Anthony Joshua eyes Klitschko prize ahead of Manchester Eric Molina world title defence

World heavyweight champion fights American Molina on Saturday, but all the talk this week has been about who the Briton could fight next

PUBLISHED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 11:30am
UPDATED : Friday, 09 December, 2016, 11:20pm

World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua fights Eric Molina on Saturday, but all the talk this week has been about who the Briton could fight next.

Joshua’s second defence of his IBF world crown might not be generating as much excitement and anticipation as his previous fights, but much is on the line.

Should he prevail, Joshua will be set to face former world champion Wladimir Klitschko in a 2017 mega-fight and he must therefore ensure nothing upsets those plans against American Molina.

“I will make Eric look like a novice,” said Joshua, who has knocked out all 17 of his professional opponents, at a press conference in Manchester on Thursday.

“It’s a breaking-down job. This is boxing, this is science. It’s about being clever, so I’m going to go later on in the rounds breaking him down.

“If I get past Eric, it’s only going to get tougher. I’m the guy that should beat Klitschko, so I have to make sure I perform like the guy who should beat Klitschko.”

Klitschko, who reigned for over nine years until he lost on points to Briton Tyson Fury a year ago, will be an interested observer when Joshua gets into the ring at the Manchester Arena.

Anthony Joshua to fight Eric Molina for IBF world heavyweight title

The Ukrainian powerhouse, who turns 41 in March, has been lined up to meet Joshua at Wembley Stadium in London on April 29.

Molina, 34, is attempting to pull off a big shock and scoffed at Joshua’s promise to make him look like a beginner.

“You have to make me look like a novice,” Molina said to Joshua. “If you slip up once, you will be dancing. All of Britain will be very surprised.

“Joshua’s not even the best heavyweight in the division. (Deontay) Wilder is the hardest puncher in the division.”

It is Molina’s second world heavyweight title fight, after he gave WBC champion Wilder a scare early on before being knocked out in the ninth round last year.

That was the Texan’s third professional defeat, but Joshua is respectful of Molina’s power, with 19 of his 25 wins being stoppages.

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“He’s looking for that one-shot knockout and anyone who is 17 or 18 stone (108 kilogrammes or 114kg), that is possible,” said the 2012 Olympic gold medallist.

“He’s said he has spotted three or four weakness in me, but I’ve seen 10 or 13 weaknesses in him and it’s first come, first served.

“It’s first to the punch and I’m ready for a 12-round fight because he’s dangerous.”

Joshua, 27, has hardly put a foot wrong in his professional career, aside from one brief moment of concern against compatriot Dillian Whyte a year ago.

Molina was drafted in as a replacement opponent for Joshua less than six weeks ago after Klitschko opted to wait until next year to box again.

The Mexican-American made an inauspicious start to his career – he was knocked out in the first round of his professional debut in 2007 – but stopped two-weight world champion Tomasz Adamek in his last fight.

Molina has taken a break from his job of teaching disabled children, after attaining a masters degree in special education four years ago, and win or lose against Joshua, he plans on returning to the day job.

“He’s going to have the toughest fight of his career – that’s a guarantee,” Molina said.

“This is the heavyweight division. What makes it so exciting is that any one punch can change the fight and I bring that to the table.”