The Anthony Joshua experience landed in Cardiff, Wales, UK and 78,000 paying fans turned out. His opponent was Carlos Takam, a replacement for Kubrat Pulev, an experienced, tough and durable contender hailing from France.
The roof was closed at the Principality Stadium and when Joshua fights it becomes an event. Going into the contest, Takam’s chances were written off. He was a massive underdog but those who’ve seen him fight and followed his career knew he wouldn’t turn up to lie down.
The 6’6 Joshua had weighed in at 254lbs, a career heaviest but not an ounce of fat. He’d been training for a similarly sized opponent in Kubrat Pulev but with twelve days to go, got Carlos Takam who is 6’1 and 225lbs. Joshua enjoyed a two-inch reach advantage while being the younger man by eight years.
The challenger didn’t come close to pulling off a shock but he remained competitive, tricky to pin down, and showed heart. He suffered terrible cuts in the fourth, above the right eye, and was floored from a left hook. The cuts were bad, from punches, but he kept going, looking for that one shot that could turn the tables.
Anthony Joshua, 28, fought at a controlled, steady pace. The orthodox jab was on show but gone was the, sometimes, cavalier attitude to chasing a knockout.
The champion is growing into his role as the No.1 Heavyweight on the planet. His tactics were good, he paced himself well. He suffered nose damage in the second round from an unintentional headbutt which seemed to anger and spur him onto the attack. Most of the time, it was work behind the jab. We also saw that Joshua can trade on the inside, even with a shorter foe.
Takam, 36, is used to being the shorter fighter and is tough to pin down. Joshua landed hard combinations in the fight but never landed any real hellacious shots. Takam was apt at rolling with punches and absorbing them.
As the fight wore on the cuts were a concern, to the ringside doctors, and probably part of the reason for the premature ending in the tenth. The fifth round saw some fantastic exchanges between the combatants. The midway point and the men were trading beautiful hooks, Joshua was winning the rounds and on top but Takam was competitive. The champion looked comfortable in there. In the seventh, he took a few, dropped his hands (as an invite) then launched his own attack. The pace then started to drop by the ninth.
The tenth, and final, round saw Takam come out firing, maybe a last effort, but he was soon getting tagged and slightly rocked. Referee Phil Bennett jumped in and stopped it. Premature is the word. The challenger was busted up over both eyes, a long way behind on the scorecards but this is a fight for the heavyweight world title. Give the man a chance to go out on his shield. Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs) will have earned, in one fight, three times what his whole career brought him. A tough opponent for any heavyweight out there.
It was an enjoyable fight and a tremendous atmosphere inside the stadium. Anthony Joshua is a heavyweight champion that is developing and showing maturity. People want fireworks every time, they want early knockouts. What they got was a good fight that they weren’t expecting.
The 2018 plan for Joshua is three fights, starting in February and possibly in the US. His promoter Eddie Hearn is venturing to the US and recently signed American Danny Jacobs. The big unification with Deontay Wilder could take place in the summer–it would be a stadium fight in the UK, can Wilder fill a stadium in the US? The third looks like it could be headed for Cardiff–the only place, in the UK that can hold up to 80,000 in the winter months.
Anthony Joshua is now 20-0, 20 KOs and he keeps ticking the boxes. A man that is approaching his physical prime but in terms of experience has a few more years to go. He’s going to get better and better. We just need other heavyweights that can provide the competition.