Anthony Joshua's perfect start to his career remains intact, as he defeated Carlos Takam via a 10th-round technical knockout on Saturday night at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.
The bout ended in semi-controversial fashion. Joshua had opened up deep gashes over both of Takam's eyes over the course of the fight, and they were dripping blood as the heavyweight champion kept the pressure on. In the 10th, Joshua unloaded on Takam, wobbling him with a powerful right hand. The referee quickly stepped in to stop the fight even though Takam was still dodging punches and had his hands up.
Boxer Carl Frampton felt the stoppage was wrong, as did CBS Sports' Brian Campbell:
Carl Frampton MBE @RealCFrampton
AJ winning everything but that bad stoppage. Does a discredit to Takams toughness2017-10-28 22:12:02
Brian Campbell @BCampbellCBS
Bad stoppage. Straight up. Takam deserved better.2017-10-28 22:10:21
Joshua retained his IBO, WBA and IBF world heavyweight titles with the win and moves to 20-0 with 20 stoppages in his career.
The 28-year-old Englishman was originally supposed to fight Kubrat Pulev, but the Bulgarian contender had to bow out earlier this month after injuring his shoulder, per the Press Association (via the Guardian).
So Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs) stepped in as a late replacement, willing and able to take on one of the most fearsome fighters in boxing. Joshua, who had spent months preparing for a different fighter in Pulev, was kept off rhythm for much of the bout, but his power and counterpunching were far better than what Takam could bring. However, the 36-year-old Cameroonian-born Frenchman showed incredible toughness and probably could've kept going had the referee not intervened.
The Manchester Evening News' Sheldan Keay felt the fight was a good experience for Joshua:
Sheldan Keay @SheldanKeay
Joshua did well to overcome the nose problem early on and Takam caused him a few problems. A good learning fight for AJ. #JoshuaTakam2017-10-28 22:19:47
Following the bout, Joshua said an accidental headbutt he took in the second round might've broken his nose, per ESPN's Dan Rafael. This might've prolonged the bout, though Joshua has rarely been taken deep into matches and stamina remains a concern moving forward.
Promoter Eddie Hearn told the crowd that Deontay Wilder could be next on Joshua's agenda, per Rafael:
Dan Rafael @danrafaelespn
Hearn: "Deontay Wilder will be relieved of that belt in 2018 from Anthony Joshua." https://t.co/TMWMpxA4iF2017-10-28 22:25:08
Joshua is, of course, the man to beat in the heavyweight world, but this bout wasn't quite the kind of spectacle that has made him one of the biggest draws in the sport.
After studying and waiting out Takam's busy movement in the first round, Joshua did a bit better in the second, setting up a couple of good right hooks with his jab.
Takam kept things awkward for the champion, bouncing around on his feet and keeping his upper body moving at all times. Saturday Night Boxing's Adam Abramowitz felt Joshua wasn't pressing enough:
adam abramowitz @snboxing
Joshua not moving in behind the jab. Not setting up his shots enough.2017-10-28 21:37:15
Instead of staying on the edges of the ring, Takam started to work more inside against Joshua, exposing himself to his opponent's lethal power. A powerful hook opened up a cut on Takam in the fourth, and a compact left hook a few seconds later scored a knockdown for Joshua.
Sky Sports Boxing questioned whether Takam would be able to survive much longer:
Sky Sports Boxing 🥊 @SkySportsBoxing
Joshua puts Takam on the canvas and he has a really nasty cut! Can he go on much longer? Follow: https://t.co/4OhjbuymLZ https://t.co/17xJDZzqjv2017-10-28 21:46:25
Takam's toughness kept the fight alive, and perhaps Joshua's stamina issues and injured nose did as well. The vast majority of Joshua's bouts have ended in four rounds or fewer. Fighting against Wladimir Klitschko earlier in the year, Joshua suffered a knockdown in the middle of the bout and looked completely exhausted until he found a second wind.
Joshua was in complete control throughout on Saturday, picking Takam apart when he came inside, but some of his power punches lacked crispness, and he didn't fire off as many multi-punch combos as one would expect for someone of his strength and skill.
Ring's Mike Coppinger noticed Joshua laboring after the seventh:
Mike Coppinger @MikeCoppinger
Joshua’s mouth wide open, looks tired now. Stamina issues again? @brin2017-10-28 21:58:43
Takam grew more spirited as the bout moved into the later rounds, even moving Joshua backward on occasion. However, he was unable to hurt Joshua with his attacks and, had the fight made it to the final bell, likely would've lost by a wide margin on the cards.
Takam is unlucky to have the TKO on his ledger, as he proved more capable and braver than many of Joshua's previous opponents. He looks like a fighter who deserves more opportunities on a big stage.
Joshua's record is still without a blemish, but these past two fights have shown he is not entirely invincible. His power, size and accuracy will give most heavyweights far more than they can handle, but there may be a path to victory against him that will be discovered.