Anthony Joshua (19-0) is the hottest property in the heavyweight division today. WBC champion Deontay Wilder has a lengthier unbeaten record (38-0), and his fair share of fans, but it is ‘AJ’ that is the number one amongst boxing’s big men.
For some, it took a while to come to this realisation. For myself, being a late entrant to the faith, it didn’t happen until he climbed off the canvas and stopped Wladimir Klitschko, in April’s epic encounter. That victory should have silenced the remaining doubters and dispelled any potential concerns around the robustness of his stamina or chin.
We will learn little about Joshua when he steps in against Carlos Takam (35-3-1) this weekend, unless the 36-year-old can throw away the script and extend Joshua into the late rounds. That would provide some small succour for those desperate to manifest fresh doubts over the champion and his obvious potential.
It remains unlikely though that the fight will play out in this way. Predictably, ‘AJ’ will meet expectations and administer a swift dismantling of his French-based opponent, in the opening quartet of the rounds. Assuming, that Takam turns up and defies the famously inaccurate rumour mill that has suggested he may be carrying an injury. Takam, of course, being a relatively late replacement for IBF mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, who pulled out citing an injury.
The fight that the boxing world would love to see is ‘AJ’ taking on Deontay Wilder, or even Luis Ortiz; if the Cuban could manage to safely navigate a drugs test. However, there is no rush, with Ortiz grounded, there is little other worthy competition outside of the billion dollar unification bout with Wilder. Much like the ‘Wizard of Oz’, the heavyweight division is big and loud and scary, but when you pull back the curtain there really is little to fear.
Anthony Joshua vs Carlos Takam for the IBF, IBO, WBA (Super) heavyweight titles
Where: Principality Stadium, Cardiff, UK
When: Saturday, 28th October, 6:00pm UK time
TV: Sky Sports Box Office
Following his Klitschko victory, Joshua’s profile is so huge that there really is little we do not know about him and his terrific potential. Nineteen fights and nineteen knockouts tell their own story. Carlos Takam can expect to be the 20th addition to that perfect record.
Takam rates number three on the IBF’s rankings and outside of the top 15 with the WBA. Radical differences in sanctioning body rankings are just one of many oxymoron’s that surround modern boxing and are largely an inaccurate barometer for measuring quality.
What is evidently true is that the physically imposing Takam maintains a healthy stoppage rate and possesses decent knockout punching power. He will give away 5 inches in height to Joshua and will look to come forward and box on the inside. Eddie Hearn, tells us that Takam was selected early as a potential reserve and has thus been in a full training camp. Whilst there is no reason to doubt this, it is highly unlikely that Takam has been fully committed to reaching an optimum condition to take on the champ. Joshua has also had to adjust his training to prepare for an opponent that is markedly different in style and approach to the cagey and defensive Pulev.
Takam has held various regional versions of world titles and did for a time hold the lightly regarded WBF belt. The 36-year-old has a relatively impressive list of former contenders on his record that include: Michael Grant, Tony Thompson and Frans Botha. But without exception these victories were recorded when all were well past their best, on a downward spiral of losses, and knocking on the door of retirement.
When Takam has faced legitimate prime-age and current world class opposition, he has typically come off worse. Chunky Russian Alexander Povetkin knocked him out in 10 rounds and the now WBO champion, Joseph Parker unanimously outpointed him. He also has an embarrassing mid-career loss to the barely European level Gregory Tony.
The bookmakers are offering 1/50 on Joshua and it is virtually impossible to contest this view. Expect the squarely built Takam to shuffle forward and look to do his talking with ‘AJ’ on the inside. This is a tactic that has proved successful for him in the past, but faces obvious pitfalls against an opponent of Joshua’s superior power and quality. The Briton should be able to utilise his additional height and reach to pick off the challenger at will.
For Takam it should quickly become a demoralising question of how many punches he can take from Joshua and for how long. He does at least have a reliable chin to fall back on, with just a single reverse inside the distance at the hands of Povetkin, and is a reasonably dangerous puncher.
Takam’s best hope is that Joshua struggles to find his range early on and he can build pressure at close quarters. He is apt to tire late on in fights, even with a full training camp under his belt, whereas ‘AJ’ has now proved his stamina with that Klitschko victory. Therefore, a long fight offers him no additional comfort either.
The most probable outcome is a win for Joshua inside the first four rounds as Takam flails under a barrage of punches.
Birmingham’s Khalid Yafai (22-0) takes on Japan’s Sho Ishida (24-0) in his second defence of his WBA super flyweight title. Ishida has five successful defences of the Japanese title behind him and this marks his first contest outside of his homeland. Ishida will be in for a tough night and the smart money will be on Yafai to retain his title and unbeaten record.
The rest of the card focuses predominantly on the heavier weight classes. Dillian Whyte (21-1) takes on Finland’s (21-1) Robert Helenius (25-1) for the WBC’s second-string belt. There is also a 2nd defence of Frank Buglioni’s (20-2-1) British light heavyweight title vs Craig Richards (10-0). This will be a significant step up in class for the inexperienced Richards and thus Buglioni starts as the solid favourite.
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