Tom Tregay talks us through Anthony Joshua’s most recent fight.
Anthony Joshua retained his WBA Super, IBF and IBO heavyweight titles after claiming a TKO victory against IBF mandatory opponent Carlos Takam in the 10th round, but did so after a tough ten rounds against an incredibly tough and durable opponent. Many have called the stoppage from referee Phil Edwards as premature, raising considerable and immediate controversy, with many fans in Cardiff’s Principality Stadium even booing the stoppage, despite their fighter coming out victorious.
Although seeming to take control of the ring to start with, Joshua faced some troubles from the second round, where he appeared to have his nose broken after Takam’s head clattered straight into the champions’ face, causing it to bleed profusely – something which appeared to show Joshua considerable amounts of discomfort and breathing difficulty. It wasn’t until the 4th round where we saw Joshua’s noted power being truly displayed, and after some heavy shots landing on Takam, a left hook from Joshua caught Takam off balance and caused a resulting knockdown.
Joshua continued to inflict damage on his opponent in the 5th, and after a vicious uppercut landed, a nasty cut opened just above Takam’s right eye, causing severe bleeding. Nonetheless, the tough French-Cameroonian insisted on continuing, and in the following rounds even pressured Joshua, particularly in the 7th, making the champion work hard and grit his teeth in order to continue to win rounds.
Going into the tenth, a roughed up and bloodied Takam continued to look a threat to Joshua. However, a big right hook considerably staggered Takam, causing him to back up into the ropes. From here, the referee began watching incredibly closely, looking as if he was ready to jump in and wave the fight off. After some shots rained in from Joshua, it inevitably happened. The fight was over.
“Joshua continued to inflict damage on his opponent in the 5th”
Takam was of course upset with the stoppage, however when the fans of the victorious fighter boo the decision, that’s when you truly know questions can be raised over the referee’s call to stop the fight. Although bleeding heavily from cuts above both eyes, and despite the shots coming in from Joshua, Takam appeared to be fully aware of what was happening. He was even moving his head and upper body to avoid shots, and appeared to be somewhat in a position to defend himself at the time of the stoppage. The fact that heavyweight championship status was on the line added to the controversy of the stoppage. Many will argue that in a world title fight, in order for a referee to stop the fight, it will need to be entirely convincing for them to do so – for example if the fighter was not defending himself, was clearly taking unnecessary damage and was not fighting back. This, however, was far from the case for this stoppage. Finally, Takam is, and always has been, an incredibly tough and durable fighter. His fight against WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker proved this. Therefore a stoppage of such style for a fighter of such durability will always cause controversy, and did no justice to Takam’s incredible bravery and toughness.
The question on many fight fans’ mind going into this fight was in regards to the weigh in the day before – was Joshua’s 18 stone 2 pounds (254 lbs/115kg) too heavy? After talk on coming in lighter to his previous fight against Wladimir Klitschko, AJ surprised a few when he tipped the scales at his career-heaviest weight. Question were soon raised as to whether the increase in weight would have an adverse effect on his speed and cardiovascular endurance. It did in fact appear that Joshua seemed a little slower in comparison to earlier fights. He definitely appeared to be feeling the rounds wear on him, however how much of this came down to an inability to effectively breath through his nose after the heavy second round head-clash is questionable.
As for what’s next for Joshua remains to be unclear. Matchroom Boxing director and promoter Eddie Hearn in the ring interview after the fight stated his intent to see AJ face the likes of WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in 2018, however these fights may not come to fruition if the sanctioning bodies Joshua is a champion under orders him to fight a mandatory opponent – something the WBA appear to want to do for Joshua’s next fight. Although this is something Joshua recognises as his obligation as champion, his desire to unify the division seems to remain – a feat that has not been achieved in the heavyweight division since 1999 when Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield. However, after a performance that, in comparison to his previous title defences, was not up to Joshua’s high standards, a fight against the likes of Wilder may be inadvisable. As mentioned, the 28-year-old champion still has much to learn and perfect before fighting in a unification bout. Despite all this, Joshua showed his ability to adapt to a completely different fighter in Carlos Takam, who’s style is far different to that of Joshua’s originally scheduled opponent in Kubrat Pulev.
In addition to Joshua’s victory, there were a handful of significant victories for British fighters on the card. Heavyweight contender and previous opponent of Joshua, Dillian Whyte, saw himself gain a unanimous decision victory over two-time European heavyweight champion Robert Helenius in his bill to gain a world title fight of his own. Also, Kal Yafai successfully defended his WBA super-flyweight title against Japanese challenger Sho Ishida. But most significantly on the undercard, Ireland saw a new world champion in Olympic gold-medalist Katie Taylor, who fought tough Argentine brawler Anahi Sanchez. Taylor, who usually boxes slick and incorporates fancy footwork to her style, seemed to want to win the WBA female lightweight title by out-fighting Sanchez, rather than out-boxing her. It was almost miraculous that Sanchez was on her feet at the end of the 10th considering the serious punishment delivered from Taylor throughout, and even went down from a body shot early in the fight. Now world champion after less than a year after turning professional, Taylor is bringing women’s boxing into the limelight, something that for years appeared a hard task.
“Now world champion after less than a year after turning professional, Taylor is bringing women’s boxing into the limelight, something that for years appeared a hard task.”
On the whole, the fight, and Takam as an opponent, proved a good test for Anthony Joshua, who showed he still has much to learn and experience, with Takam displaying at times Joshua’s weakness in his exposure to body shots and the left hook. Takam certainly tested Joshua’s chin after catching him heavily on more than one occasion and provided a learning experience for the now 20-0 champion. There is no denying, however, the controversy of the stoppage and the fact that it seemed, when taking the previously noted factors, far too early – something that the fight may be unfortunately remembered for above all else. As for Ireland’s new superstar in Katie Taylor, an exciting time as a reigning world champion awaiting, with potential to bring women’s boxing more into the mainstream.