Holding All the Cards — Anthony Joshua

By Babajide Sotande-Peters

Photo: Matchroom Boxing

Nothing will bring a halt to his momentum as the unified heavyweight champion looks to close 2017 in style and continue to hold all the cards in the divisions as big money unifications loom in the near future

It is certainly testament to the near perfection of an international brand that Anthony Joshua has now become, that even in the midst of a fight card involving several late pull outs and some even later drafted reinforcements, the mania behind a Joshua fight week remains palpable — with a blend of both tangible excitement and hyperbolic spin which borders on deceit and permanent nausea.

“Can Anthony Joshua cement his place as Britian’s greatest ever heavyweight after 20 fights?” “Will this late opponent change be a distraction to Britain’s Golden boy?” “Is there any mortal who can tame this beast?” Find out Saturday live on PPV!

Michael Buffer could have announced Carlos Takam (Joshua’s replacement on 12 days notice) into the ring on Saturday night whist Kubrat Pulev was still on every fight poster and big screen in the arena and barely a single spectator who will be in attendance in the Millennium Stadium would be sober enough to bat their eyelids in bemusement. Even better yet, they could have cancelled the main event without prior warning and played Anthony Joshua’s greatest hits on continuous loop for 30 minutes and still achieved the same levels of satisfaction from those in attendance and those watching from home.

You probably get the message by now.

If you look at the current heavyweight landscape, unless you are a current beltholder, a surgically repaired David Haye or a 350lb Tyson Fury, you are merely serving as an additional page in the future best selling book detailing this epic heavyweight “journey” of Anthony Joshua. This particular installment is one built out of both financial and social convenience and political necessity — when you have thousands of people who would pay to watch you simply walk in a straight line across an empty street for five minutes and when there are mandatory obligations from sanctioning bodies to fulfill, activity is a must. So this current extravaganza, a well orchestrated demolition of a late notice opponent, packaged under the semblance of a “can’t miss” event with a “stacked” pay per view worthy card, is one that goes ahead this weekend in Wales.

All of this is definitely not to discredit boxing’s latest lottery ticket winner in Carlos Takam who, by all standards, is an acceptable late replacement for Bulgarian technician Kubrat Pulev who was forced to pull out with a shoulder tear last week. This nomadic Frenchman’s blend of aggression and toughness is certainly the exception rather than the norm in 21st century heavyweight boxing and said traits may make for a more entertaining affair than the initially planned one. His 2014 war with a possibly performance “enhanced” version of the Russian Alexander Povetkin as well as his tussle with a young Kiwi in Joseph Parker are testament to this. If there is a fighter with cracks in his will, Takam is the guy to add the further damaging dents to it.

Takam showed a durable chin against Joseph Parker – Photo: photosport.nz

But ultimately, Joshua is not at all deficient in the areas Takam is expert in exposing in the ring. The summit of Takam’s ambitions in the division have always been limited due to his obscurity, his size and the absence of high level skill and game changing power. Essentially his role is a that of a higher level gatekeeper, but in Joshua, he is facing a guy who already crushed that gate down a while back. Add all of this to the short notice, then an upset looks rather inconceivable, despite the predictable promotional spin of a possible change of opponent maybe unsettling the golden boy.

This stage of Joshua’s career is more about setting up the future than it is savoring the present. Rightly or wrongly, more attention will be paid to what 2018 promises rather than reflecting on what has been a significant break out period for the recently turned 28 year old.

However there is little to fear if you are currently staring into the AJ signed poster in your room or watching reruns of the Klitschko fight while reading this piece. With no present equal in boxing ability or commercial acumen, Joshua and the “Jerry Heller to his Eazy E” in promoter Eddie Hearn are afforded the luxury of crafting the next stages of his career in their ideal image and likeness.

Do they take their talents to new markets or continue take from the outstretched arms of the adoring British public which knows no better? Do they make a straight beeline for WBC champion Deontay Wilder or continue to demand that he faces the undeserving Dillian Whyte as they focus on Joseph Parker’s WBO belt? Or do they even hope that David Haye rolls back the years in his December rematch with Tony Bellew or that Tyson Fury finds his way back into a boxing gym? Whatever the outcome, these dilemmas are positive ones to have on a fighter’s plate. And whilst the division remains as talent sparse and politically fractured as it is, Joshua’s blend of power punching showings mixed with his undeniable fan affinity will always mean that those behind him are signing from his hymn sheet for the foreseeable future.

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