By: Robbi Paterson/Ronatringside.com
On Tuesday, September 5, the announcement was made, Anthony Joshua (19–0, 19 KOs), the IBF/WBA/IBO heavyweight champion and the man universally recognized as the best in boxing’s most northerly weight division by any actively sane observer of the sport, would be defending his glittering hardware against Bulgaria’s Kubrat Pulev (25–1, 13 KOs), the IBF’s mandatory challenger.
The date and venue pencilled into promoter Eddie Hearn’s busy brick-like diary—October 28, at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
But, on October 16, another announcement was made—and an unforeseen one: Pulev, who had failed in a previous attempt at the IBF title, against the Joshua-conquered Wladimir Klitschko in 2014, pulled out due to a problematic shoulder injury.
With no time to waste, Hearn, the charming boxing salesman, on the same day, rapidly drafted in a ready-to-go replacement. Enter Carlos Takam (35–3–1, 27 KOs), the IBF’s next in line, a 6′ 1½″ Cameroonian-French come-forward swinger, with an 80-inch wingspan, who is knocking on age 37’s front door.
In an ideal world, Joshua would have preferred Dillan Whyte, who fights on the undercard, as the snarling one in the opposite corner come Saturday night’s main event introductions. Klitschko warfare aside, their 2015 encounter goes down as the most exciting fight of Joshua’s so-far-illustrious career. But somewhere down the road that rematch wish might just blossom into reality.
However, first things first…the shaven-headed challenger needs to be vanquished before Joshua can even consider thinking about feasting upon bigger fish roaming in the same pond—Wilder, Parker, Whyte and possibly Haye and Fury if they can somehow click back on track.
Yep, Takam, who the 28-year-old Joshua describes as being ‘like a block of cement,’ will be in shape, hoping that one of his almighty punches can topple the still-in-progress champion, or that a few of them land frequently enough to soften him up for the fight to gradually go his way down the stretch.
As the rusty old cliché goes, ‘nothing to lose and everything to gain.’ Make no mistake, that motto fits Takam perfectly as he gets ready to propel himself toward Joshua.
If Takam has any chance (and a super slim one it certainly is) of stealing a collection of belts from around Joshua’s waist in front of a near-on 80,000 crowd, he will need to feint and jab his way inside, be busy, bend his knees to make himself a low and elusive target, let his both hands go and pray to the heavens that King Joshua is in the midst of a post-Klitschko hangover—you know the script, timing off, stamina issues and, on the night, a waveringly weak chin.
But, at this stage of his career, Joshua looks to be too polished a professional to leave a stone unturned. Too focused. And he knows fine well that he’s approaching his prime with big fights peeking out and smiling at him from just around the heavyweight corner. To keep Joshua’s competitive juices flowing, trainer Robert McCraken, the owner of an educated mindset, will have his pupil’s ear, reminding him that natural disasters can (and do) happen in a boxing ring. An edgey, focused fighter is, of course, a dangerous one.
Meanwhile, I’ve reached out and asked a posse of respectable pundits, from both sides of the Atlantic, for their predictions, which are entirely exclusive to this piece.
Ok, it’s all yours, guys.
Michael Woods (NYFights and Everlast Talkbox podcast): Expectations, from the public, and, I dare say, from himself, have reached a new level for Anthoy Joshua. After proving so very much in his last outing, convincing all but the unconvinceable that at the least he is a real deal top level pro fighter, Joshua is now tasked with needing to be showing that class. He will be expected to handle a Carlos Takam, never having been and not now regarded as an A grade pugilst, in fine fashion. He will be expected to drop and stop Takam. And that he will; Takam is 36, has been getting W against C listers, and has been stopped before, by Alex Povetkin in 2014. I think it will be so, but Takam comes to rumble, won’t lay down, won’t be cowed by the stakes, and we could see some decent trading for a spell.
David A. Avila (The Sweet Science): It should be a short night for the winner. Anthony Joshua likes quick work and it’s dangerous to play around with another heavyweight. Carlos Takam is a veteran who has fought many of the best. He knows it’s his last real shot at the title, he will give his best in a quick ending. The odds favor the champion. But they are heavyweights and anything can happen.
