British Nigerian world heavyweight champion, Anthony Oluwafemi Joshua, stopped resilient French-Cameroonian Carlos Takam in the 10th round to successfully defend his IBF and WBA heavyweight world titles in Cardiff. The Briton made it 20 victories from as many bouts in front of an estimated 78,000 at the Principality Stadium.
Joshuaâ€™s nose was cut in the second round by the head of Takam, 36, who replaced Kubrat Pulev 12 days before the bout. Joshua, 28, then cut Takamâ€™s eye in the fourth, but it took until round 10 for the Cameroon-born boxer to be stopped.
Takam got the fight at the last minute, a replacement for the injured mandatory challenger, Kubrat Pulev, and he made the most of his opportunity.
In the months ahead, Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, will do their best to get Deontay Wilder to put his WBC belt up against the WBA and IBF versions owned by the British champion. It is inevitable, even if the date is uncertain.
Takam, who fought without fear against the likes of Alexander Povetkin and Joseph Parker, trusting the strength of his left hook and right cross, was respectful to the point of near absence in a quiet opening but warmed to the task.
A pair of careless headbutts drew blood from the championâ€™s nose in round two, which sparked Joshua into life, and the punches started to flow. He said beforehand he expected a physical confrontation; he probably envisaged something more conventional.
Having tasted the best that Wladimir Klitschko had to offer, Joshua seemed unnecessarily cautious, perhaps restrained by thoughts of shipping a shock finisher from the rank underdog. Takam, cut near the right eye after a heavy exchange in the fourth, went over briefly but he showed his fighting heart in a doomed exercise from that point on.
Joshua set about cutting down his wounded prey in the fifth, and the referee, Phil Edwards, asked the ringside doctor to inspect Takamâ€™s blinking right eye before allowing them to resume. The blood was pouring freely but he soldiered on.
Takam, cut on the left eye now, landed a couple of minor bombs in the seventh, but Joshua was in cruise mode. The crowd had grown restless, though, and craved a knockout. Joshua had delivered 19 of them since turning professional and, jabbing to the body to bring down his opponentâ€™s guard, he wanted another to keep his perfect stoppage record.
The doctor took another look at Takamâ€™s eyes before the start of the ninth round and allowed the battle to continue. He swung with even more urgency now, suspecting the cuts would end his challenge.
Joshua staggered him with a succession of head shots that rocked him to his boots in the 10th, and, even though he would not go down, the referee moved between them. He had seen enough â€“ although it was not entirely clear that the crowd had.
The refereeâ€™s decision was booed by the crowd in Wales, who clearly felt it was premature, but Joshua said he has â€œno interestâ€ in what the officials do.
â€œI come to fight, I donâ€™t sit on the edge and make decisions,â€ he said. â€œIt was a good fight until the ref stopped it, so I have the utmost respect for Takam.
â€œI have no interest in what is going on with the officials, thatâ€™s not my job. I think people want to see Takam unconscious on the floor, and thatâ€™s what I was trying to get to.â€
Watford fighter Joshua confirmed his nose had been broken by Takam when the pair clashed heads in the second round. â€œI had to keep my cool,â€ added Joshua. â€œIâ€™ve got a few months to heal it up. Iâ€™ll go and see some good doctors to crack it back in place.
â€œIf I showed any signs of weakness, the ref could have jumped in. Thatâ€™s what he (Takam) tried to do, but the ref stopped it.â€
Takam said: â€œI want a rematch, I made my preparations with 12 days to fight Anthony. I want to box him again. I want him, he is a great champion