By Oscar Bevis – It’s 12 days before fight night, and rumours are circulating the internet that Kubrat Pulev has pulled out of his 28th October IBF, WBA & IBO World title fight with Anthony Joshua. Confirmed later by Eddie Hearn & Sauerland Promotions, so it was over to no.3 challenger – Carlos Takam.
A shrewd bit of business from Hearn who had, in fact, pre-planned the situation, Takam was ready and waiting in the wings. However, you can imagine the reception the fight got on social media. Whilst it was billed as a tough night’s work for Joshua, many thought the fight would take the same route as when Molina or Martin stood in AJ’s opposite corner.
Fight week was one of Joshua’s least eventful, there was no Klitschko scouting his future opponent, there was no bad blood – this was purely business. Pullouts happened further down the card, and its PPV credentials were being scrutinised by near enough everyone. Friday’s weigh-in saw Joshua come in heavier than ever before; despite whispers, he would come in at his lightest for this fight. Both men faced off for the last time and it was all go ahead of Saturday.
Technical issues meant that there were no fights ‘free to air’. The Olympian’s done what they needed to do, and Kal Yafai defended his WBA Super-Flyweight strap against a tough Sho Ishida – his next logical step being over in America to mix with the division’s big guns.
Katie Taylor provided some entertainment, however as someone who struggles to find interest in female boxing, I paid very little attention to her fight for the WBA lightweight title. Regardless, congratulations to her.
A mixture of a lack of time and a bad back on fight night meant that Dave Allen’s fight against stand-in Scott Saward would be postponed. He is likely to fight in Monaco next week if fit before his rematch with Commonwealth champion Lenroy Thomas on the Bellew-Haye II card.
Whyte-Helenius was exactly what I thought it would be, a tough watch. Dillian seems to be a level in between European and World, his potential fight with Wilder looking ever more likely after possibly forcing himself into a mandatory spot with the WBC. Helenius himself gave nothing notable past the 4th round and was bitterly disappointing, to say the least.
‘Welsh Wizard’ Joe Cordina was jammed in as a non-televised chief support; his dream of boxing in his hometown stadium coming true, however, us paying viewers didn’t get to see it.
As the main event drew nearer, the atmosphere built and it was time for the ‘KO Show’ to give us victim number 20.
As the first bell rang, both Joshua and Takam spent the opening 3 minutes throwing little towards each other. Takam’s intent became clear in Rd 2, as he tried to close the distance and rough Joshua up on the inside. Takam’s head movement meant there was little jab success from Joshua, who was caught midway through the 2nd by Takam’s head in a close exchange. Perhaps he thought roughing Joshua up would be his best chance of success.
Joshua did land some clean shots in the 3rd, and then again in the fourth, causing Takam’s glove to touch the canvas, however the tough Cameroonian beat the count comfortably.
Takam had blood pouring from both eyes and throughout rounds, 5/6/7 took further punishment, at this point needing a knockout to cause an upset in Cardiff.
Takam found momentum in Rd 8 but struggled to land on an imposing Joshua. Rd 10 was where the night came to a close; a flurry of punches came without reply and referee Phil Edwards waved off the fight to the disgust of Takam, and what seemed to the shock of Joshua.
Whilst many cried controversy, the direction of the fight and the severity of the cuts may have been a reason for a stoppage. Could Takam have continued? Of course, he could, he’s a bloody warrior.
For me, the stoppage is subjective – do you want to see a man go out lying on his back? The British public’s answer, yes.
Regardless of the stoppage, huge credit must go to both Joshua and Takam. Preparing for a 6’4 awkward counter-puncher and ending up with someone like Carlos Takam on 12 days notice isn’t something to be frowned upon. Takam showed the heart that many before him haven’t, a loss which has if anything increased his stock in the heavyweight division and on current viewing, I think he beats Dillian Whyte.
We learnt a heck of a lot about Joshua last night, and sometimes the least spectacular, harder fought wins bring more of a learning curve than a 3rd Rd KO.
So where next for Joshua? The WBA will call Joshua a mandatory which I think he will take. Whether it be Hammer, Povetkin, Ustinov or Charr, Joshua’s team will be looking further ahead for a summer match-up with WBC Champ Deontay Wilder, or old foe Dillian Whyte, providing he can win the belt in early 2018.