More than 75,000 packed Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales with millions more viewing on SkySports pay-per-view and/or SHOWTIME Championship Boxing, as Anthony Joshua defended his heavyweight belts against Carlos Takam, via 10th round stoppage. Coming on the heels of the 90,000 that squeezed into Wembley Stadium to watch Joshua vs. Wladimir Klitschko last April, the 2012 Olympian has now put over 165,000 asses in seats in his last two outings; over 200,000 in his four world title bouts. A staggering number that has many wondering if “A.J.” needs to fight outside of Great Britain at all, ever. Business is going swimmingly and if it aint broke, why fix it? With Joshua in constant, heavy demand, the only thing that could sully last Saturday evening was controversy.
The scheduled opponent was Kubrat Pulev, number one contender per the IBF, who was removed from consideration by a shoulder injury. In stepped Carlos Takam, and though he was made official on just 12-days-notice, Takam was on standby as a potential back-up plan, training for Joshua all the while. Residing in France, Takam represented his birth nation of Cameroon in the 2004 Olympics and possessed enough craft, wherewithal, athleticism, toughness and skill to present a unique challenge to Joshua, that he can only learn and improve from.
From the outset, Joshua had to adjust to Takam’s lack of size, relatively speaking, for today’s era of gargantuan heavyweights. Takam’s 6’1, 235 ½, whereas Joshua spent the bulk of camp preparing for Pulev, who’s much closer to his own dimensions of 6’6, 250ish. Joshua would also find Takam not as available as Pulev was perceived to be, but once the bell rings, you don’t cry or complain, you fight.
After a lukewarm 1st, consisting of Takam constantly moving, closely monitoring every movement of his foe, the shorter man’s bald dome rammed up into Joshua’s nose in the 2nd. Blood flowed immediately and for the remainder of the contest, lending credence to a possible broken nose. A bit perturbed, Joshua responded aggressively, firing away with left and right-handed grenades, knocking Takam off stride with a left hook to the chest. Despite his exploits to date, “A.J.” (20-0, 20 KO’s) is still a work in progress and by round 3, we’d seen sufficient evidence of something he needs to work on; cutting off the ring. Takam (35-4-1, 27 KO’s) moved to his own left primarily, but Joshua followed him around the ring as opposed to forcing him right. Didn’t prove costly, but if you’d like to nitpick, it was glaring.
Joshua opened a cut over Takam’s right eye in the 4th, and a counter left hook compromised his legs, forcing his glove to touch the canvas to remain upright. Takam fired his own left hook first, but Joshua caught it with his right arm/glove and launched a hook of his own, right on the button, forcing the mandatory 8-count. Brilliant example of infighting by a man of that size. Joshua also showed surprising finesse, attempting to counter Takam’s only effective punch to this point (the left jab) with pull-counter right hands. Confronted with a smaller, quicker, unwilling target, “A.J.” jabbed to the head and body, hooked to the body, feinted, doubled up on shots and continued to make Takam pay, once tracked down. By the 6th, Joshua was breathing out of his mouth, which seemed to be what Takam was waiting for. He briefly found a home for some winging rights in round 7, but Joshua tapped his own chin, insinuating there was no effect. It was the Cameroonian’s best sustained effort of the occasion, undoubtedly, and in an otherwise one-sided affair, it was hard not awarding him that stanza.
At the start of the 10th, the likelihood of someone lasting the distance with Joshua for the first time seemed feasible. Almost on cue, “A.J.” landed a jab to Takam’s bloody eye and a left hook-right uppercut combo out of a clinch. Sensing his second wind, Joshua freely fired hooks. After another clinch, a right hook staggered Takam, who smiled, a leaping Johsua right missed badly, a hard 1-2 broke the guard and a winging right hook spun his head. Hurt, but still with his wits about him, Takam ducked Joshua’s follow up flurry, but just as he rose, referee Phil Edwards was there, halting the proceedings right as the getting was getting good. Terrible stoppage to say the least; peculiar at best, corrupt at worst. It seemed very much like the ref was aware of keeping Joshua’s perfect KO ratio intact. What’s sad is, Takam earned the right to be taken out cleanly, if that was his fate, and it also cheated Joshua of handling his own business with the remainder of the 10th, all of the 11th and 12th still to come. A degree of boos rained down instantly and deservedly so.
Charming as always, it took Joshua maybe 2.2 seconds to sway those voicing their displeasure at the stoppage. “I was watching him, I was trying to break him down round-by-round and, unfortunately the ref stopped it before I…I think people wanna see Takam unconscious on the floor. Am I right?”, Joshua asked. The positive verbal response of thousands only reinforced his grip on the captive audience and he followed up with “Okay, okay, so now I understand.” Joshua also laughed off what is more than likely a broken nose, from the headbutt in round 2, then playfully encouraged the assembled masses to boo his promoter, Eddie Hearn, which has become a British Boxing ritual. The entire scene fully encapsulated Joshua’s charisma in a nutshell, completely disarming what was just an unsatisfied crowd, in no time flat.
What’s left to prove is if he can disarm the heavyweight division, one by one, in route to being the undisputed champion, taking his rightful place as the next in line behind the likes of Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and the Klitschko brothers. Hearn spoke openly of Joshua requesting three bouts in 2018, with those foes preferably being Joseph Parker, Tyson Fury and an epic slugfest with fellow knockout artist, Deontay Wilder, who gets to leave an impression of his own next weekend.