By Matt Christie

TALK to a boxing writer and ask them which memories they cherish the most and it’s likely they’ll refer to two things: Being at ringside during a dramatic contest and conducting intimate interviews which, at the time, really feel like something special.

During my 14-plus years at Boxing News, several moments stand out. I remember being in the old Newsquest office on Cannon Street, which was a sprawling space that accommodated the staff from several magazines and St Paul’s Cathedral could be seen from the floor to ceiling windows. At 8pm on this particular Monday, however, I was the only one there. I picked up the phone and called America.

“Hi, is that Angelo?” I asked Mr Dundee. “I was hoping to talk to you about Muhammad Ali and your relationship with him, the highs and lows, that kind of thing.”

“Of course, I would be delighted to,” Dundee replied with unmistakeable passion. “But with me and Muhammad, I’ve got to tell you, there weren’t too many lows.”

What followed was almost two hours of wondrous conversation. I hope I’ll never forget how lucky I felt during each minute of that interview. Sitting in a plush newsroom in a swanky office in the heart of London talking to the trainer of Muhammad Ali. Could it get any better than that? Interviewing royalty of Dundee’s ilk is indeed the ultimate privilege. When such interviews are going well, when it’s just you and them, the feeling of warmth builds and builds, affection towards the subject heightens and, at the end of it, your head is in the clouds.

Yet the sensation one feels at ringside is different. If the successful interview is a slow and steady intake of pleasure, a moment of drama within a boxing match is akin to a sudden and unexpected injection of euphoria. It’s overwhelming, it takes your breath away, you feel almost nauseous, it stops you from thinking about anything other than what is going on in front of your eyes.

In this week’s issue, with a nod to the potential for drama in Saudi Arabia at the weekend, we look at some of the most shocking knockdowns that have occurred in heavyweight history. And in heavyweight boxing, when a punch lands that sends one of the giants crashing, particularly when that punch came from nowhere or was not expected, there really is nothing else like it in the sporting world.

There are three incidents that immediately spring to mind. Being at Wembley Stadium for Anthony Joshua-Wladimir Klitschko in 2017 felt like something otherworldly long before the opening bell. No doubt we’ve all experienced intoxicating atmospheres but there was something different about this one. The sense of destiny thickened the air and those of us lucky enough to be close by struggled to stifle the excitement we felt.

When Klitschko timed Joshua with that right hand in round six and Joshua crumbled to the floor, it felt like everyone inside the stadium collectively went quiet. That couldn’t possibly be true, of course, but in those moments the extremes become polarised as reality pauses to catch its breath. I was sat next to my former BN colleague and longtime friend Paul Wheeler, a man as cool as one can possibly be. In those seconds, as the punch landed flush and Joshua fell from the force of it, we were certain the fight was over and Mr Cool, needless to say, completely lost it.

By the 11th round, when Joshua completed what is destined to be his greatest triumph, socking back Klitschko’s head with an uppercut and sending him to the mat on two occasions, nobody at ringside was in any doubt that they were witnessing something historic, whether they were young journalists or the more seasoned variety like Colin Hart and Jeff Powell.

Eighteen months later, in Los Angeles, it’s easy to recollect Tyson Fury being flattened by the fists of Deontay Wilder in the 12th and final round. Again, it seemed like the world froze, the noise stopped, and the only people moving were Wilder as he celebrated and then Fury as he inexplicably awoke.

But it was another Joshua fall that generated the most stunning moment I’ve experienced while reporting on a fight. When dropped by Klitschko it came from the hands of an old master who was rightly widely regarded as a threat beforehand. Similarly, when Wilder momentarily knocked out Fury, the offending punches came from an expert in inducing sleep. When Joshua fell after getting thumped by the roly poly Andy Ruiz Jnr in 2019, however, the orchestrator was a massive underdog deemed as little more than a vehicle for Anthony to look good on his American debut. And there was nothing to suggest anything other than that during the first two and a bit rounds, particularly after Joshua put Ruiz on his backside in the third.

When Ruiz returned the favour, almost instantly, Declan Taylor – who was directly to my left – grabbed my arm without thinking and squeezed it in shock. “Oh my god,” he said, “Ruiz is going to do him!” To my right was Paul Wheeler, losing his cool for the second time in his life as he frantically tried to write the live blog, and nearby was Thomas Hauser, one of the greatest of all boxing writers, in a comparative state of disbelief.

One wonders what the reaction will be like in Riyadh, should Francis Ngannou – an 0-1 heavyweight novice – manage to connect with all his might to the head of Joshua on Friday night.

One wonders, too, how we’ll remember this heavyweight era in many years to come. I suspect it will be fondly. When Joshua is invited to look back on a career that ended decades ago by a giddy journalist with stars in their eyes and excitement in their heart.