This effort didn’t scream “Next Big Thing,” “move over, memory of Mike Tyson,” “boxing has a transcendent star that the world must pay attention to.” But let’s not be too hard on young, still young, still learning Anthony Joshua. In round ten, AJ looked to close the show on a quite game Carlos Takam, and some right hands landing clean had the ref stepping in to end the night in Wales, in a fight that ran on Showtime Saturday late afternoon/early evening.
The announcers thought the stoppage improper, and Takam shook his head to indicate he would have liked to continue. But his eyes were cut and he maybe hadn’t won a round, so the beef won’t be sustained, I don’t think.
The end came at 1:34 elapsed in the tenth, and the IBF, WBA and IBO heavyweight champion, now 20-0, retained his straps.
No, it was no classic, it was a workmanlike effort by AJ and that's not to besmirch either combatant; Takam (35-4-1, stopped for the second time) will earn plaudits for not succumbing too easily and quickly, being that he was a late sub, getting the gig after Kubrat Pulev was scratched due to injury. He went to the mat, just his glove, in round four, but didn't get discouraged and fold.
AJ after thanked Cardiff for showing up, and said “it was a good fight up until the ref (Phil Edwards) stopped it.” The winner said that he did his job, and he was going to be hitting him as long as Takam was aloft. AJ said he thought the fans would have liked to see him send the loser to the mat. He said it felt like his nose was broken, and he likened Takam to Holyfield, with a head butt landing, and he was so controlled and well spoken in the post fight.
He said he’d let that nose heal and then look to 2018. “What do the people want, that’s what I’m interested in,” he said. Yes, a fight with Deontay Wilder fight has to happen, eventually. He must fight mandatories, he said, and yes, Wilder is on his to do list. He wants to keep hold of those belts, he said. He brought over his dad, “fresh from Nigeria,” and showed a winning personality, as per usual. Again, he asked, what do the people want, where should he fight? London, Wales, Ireland, Scotland…and Vegas, he said, chuckling. No, no Vegas, some answered, so he teased putting off his American trek.
Promoter Eddie Hearn chuckled as AJ led the crowd in boo-bird-ing, and then Hearn said Wilder vs AJ must happen. He also said AJ vs. Tyson Fury, and Joseph Parker, those are on the To Do list for 2018. “I don't think he should go abroad, I think we should stay right here,” the promoter said. “Wilder will be relieved of that belt in 2018 by Anthony Joshua,” Hearn promised.
Takam then was asked if the fight should have been stopped. He took the query in French and we lost audio.
The Brit Joshua, age 28, was 254 on Friday, and enjoyed a height advantage, 6-6, to 6-1. Takam (from Cameroon, living in France), age 36, was 235 1/2 at the weigh in.
In the first round, ref Phil Edwards saw Joshua and Takam touch gloves at center ring as the round commenced. We hoped there wouldn’t be too much sportsmanship…Takam herked and jerked, looked and postured threw the jab some. Joshua started slow, edged forward, dodged a right lead. Takam moved but didn’t throw, more so head and torso rather than legs. It was a feel out round.
In the second, Joshua started out with a jab, looking to be busier with it. Takam slid slowly left, mostly, and we saw a butt at 2:15, no blood. An AJ uppercut, with the back hand, landed decent. A left hook had the crowd jazzed, the pro AJ clan. This was an indoor record to watch boxing, by the way.
We saw blood from AJ’s nose midway through. The under-double-dog looked to whack to the body. AJ was pressing, but so mildly, maybe he was looking to build to a certain pace.
In the third, the champ, in his fourth defense, stepped up the pace even more. Takam, in this IBF mandatory, still moved mostly to his left, and no nasty right was there to meet him, not often enough. AJ looked to load up with a right and Takam was fresh and wide eyed, seeing incoming well. A right to the heart was a good point scored for Takam late.
In round four, AJ started throwing crisper one-twos. He worked inside, four throws in tight, and this was a better pace for the Brit. The champ was closing the distance some, maybe Takam was getting a little, wee bit tired? A cut on the right eye opened on Takam. The distance closing was not beneficial to the Cameroon man, and he went down, a glove touched, at 12 seconds remaining. A left hook in tight did the damage. A blocked a Takam hook and answered with a nasty rejoinder.
In round five, AJ, now in a mode, in a flow, saw Takam knowing he’d need to be aggressive. Then he got backed up, and we saw a break by the ref, to assess the cut. The doc said he was OK to go, seeing the lid looking acceptable. The Brit now felt comfy in throwing punches in bunches, and Takam was back in retreat mode. He’d leap in with some launches, nothing AJ didn’t see. Takam was getting chewed up. Then he started scrapping, but his hands were slow in comparison. He’d still be slipping decently, as AJ was loading up, telegraphing at times. Takam huffed in his corner, the smaller man admitting with his body language he was in with a bigger beast.
In the sixth round, Takam started out offensively, looking to lead, knowing he needed to take a round. A jab to the body worked for Takam and he deserved credit, maybe, for staying busy, not getting bummed out at the tone of the tango to this point. AJ again over-loaded up on the left hook, and in the last third, scored with clubbing rights. Ripping to the body was working for Takam, so he wasn’t getting into a mode where he was just throwing hail marys.
In round seven, AJ started the frame with jabs, sending the message that he was in charge. Takam would paw at the right eye cut, but he still stayed looking for openings. A right hand did indeed land. AJ looked comfortable, but was he getting winded? We saw him grab. His volume dropped to start the round. Again, a right landed on AJ. He got irked and flurried. This was Takam’s best round to this point. We saw a slice on the left eye of Takam as well now.
In round eight, AJ looked refreshed at the beginning. Maybe he saved energy last round for this round? The crowd to this point had been attentive, not hooting, not roaring often, present and attentive but not raucous. The masses picked up their hollering, maybe trying to will AJ to look to close the show. AJ pressed at 55 seconds, wanting to make sure he won the round. No huge danger, I don’t think, but with judges, one can never know. A right to the body late was AJ’s best punch of the round.
In round nine of a sub classic match, they stopped it right away to get a longer look at the Takam face. He was OK to go. AJ looked to grab as Takam pressed him. This was not prime AJ, not even B plus AJ. B grade, competent, but nothing that said Next Big Thing. With a minute left, Takam pawed the left eye cut, and was able to keep pace with AJ, because AJ wasn’t stepping on the gas. Those jumbo muscles, it takes energy to keep them moving.
In the tenth round, Takam flurried and backed up AJ, even if he didn’t land totally clean. AJ had said he’d stop Takam between ten and twelve, for the record. A right caught Takam, and he ate a few, and the ref stepped in, and the loser didn’t care for that move. Neither did the crowd. Neither did I, and Al Bernstein called it “a bizarre stoppage.” Paul Malignaggi agreed and I’m not one to doubt refs all too often, but this one, nah, not seemingly appropriate on surface at first and second glance. A right uppercut landed, we saw on replay, and then a sharp right cross, another right, and he slipped the last one, as the ref was moving in to end it.