by Thomas Nicholls
Cardiff’s Principality Stadium will host Saturday night’s heavyweight unification bout between the so far formidable AJ and late replacement Carlos Takam.
Joshua had been in a ten-week training camp preparing for his Bulgarian mandatory, Kubrat Pulev, but a shoulder injury sustained in training has lead to the rough and ready French-Cameroonian filling the daunting task of dethroning Joshua.
When the news broke of Pulev’s injury, matchmaker & promoter Eddie Hearn moved fast to instil Takam as the replacement and the Matchroom chief later revealed that a contingency plan was always in place in preparation for a Pulev pull-out. Hearn said “Four years ago, I don’t think I’d have had the foresight to envisage this, but you learn in this sport – in this role – that it is so easy to get a kick in the nuts, so to speak, at a moment’s notice.”
“I had spoken to Takam and asked him to go into camp eight weeks before this fight. If it didn’t happen, we would offer him a fight in Monte Carlo early in November” said Hearn. “Thankfully, we had him as a replacement.”
Bullish and with an iron chin, Takam like the rest of the division, would’ve spotted the flaws in AJ’s game on that historical night in Wembley back in April. Joshua, perhaps rightfully so, feels an enormous responsibility to perform and give his ever-expanding fan base a night to remember, in turn he is prepared to leave his boxing skills in the locker room and go to war with his opponent. A tactic which hasn’t come back to haunt him so far, but if it wasn’t for his recovery skills and perhaps Klitschko’s hesitance in those middle rounds back in April, the Wembley tale may have been a totally different one.
Once more, the tickets for this fight sold out in a heartbeat, Joshua is a true star and is now perhaps
the most marketable figure in world sport. The Watford man is media savvy, carries a smile and shows an enormous sense of humility whilst being adored by each and every demographic in the UK & beyond. Now carrying the IBF & WBA titles and with a summer showdown against brash American Deontay Wilder in the pipeline, Joshua & mastermind coach Rob McCraken will need to develop a last-ditch game plan to stop Takam and his brave come-forward style.
As always, Joshua has spoken with confidence ahead of his fight this Saturday, despite having just two weeks to adapt his training regime from tackling the 6ft4 Pulev to the 6ft1 Takam, Joshua believes he has the finesse and power in his armoury to stop his mandatory challenger. Joshua said “He is durable. He will become more durable because he’ll be in hostile territory,” Joshua told Sky Sports News. “When you come into that type of environment, what have you got to lose? He’ll say: ‘I’ll give it my all’.”
“People have said: ‘Josh, what round? What round?’ I think we’re going for a 10 to 12 round fight because this guy’s head is like a block of cement.”
Speaking of the tactical adjustments, AJ admitted “With Pulev it wasn’t about whipping him around the body, it was about staying off the line and boxing down the middle. “Carlos is different – he can trade down the middle. My speed will beat his combinations. A good way to beat Carlos is to take his body out, that’s what Alexander Povetkin did to him (late stoppage). I look at each individual fighter, and what their strengths are.”
In an undercard littered with rising and current stars, fight fans at the Principality Stadium are set to enjoy another memorable night in British Boxing as the sport goes from strength to strength here in the UK.
Promising stars Joe Cordina, Lawrence Okolie & Joshua Buatsi are set to feature, as is Katie Taylor, who is fighting for a world title in just her seventh fight.
Here is the rest of the card;
David Allen vs Lenroy Thomas (Commonwealth Heavyweight Title)
Frank Buglioni vs Craig Richards (British & Commonwealth Light Heavyweight Titles)
Dillian Whyte vs Robert Helenius (WBC Silver Heavyweight Title)
Kal Yafai vs Sho Ishida (WBA World Super-Flyweight Title)
In the main event itself, I don’t see Takam causing too much trouble for Joshua in terms of punch volume and hand speed, but as Joshua eluded to, Takam is one tough individual that will go out on his shield.
As the old adage goes “it only takes one punch to change a fight” and yes, Takam does have a puncher’s chance but I predict Joshua to retain his titles with a TKO win in the 9th round.