COLOGNE, Germany — After what will be 17 months out of the ring, former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko believes the chances of resurrecting his remarkable career are "50-50" against the unbeaten Anthony Joshua.
The 40-year-old Klitschko, who ruled the heavyweight division for nearly a decade, lost his WBA, IBF and WBO belts in a surprise defeat to Tyson Fury in Duesseldorf in November 2015. He hasn't fought since then after two attempts at a rematch failed because of the British fighter's personal problems.
Joshua, 13 years his junior, will try to prevent the Ukrainian's comeback at London's Wembley Stadium on April 29, likely forcing the former champ into retirement if he wins.
"I've never boxed in front of 90,000 people before," Joshua said on Thursday (Friday, Manila time) at a press event in Cologne. "I'm gonna ride that wave for sure."
Joshua's IBF belt will be on the line, as well as the WBA 'super' title vacated by Fury.
Joshua has won all 18 of his fights by KO since turning professional after winning the gold medal at the London Olympics in 2012. His most recent win was a third-round stoppage of Eric Molina in Manchester in December, a day before the fight against Klitschko was finalized.
Klitschko, also an Olympic winner at the 1996 Games in Atlanta, said he was impressed that Joshua waited before turning professional, and he praised his opponent's modest approach.
"His arm reach and punch are similar. He's almost a copy of me, maybe a little different when you look at the experience," said Klitschko, whose record is 64-4 with 53 KOs.
The British boxer acknowledged he can't compete on experience.
"For experience, you gain that with age. But for the sport we're in, I really think boxing is a young man's sport for sure," Joshua said.
In contrast to Klitschko's previous bouts against Britons, there is none of the bad blood that was clearly evident against Fury or David Haye, or against Dereck Chisora, who failed in his bid to take the WBC belt from older Klitschko brother Vitali in 2012.
The still-active Klitschko said that facing Joshua was a breath of fresh air without the insults that dominated the lead-ups to the previous fights. There is mutual respect between the fighters.
"It's an enrichment for me. It's a whole other level and good for the sport of boxing," Klitschko said. "Pythagoras, Plato, Jack London, and Nelson Mandela showed that boxing is characterized by respect and intelligence and not just foul language."
Perhaps to avoid giving the impression that the fighters were getting too friendly, Klitschko promised it will be different on the day of the fight.
"This is peace or silence before the storm. As soon as our fists are flying in the ring - nothing personal, but business for this period of time, 12 rounds or however many rounds we'll be there that night," Klitschko said. "Before and after we can be friends, all this, but we are true professionals. Nothing personal, just business."
"As he said, when punches start flying past your head, you know you have to fight back. It's business," he said.