SAN DIEGO, Calif., October 27, 2017 – Six months ago, British heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua staked his claim to boxing star status in front of 90,000 screaming fans at London’s Wembley Stadium. His 11th round TKO of Wladmir Klitschko after getting up off the canvas still stands up as the 2017 Fight of the Year so far.
Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) returns to the ring Saturday at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. He will put his WBA and IBF heavyweight titles on the line against Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs) of Cameroon in front of a stadium full of 70,000 screaming fans, the norm for the superstar these days.
The fight will air live on Showtime Sports in the U.S., with an early start time at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m PT.
Joshua’s victory in April threatened to be his lone fight of the year after his original opponent, Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria, pulled out due to a shoulder injury two weeks ago. Fortunately, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn had a little insurance in place with Carlos Takam, the number three IBF mandatory challenger, who was training for the opportunity to step in if necessary against Joshua.
While Joshua, age 28, is a huge draw in Great Britain, his visibility momentum would be stalled without one more appearance in 2017 for the fans. While there’s a bit of grumbling about Joshua’s opponent, it’s better to check off a mandatory challenge and maintain the fight date.
“To be fighting again, this is all I do, it’s all I know. I’m a reflection of hard work,” said Joshua, who said he doesn’t want to lean on his big win. “We’re going to have to put that Klitschko win to the side. Boxing is unforgiving, and Carlos is a different animal …In my mind I’ll always be the challenger.”
Takam, 36, lives and trains in France. He represented Cameroon in the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. The bout against Joshua is his first title fight. Should he win, he would be the third Cameroon native to win a title after Sakio Bika and Hassan N’Dam, who lost his title last week in his rematch to Ryoto Murata.
Is this even a possibility? Yes, a slim one. While Takam gives up five inches in height to Joshua, he is a heavy-handed fighter who also has solid defensive skills, and can box. This is how Joshua sees the fight. He said he expects Takam to hold his hands high, and take shots when he has the opportunity. “We’re in the business of providing really good fights. We’re not here to tip and tap and run for 12 rounds,” said Joshua.
Joshua says he is an even better fighter than when he faced Klitschko six months ago, paying more attention now to his footwork, balance, and defensive movement with head and hands than he did earlier in his professional career, when he was merely concerned with punching hard.
Joshua raised a few eyebrows at Friday’s weigh-in when he hit the scale at 254.25 pounds, although it isn’t much more than he weighed against Klitschko (250 pounds) or Eric Molina (249 pounds). In contrast, Takam weighed in at 235.5 pounds, his first weigh-in under 240 pounds in more than a decade.
“I don’t want to be cocky and make mistakes. I was reading everywhere that I was going to come in a stone lighter, as if I’ve been starving myself or something, but I definitely feel better than I have in previous fights,” said Joshua after the weigh-in.
Takam reached out after the face off with a strong handshake for Joshua, and didn’t let go his grip. A little bit of a message, perhaps? Joshua’s take: “I think Takam has a mind-set that he has nothing to lose and that’s why he grabbed my hand. It was one of those to see who had the stronger hand shake.”
Takam’s best chance isn’t a puncher’s chance. He needs to turn the bout into a tactical fight, not the most exciting but the smartest approach. The advantage Joshua now has after being knocked down by Klitschko is his knowledge he can take a punch. Once he gauges what Takam has to offer, he will use his size to pressure Takam, looking for an opportunity to make it an early night. Ringside Seat predicts a stoppage by TKO in the eighth round.
On the undercard which is not being shown in the U.S., fellow British heavyweight Dillian Whyte will face Robert Helenius of Finland for the vacant WBC Silver heavyweight title, putting him in a mandatory position and setting up a fight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder early in 2018. The pair weighed within a pound of each other, 247.5 for Whyte and 248.5 for Helenius. Whyte comes into this fight in excellent condition, and he shouldn’t have a lot of trouble with the less experienced Finn.
Also on the card, Ireland’s Katie Taylor (6-0. 4 KOs) gets her first shot at a professional title against former WBA lightweight champion Esther Sanchez of Argentina (17-2, 9 KOs). Sanchez lost the title on the scale, one pound over the 135-pound limit. Taylor says she’s ready. “I’ve had over 250 amateur fights … I’ve got plenty of rounds under my belt. It’s a bit of a risk but you have to take risks to be great. It’s the start of many world titles for me.”
Taylor, the 2016 Olympic gold medalist, has solid fundamental skills including a relentless body attack. If you aren’t a big fan of women’s boxing, Taylor might make you change your mind.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is a veteran boxing observer covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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Copyright © 2017 by Falcon Valley Group