With his exciting 11th-round TKO of former division king Wladimir Klitschko in April, unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua went a long way in announcing himself as boxing’s next big thing.
The 2012 Olympic gold medalist from Great Britain, may have just as well succeeded in reviving a dead division by bringing hope and drama back to the heavyweight scene.
But as Joshua, 27, said himself atÂ Thursday’sÂ final press conference, it’s time to put the Klitschko fight behind him. Today, in front of more than 70,000 at sold-out Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Joshua will do that when he faces late-replacement Carlos Takam in the fourth defense of his title.
“We’re going to have to put that Klitschko win to the side at some stage because boxing is unforgiving,” Joshua said. “That was that. This is now. Carlos is a completely different animal than Klitschko.”
Takam, 36, accepted the fight on 12 days’ notice after mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev pulled out with a shoulder injury. But the native of France believes he saw a weakness in Joshua last time out.
“I saw Joshua go down,” Takam said. “I saw he has a weak point, and we’ve been working on targeting that.”
Klitschko rose from a knockdown in Round 5 and rallied to floor the champion one round later with a right hand. Joshua, who ultimately blamed fatigue, was able to gather himself and avoid being stopped. Five rounds later, he brutalized Klitschko to the tune of two more knockdowns before the fight was dramatically stopped.
“Who knows what’s going to happen in that ringÂ Saturday? This division is unpredictable,” Joshua said. “You saw I got tired in the fifth round against Klitschko. Am I going to find out I’m only a five-round fighter? Takam is tough and can go the distance. He’s definitely going to take me into late waters and that’s where it’s going to be interesting.”
Joshua, already a massive star in England with his good looks and muscular 6-foot-6 frame, expects to make his long-awaited United States debut in 2018. His returnÂ SaturdayÂ not only fulfills a mandatory for the IBF title he won in 2016 by knocking out Charles Martin, it continues his build as a future worldwide star.
Like Joshua’s original opponent, Takam is an orthodox fighter who is compact and three inches shorter than Pulev. He has been consistently durable, save for a late knockout to Alexander Povetkin in 2014, and believes he holds a specific edge over Joshua that will decide matters.
“My experience will help me win the fight,” said Takam, who has faced the likes of Povetkin, Joseph Parker and Mike Perez. “I’ve been in there with a champion. When we get in the ring it’s just two fighters. Only at the end of the fight will we know who the real world champion is.”
Although Takam brings power and experience, he’s often plodding and there to be hit against elite opponents. Joshua will entering the ring with definitive advantages in size and speed.