Kevin Sanders (trainer of world champions Nigel Benn and Lloyd Honeyghan): Joshua has a different opponent now and has to change his game plan. The good thing about Anthony is that he can read a fighter well and will have a late stoppage win in 8 rounds.
Donald McRae (The Guardian and a two-time winner of the William Hill Sports Book of the Year award with Dark Trade: Lost in Boxing in 1996 and In Black and White: The Untold Story of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens in 2002): Complacency always lurks as the real bogeyman for a seemingly dominant heavyweight champion. Expecting to fight Kublat Pulev, Anthony Joshua was already looking forward to a far bigger and more interesting money-spinning unification bout with Deontay Wilder next year. Now, with the even less celebrated Carlos Takam replacing the injured Pulev in a late change of opponent, Joshua can be excused for feeling even more certain of a routine victory. Takam is simply not good enough to explode out of the shadows of obscurity—and take advantage of any complacency in the champion. He does have a decent chin and he is likely to be brave in his surprise shot against Joshua. So he could be a more entertaining opponent than Pulev—but the outcome is predictable. Joshua forces a decisive and brutal stoppage—with complacency simply biding its time and waiting for another night and a superior, more ambitious sidekick in the ring than Carlos Takam.
Kieran Mulvaney (HBO Boxing): Full credit to Takam for stepping in at such late notice, but he’s gong to pay the price. This will be one way traffic: I see Joshua softening Takam with the jab early before increasing the punishment with power punches after a few rounds. By the end, Takam will be battered, with his corner or the referee stepping in around round 10.
Diego M. Morilla (The Sweet Science and Zona de Boxeo): Taking on a challenge against a bonafide heavyweight champion on very short notice is a very brave thing to do, but in doing so, Takam is giving up much more than the height, preparation and home-edge advantages. The Cameroonian-French challenger has a spotty record against B-sides and has-beens as his only credential to get this title shot, and even during his best performances he showed very little that would suggest that he knows how to deal with a stronger and faster foe like Joshua. Gutsy try, indeed, but a progressive beating by Joshua should get the job done this time. Joshua TKO 10 Takam.
Kevin Iole (Yahoo Sports boxing/MMA columnist): Joshua TKO4 Takam. Joshua is bigger, stronger, more athletic and simply better than Takam. I think Joshua will batter him with the jab, wear him down and finish him when they fight on the inside or on the ropes.
Paul Zanon (Boxing Monthly magazine): Takam is basically getting his Rocky moment….with a paycheck to boot. But realistically he has no chance. He’s 5 inches shorter, 8 years older and has never really operated at elite world level. Fair play to him for stepping into the lions den at short notice, but it’s an early nights work for Joshua. First or 2nd round KO.
Jay Connolly (sports/boxing artist): I think Joshua will be too big and too accurate for him. Povetkin stopped him in 10 and I think Joshua will stop him in half that time. I’m going for a KO within 5 rounds.
Lee Groves (The Ring magazine): I predict a late-round TKO for Joshua. Joshua is nearly nine years younger, has had the benefit of a full training cycle and has shown himself to be a powerful hitter both early and late. Takam is durable but Alexander Povetkin proved the Frenchman can be caught and stopped. It will take a while, but I believe Joshua’s fusion of youth, power and accuracy, along with Takam’s status as a late substitute, will prove too much.
Mick Guilfoyle (London-based trainer, Fitzroy Lodge Amateur Boxing Club): I’m picking Joshua inside 4 rounds. Takam can dig with his left hook but is half a foot shorter than Joshua, so I just can’t see him getting close enough to land and hurt AJ. If he were more mobile, or could hustle and bustle (Joe Frazier style), I’d give him better odds. But this guy has come in as a late replacement and, although his record has a high knockout percentage, he loses when he steps up. If Parker can beat Takam then I don’t see him having much hope of beating AJ.
