Anthony Joshua: ‘My shorts and boots were white. They’re now pink from the blood’

By Anson Wainwright

Unbeaten heavyweight star Anthony Joshua successfully defended his WBA and IBF titles against Carlos Takam at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, on Saturday, stopping the teak-tough challenger at 1:34 of the 10th round.

It wasn’t the most dynamic of performances. It was steady without being spectacular.

Joshua, who is rated No. 1 by THE RING at heavyweight, really had nothing to gain. If the charismatic Londoner won early against a late replacement then that’s what everyone expected. Or, as it turned out, he could go a few rounds and be told that he wasn’t particularly impressive.

Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs) was given this assignment on 12 days’ notice when Bulgarian contender Kubrat Pulev pulled out injured. However, the Cameroonian puncher was determined to give it everything he had. Takam was in fighting shape when he got the call and had nothing to lose. It was a clash of two big punchers and anything can happen in heavyweight boxing.

However, the first moment of drama didn’t come from a punch. A sickening headbutt, deemed accidental, damaged Joshua’s nose in the second round.

“It’s harder than a punch; it’s just bone-on-bone,” said Joshua at the post-fight press conference. “Everyone did a good job in the corner controlling the bleeding. You really need time to get yourself together. It’s experience. It happens in a fight. I got through the round and didn’t take any silly shots.”

Joshua was always in control of the action. To the delight of his home support, the colossal Brit decked Takam with a combination in the fourth and remained aggressive until the end.

“As a fighter, you will always have that instinct that you want to hurt your opponent,” Joshua said. “What was good was from everything my corner told me was, I saw he was hurt a few times, but I didn’t go steaming in. I didn’t want to go looking for the knockout. I wanted it to come naturally and we were slowly getting there.”

Takam’s face showed visible signs of wear. The brave but outgunned challenger was cut above both eyes and visited the ringside physician on two occasions. In the final round, with his opponent’s vision hampered, Joshua unloaded with a burst that hurt Takam and drove him back. Referee Phil Edwards’ stoppage was unquestionably early, but he saved the visitor for future business.

“I do understand people want to see him unconscious,” said Joshua when asked if the stoppage was premature. “I was delivering. I put him down. I hurt him; slashed both of his eyes, they were bleeding. My shorts and boots were white. They’re now pink from the blood.

“The ref’s job is to let the fighter fight another day. Twelve rounds is fine. A stoppage is fine. I’m happy I got the win.”

Joshua, who weighed a career high 254 pounds, is his own biggest critic.

“There’s always a few things I could do better,” said the unified titleholder. “Short fighters are always tough. They’ve been dealing with guys my height their whole life, so they know how to roll shots and get out the way of punches. I’m used to dealing with guys my height. It’s a bit trickier, but we got there in the end.

“Certain things I would have been doing five fights ago could have been quite dangerous. I wasn’t making those mistakes. That’s good. I’m improving fight by fight. I’m happy the win’s secured.”

It’s been a huge year for Joshua who stopped former champion Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans in April before pulling in 78,000 for this latest title defense. Nobody else in boxing does those numbers and Joshua is unquestionably one of the biggest stars in the sport today.

Having sold out two giant arenas, Joshua isn’t going to be fighting indoors in the U.K anytime soon. However, promoter Eddie Hearn does want his flagship fighter to be more active in 2018.

“I’d like for Anthony to box three times next year,” said the Matchroom boss. “Generally, boxing in October allows you to box March/ April time, then summer. It’s all down to Anthony. We may have a WBA mandatory, that’s unclear. There’s (WBO titleholder) Joseph Parker and the (WBC titleholder) Deontay Wilder fight.”

Another option would be unbeaten American Jarrell Miller. Though unproven at the highest level, he would bring his gregarious personality and an aggressive style to the table. Domestically, Dillian Whyte, who defeated Robert Helenius on the same card, is hoping for a rematch. Joshua defeated Whyte via seventh-round stoppage in December 2015.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at elraincoat@live.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter @AnsonWainwright

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