Put yourself in Wladimir Klitschko’s shoes: 11 years undefeated, 22 fights won on the bounce, followed by one very frustrating night. The man must have been overcome with anger at himself after that Tyson Fury fight in November, 2015.
Although the Ukrainian is a boxing genius, his shock defeat to Fury – yes, huge credit should be given to the Englishman – was dictated by a major factor: mind games.
Fury got under the former Champion’s skin, rattled him, boxed patiently and bathed in victory. There was therefore no surprise that for the rescheduling of the fight, Wladimir himself came out with all sorts of mind games; different tactics in the build up, not playing the ‘quiet card’; but, the aggressor; willing to sink to Fury’s level.
It now appears that Klitschko has taken that angle into the Anthony Joshua fight. He’s constantly used his ‘go-to’ phrases. Words like, “obsession” and “underdog” being repeated, and repeated in his media duties.
The Ukrainian is playing this different role after years in the sport. The heavyweight has previously let the fighting do the talking, often not up for a heavy exchange of words; just like in the build up to his Fury defeat: “I’ll let this English buffoon do the talking, who is prancing around in a batman outfit”.
But, the Joshua fight is different, and the Ukrainian has taken the mind games to another level:
“This (memory stick) is going to be in my robe, which I’m going to wear this Saturday night, sealed. Do not ask me after the fight, ‘What is on the stick?’
“The only person who’s going to be able to watch it is the person who’s going to buy this robe, and all the money will go to the Klitschko Foundation.”
A quite brilliant move from Wladimir.
In what is subtly/quite an obvious PR stunt for his own charity campaign, the marketing gag has also worked as a brilliant mind game. Media, and opponent alike questioning: “what’s Wlad’s prediction?”. It has people second guessing, makes his opponent do more thinking.
The PR stunt is also a polar opposite to his opponent, Joshua. In what has been received by the media as a ‘lovely’ gesture of a new £95,000 BMW to the Englishman’s first coach, Sean Murphy, the widely documented present can also be viewed as totally materialistic/more evidence that Joshua is trying to live up to this ‘nice man’ reputation he so desperately craves.
Why did he have to give this gift so near to the fight? Why did he have to document it with all forms of cameras following him? Why was it plastered all over the BBC in a running documentary? A planned – and, to add, well executed – marketing gag in the build up to the fight.
Klitschko’s subtle/charity-esque mind games shows his maturity and experience in the sport. He won’t make the same mistakes he made against Fury, but he has been drawn into the media PR battle; and the Ukrainian is one-nil up before the fight has begun this time around.