Tonight, in front of 80,000 fans at the Principality Stadium in Wales, the Anthony Joshua show roles, well, stumbles, in to the Welsh capital. Since Kubrat Pulev withdrew from his shot at the IBF and WBA heavyweight world champion through injury, many pundits have been doing their best at convincing us that Carlos Takam is potentially a tougher opponent than Pulev.
Spoiler: He is not.
Matchroom head honcho Eddie Hearn, who, with the backing of Sky Sports, have pulled out all of the stops and the full charm offensive to persuade the British public to part with their hard-earned money by building up Takam as genuine world-class contender. For most, it is a bitter pill to swallow to part with £20 to see Joshua fight an unknown opponent with a very weak undercard supporting it.
Johnny Nelson, Carl Froch, Pauli Malignaggi, Jamie Moore, Tony Bellew – anyone who is anyone who works with or for Sky are telling us that this will be a potential banana skin and that it’ll be harder for Joshua vs an opponent who has nothing to lose, blah blah blah.
None of this is, of course, Anthony Joshua’s fault. He would have been as frustrated with Pulev’s injury as everyone else – he’s trained for a specific opponent for 8-10 weeks and will now have to throw caution to the wind and scrap what he’d been working on.
Equally frustrated will be those boxing fans who had paid a healthy sum to watch Joshua put his titles on the line against Kubrat Pulev. The Bulgarian was not a big draw as it was, but he was, at least a reputable opponent with a credible CV.
For Carlos Takam, a 36 year-old French heavyweight, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. He has a chance to dethrone the biggest boxing superstar in the world. As AJ’s frustration set in last week, Takam will be as excited as anyone to be headlining a PPV card in Cardiff.
Now if that main event being rescheduled was not enough, one of the main supporting fights between British light heavyweight champion Frank Buglioni and Callum Johnson has had to be changed as Johnson has withdrew injured. Buglioni will now face Craig Richards on 5 days’ notice. Another fight, between Lenroy Thomas and Dave Allen is also up in the air with recent rumours suggesting that fight is actually off. Allen himself has said on Twitter that he might not appear on the card at all.
Eddie Hearn has come in for a lot of stick recently, but he cannot be personally criticised for these pull-outs. 9 times out of 10, he puts on a good show and the fans go home happy. However, this is the high-risk nature of boxing as a sport, especially from a promotional side. There is no guarantees a fight will go ahead until both have stepped through the ropes (Unless you are Hasim Rahman Jr the son of former world titleholder, who’s opponent this past weekend had second thoughts and walked out of the ring, but that is a different story for a different time). Injures are part and parcel of the fight game. However, this fight was already less than highly anticipated amongst hard-core boxing fans.
The IBF are happy and it still ticks all the boxes for them, as Takam was next in line behind Pulev to receive a title shot. The alternative would have been to scrap the show all together, which will have meant a waste of a £30m promotion. Fans would have been due refunds, fighters would want compensation, Sky would have been out of pocket due to their advertising campaign and it would keep Joshua on the shelf until next year and delayed potential unification bouts. Integrity does not even come in to the conversation.
For the casual fan, Takam might have a slightly better chin than Pulev, however, there is little more for Joshua to be concerned with.
Nobody can doubt Takam’s toughness and he is rugged and effective working on the inside. He has lost to Alexander Povetkin, who is a talented opponent, but he is smaller and carries a lot less power than Britain’s Joshua does. Takam also lost in a dull 12 rounder to WBO champion Joseph Parker last year. Add to that the fact that he is 36, and past his best, then anything other than a destructive performance from Joshua will be a huge disappointment.
Are people going to be happy when Joshua wins at the weekend? Absolutely. Will I be buying the PPV? Of course. Am I telling you not to support the card? Definitely not. But I am saying if you do pay for the card, and it’s a disappointment, don’t complain about it.