EVERYONE thought the greatest of all time, Muhammad Ali, was crazy to agree to a fight with the devastating knockout machine George Foreman back in 1974.
Foreman had a terrifying record of 37 knockouts from 40 wins and had just steamed through two of Ali’s conquerors in Joe Frazier and Ken Norton.
There is no fear that runs through my body. It is a fight. The best man wins. That is what it comes down to.Anthony Joshua
Ali, on the other hand, was then 32 years old and some believed his best years were behind him, having suffered defeats to Frazier and Norton.
Surely Ali would not be able to handle Foreman’s power and would be taken out inside a few rounds, much like the majority of the latter’s first 40 opponents had.
The question marks and intrigue were there for the build-up to a fight that became known as ‘The Rumble In the Jungle’, Ali defying most predictions by ‘shaking up the world’ with a seventh-round knockout victory.
There are numerous similarities with that famous and historic night leading up to this weekend’s heavyweight dust-up between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko.
Two Olympic gold medallists, one a powerful young champion flooring all his challengers, coming up against a former great of the sport, who previously held multiple titles.
Add to those that the fight will take place in an outdoor arena in front of a British-record 90,000 crowd (60,000 watched Ali rumble Foreman in Zaire), and the similarities start to add up.
Most people believe Joshua will have too much for the Ukrainian, who is undoubtedly a future hall of famer, and will knock him out early on, but so many question marks still hover over the London 2012 Olympic Games golden boy.
Is Joshua the real deal or is he a hype job as many suggest?
Can he overcome the infamous ramrod Klitschko jab and straight right-hand that has floored many of his 53 knockout victims over a career spanning back to 1996.
Is Klitschko finished after non-descript performances in his last two fights against Bryant Jennings and Tyson Fury?
Can Klitschko mirror Ali’s achievement in the early hours in Kinshasa tonight, or will Joshua get the 19th stoppage win on the bounce that most expect him to? These are the questions that make the fight such an intriguing proposition.
Joshua remained laid back throughout fight week and insists he’s approaching this fight in the same manner as his other 18 to date.
“The only reason he is obssessed is because he lost,” said Joshua.
“There is no fear that runs through my body. It is a fight. The best man wins. That is what it comes down to.
“This is what we do. Wladimir has been doing it for so many years and I have been doing it for so many years.”
Klitschko presented a memory stick during Thursday’s press conference, stating he has recorded a video with his prediction of the fight, which he will sew into his robe on the night and auction off for charity.
The man known as Dr Steelhammer, insists he wasn’t playing mind games with his former sparring partner, Joshua.
Klitschko said: “It’s going to be a great night. It will be an amazing fight, I’m all hyped and excited and AJ is as well, I’m sure.
“There’s no mind games here. I am here and I am ready to rumble.”
One thing is for certain, whether or not the fight lives up to the huge build up and comparisons to the likes of Ali-Foreman, it’s the biggest heavyweight scrap since Wladimir’s brother Vitali fought British legend Lennox Lewis in 2003 and also has remarkable comparisons to Lewis’ huge showdown with Mike Tyson a year earlier.
Rival US TV networks fighting tooth-and-nail to get rights for a UK fight is unheard of, and giants HBO and Showtime have only shared broadcasts twice previously (for Lewis-Tyson and Floyd Mayweather-Manny Pacquiao).
The stakes are huge. A win forJoshua ends any lingering doubts over him and catapults him into a worldwide sporting star, with more mega fights on the horizon.