AJ has thrown less punches per round in his three world title fights. His last fight with Molina he averaged of 35 punches thrown per round, thats 41% less than the Whyte fight.

He has also recorded higher success rates in punches landing. These stats suggest that AJ is now taking his time and picking his shots, helping him to be more economical with energy levels so he can reduce physical fatigue and keep throwing bombs over the 12 rounds.

Tipping the Scales

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Anthony Joshua has got bigger and bigger since his professional debut in October 2013. He’s put on a whopping 20 lbs over the past three years, going from 230 lbs to 249 lbs in his recent fight against Molina.

He has only reached 249 lbs once before. This was when he faced Gary Cornish for the Commonwealth title in September 2015, AJ’s biggest and heaviest opponent to date.

AJ has put on 6 lbs since his last outing, which makes you wonder whether his team wanted him to trial the heavier weight again before going in against Klitschko.

Marius Wach in 2012 is the only heavier opponent Klitschko has faced in comparison to AJ (since 2003). Fury tipped the scales at 247 lbs when Wladimir weighed in at 245.

It is likely that AJ will weigh in heavier than Klitschko for their showdown in April. This is not ideal for the heavyweight legend because with his bigger size and blistering hand speed, AJ could be devastating on the night.

Size AND Speed

AJ looked faster than ever against Molina, so the extra bulk should not be an issue to his punch.

To keep the speed at this heavier weight, his team could opt for strength-speed or speed-strength training. We use velocity-based training when a boxer is moving up weight divisions.

Final Thoughts

We have analysed the numbers and shared our training thoughts. Anthony Joshua’s exponential rise to heavyweight champion of the world has been quite extraordinary. This is due to a strong team around him, forward-thinking attitude and exceptional talent.

It is clear that nothing has been guess work, all roads have led to this moment where he takes on a heavyweight legend in Klitschko.

When we consider Tyson Fury’s historic win, and the punch stats from previous fights, we suggest the key to beating Klitschko is to make him miss and make him pay.

We know AJ could make him pay.. but will he make him miss? If he does he wins in devastating fashion. 

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Danny Wilson co-founded Boxing Science in 2014 following building the successful Boxing program at Sheffield Hallam University where he has coached over 100 amateur and professional boxers as a strength and conditioning coach. He has also helped prepare Kell Brook for his mega-fight with Gennady Golovkin, and his Ingle Gym stablemates including Kid Galahad, Jordan Gill and Kyle Yousaf.

Away from Boxing, Danny is currently the Yorkshire regional strength and conditioning coach for England Golf and has experiences in youth and professional standards across a range of sports.

Danny is a United Kingdom Strength and Conditioning Association accredited strength and conditioning coach and has a Master of Science degree in Sport Science at Sheffield Hallam University, UK. For his final research project Danny profiled the physiological characteristics of amateur boxers and will share some of the novel findings on Boxing Science. Danny will be contributing to the Strength and Conditioning section by writing about the science behind the punch, training methods, working with junior athletes and case studies.