Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs) is the latest fighter to be hit by what is a curse of modern-day boxing – the injury-induced withdrawal of an opponent within weeks of a scheduled event. The IBF and WBA heavyweight champion had been scheduled to take on Kubrat Pulev of Bulgaria – the IBF’s number two contender (for whatever reason top spot is currently vacant) – in front of a sold-out 80,000 crowd at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday, October 28. Pulev may not be the sexiest of opponents, but he is a tried and tested tough guy who gave Wladimir Klitschko all he could handle in a three-round slugfest back in 2014, the only loss on his record thus far.
While UK fans would rather the 27-year old AJ had faced Wladimir Klitschko in a rematch of their thriller from earlier this year, Pulev at least looked the part with his 6’5” 250-pound frame, mafia-goon face and impressive record, and Cardiff sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale. Unfortunately, Pulev was forced to withdraw two weeks shy of the fight due to a shoulder injury. Joshua could’ve gone the route of his rival, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, and either canceled the date altogether or looked for the weakest possible opponent, but instead he is simply scrolled down the IBF rankings to the next available contender and found 36-year old Frenchman Carlos Takam ready and willing to fulfill the void left by Pulev in Cardiff.
Who Is Carlos Takam?
While well known to hardcore boxing fans, many ticket holders for Saturday’s heavyweight scrap will be asking “who is Carlos Takam?”
The answer is he is a 36-year-old Cameroon native who is now a French passport holder. He stands a shade under 6’2” tall and boasts an impressive reach of just over 80 inches. Powerfully built, Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs) normally carries an athletic, muscular 240 lbs. into the ring. Physically he is not dissimilar to veteran slugger Amir Mansour, lacking the American’s one-punch KO power, but possessing better technical skills.
Who’s He Beat and Lost To?
Takam’s only defeats have been a points loss to fellow Frenchman Gregory Tony in 2009, a 10th round TKO defeat to Russia’s Alexander Povetkin in 2014, and a points loss to current WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker in 2016. In 2014, Takam was held to a draw over ten rounds with a then-unbeaten and highly ranked Mike Perez of Cuba, a fight most thought he won. Nevertheless, it was that fight which announced Takam to the world.
While Takam’s victories include wins over aging former contenders like Frans Botha, Michael Grant and Michael Sprott, his best win by far was a points victory over perennial contender Tony Thompson in 2014. The reality is Takam’s reputation has been built on his performances in the fights he hasn’t won.
By far his best performance was his losing effort to Povetkin for the WBC Silver heavyweight title, which was a tremendous fight that could have been – to use an old boxing parlance – “fought in a phone booth”. Both men stood toe-to-toe and let fly with a constant barrage of shots, displaying power, great defensive skills and granite jaws. We now know that there is a likelihood that Povetkin was using PEDs in that fight, and if so, that may well have been the reason Povetkin carried such devastating power so late in such a competitive fight. Takam was floored in the in 9th and KO’d in the 10th round of a thriller, and although the loser, he left the respect of both fight fans the world over.
In 2016 Takam lost a completive fight to current WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker. He has since won two straight, with both KO wins coming earlier this year, although neither Marcin Rekowski or Ivica Bacurin could be considered world class.
Can Takam Win?
Is Takam – as some are suggesting – a better opponent for Joshua that Pulev? Not really. Pulev would have been a clear favorite to defeat Takam in a bout between the pair, and the Bulgarian’s size and durability presented Joshua with a different set of problems. But nevertheless, Takam, with his crouching style, mobility and punching power will make for an interesting fight on Saturday.
Can he beat Joshua? In a word – no. If anything, his style is almost tailor-made for the big Brits vicious uppercuts, so expect a spectacular KO win for AJ, possibly inside three rounds.