Frank Lotierzo (The Sweet Science): Joshua vs Takam isn’t a difficult match up to handicap. Joshua is a special talent and one day may be considered a great fighter. He owns every stylistic and physical advantage over Takam that one fighter could hold over another. Unless he gets lucky there’s no way Takam wins.
Nigel Collins (ESPN columnist and former editor-in-chief of The Ring magazine): There’s not much doubt that Joshua will win. Therefore the important thing is looking good doing it. I see the ref or Takam’s corner stopping the fight after 5 or 6 rounds to save him from additional punishment.”
Brian McIntyre (trainer of Terence Crawford): Joshua in 4 rounds or less.
Miguel Iturrate (The Boxing Channel): It’s really hard to pick against Joshua in this one. Takam is in on short notice and going to Joshua’s home country to fight him has become one of the biggest challenges in all of sports. Joshua has to beware of complacency in these cases, but he seems uniquely ready to handle that as well. He has been well groomed by Eddie Hearn and this fight is going to be like getting in an elevator with Joshua on the ground floor—nowhere to go but up. Should Takam pull off the upset the great Buster Douglas vs Mike Tyson match from the 90s would have a peer.
Sean Crose (Boxinginsider): It’s hard not to go with Joshua on this one. He’s just riding so much momentum after the Klitschko fight, which—let’s face it—was the best heavyweight title bout since Tyson–Douglas. I’m happy for Takam to have this chance, but AJs heart and skill set should carry the day. Joshua, 5th round KO.
Springs Toledo (multi-website contributor and author of the books The Gods of War, In the Cheap Seats and Murderers’ Row: in search of boxing’s greatest outcasts): Carlos Takam has shown spirit and skill in closing the distance against larger opponents, but Anthony Joshua is no Michael Grant or Tony Thompson. Joshua will either discipline an aggressive Takam and slow him down and then break him down, or an undeterred Takam will continue to press forward and will be knocked out. Watch for a right uppercut to close the show.
John J. Raspanti (Maxboxing and the co-author of Intimate Warfare: The True Story of the Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward Boxing Trilogy): Carlos Takam is a pretty good fighter. In 38 career bouts, he’s lost only three. Takam is durable and tough, but his chances of upsetting IBF and WBA heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua are slim and none. Joshua packs power in both fists. His come-from-behind victory over Wladimir Klitschko was one of the best heavyweight fights in years. He’s still a little green, but I see him stopping Takam in five rounds or less.
Chris McKenna (The Daily Star): Carlos Takam is a late replacement for Kubrat Pulev but the last-minute change won’t provide Anthony Joshua too many problems. Takam has power and is durable but he is not in the class of Joshua. The Frenchman lost to Joseph Parker when he last stepped up a level but Joshua is another step above that. It may take Joshua a few rounds to get rid of his challenger but, as long as he’s patient and doesn’t take silly risks, he should get the 20th knockout of his career in the second half of the fight.
Randy Gordon (SiriusXM radio host and former Editor-in-chief of The Ring magazine/Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission): It’s tough to even imagine Takam beating the taller, younger, stronger, harder-hitting, superbly conditioned Joshua. It’s kind of like years ago, when Frenchman Lucien Rodriguez challenged heavyweight king Larry Holmes. Only, in that one, Rodriguez lasted 12 rounds. Takam won’t get that far against AJ, who stops him almost as he pleases.
Shaun Brown (Boxingscene): While I think Carlos Takam is just as good as original opponent Kubrat Pulev, and may even be a bit more effective, the result will still be the same. Takam in fact may be even more competitive due to his style, ruggedness and willingness to have a scrap—which Joshua will love. As ever the jab is key here. If utilised efficiently then Joshua can use it to prod holes in the Takam defence before opening up with those big hooks and uppercuts on the inside. I think it might be fun a for a few rounds but by the sixth, possibly earlier, I think Takam may have run out of steam because of Joshua’s style and own ferociousness. Cries of ‘And still…’ will ring around the Principlaity Stadium and Takam will walk out with more credibility.
So, there you have it, folks