AJ is all set to defend his world titles on October 28 in Cardiff – but in boxing, you can never write off the underdog
ANTHONY JOSHUA is expected to comfortably retain his world heavyweight titles this weekend in Cardiff when he fights Carlos Takam.
Kubrat Pulev, the IBF’s original mandatory challenger, was forced to pull out of the fight with Joshua due to injury.
In came Takam, who despite having a 39-fight record spanning over 12 years in boxing, is a relative unknown.
And predictably the 36-year-old has been written off by most, despite registering 35 wins, 27 by way of knockout.
Probably something to do with the fact that he is coming up against boxing’s most-talked about man Joshua, with 19 wins and 19 KOs.
Back in April 2001 another one of British boxing’s great fighters, Lennox Lewis, came up against little-known Hasim Rahman.
It would turn out to be one of the biggest shocks ever in the sport.
Lewis and his team were desperate for a fight against Mike Tyson. But the controversial Brooklyn brawler was suspended for failing a drugs test, and Lewis was at a loose end.
A fight against Rahman was agreed, but all eyes were on securing the Tyson scrap once he could legally return to the sport.
Lewis wasn’t too fussed about heading to Brakpan, South Africa to acclimatise for the fight despite it being 5,200ft above sea level.
Rahman trained over there for almost a month before his shot at the big time and the IBF, IBO and WBC heavyweight belts.
Using Las Vegas as his training base, Lewis was also balancing boxing with acting – he was working on his cameo appearance in the hit movie Ocean’s 11.
After describing Rahman as “a piece of meat I will play with in there”, it’s fair to say Lewis had taken his eye off what was immediately ahead.
And so it proved, in devastating style.
Lewis came into the fight at odds of 1-20 with a fight record of 38 wins, one draw and one defeat – a KO loss to Oliver McCall.
While Rahman had an impressive record of 34 wins and just two losses, at 20-1 to win the fight, Lewis was deemed too heavy-handed for him.
But in the fifth round the American landed a huge right hand on Lewis that sent him crashing to the canvas, and then asking his corner “what happened” as the fight was waved off.
Rahman proved that boxing really can be a one-punch fight. Speaking to the BBC afterwards he showed that even though the public weren’t confident, he most certainly was.
He said: “I kept my prayers going and did all my training. And I came up with one punch, one punch.
“I felt that the longer the fight went on I would have a chance. There can be no excuses from him.”
And while Lewis got his rematch just seven months later, trained properly and secured his KO revenge, their first meeting is regarded as much as a shock as Mike Tyson losing to Buster Douglas was.
And so to Takam.
Like Rahman, he really has nothing to lose and is likely fighting for his career.
Like Rahman, he is a huge outsider, at odds of around 14/1 with many bookmakers to shock the world.
And while you wouldn’t expect Joshua to give the fight anything less than 100 per cent focus, training for the rigid, defensive Pulev, then having to re-align for the come-forward “concrete head” of Takam could be frustrating.
Let’s not forget this is only Joshua’s 20th fight. He hasn’t experienced the mix of styles, weights and movement that Takam has been in with – and mostly beaten.
And the talk surrounding Joshua is more about a potential unification fight with fellow unbeaten boxer Deontay Wilder than the matter at hand.
That’s similar to the excitement people had of a Lewis versus Tyson blockbuster, even before the Brit was tasting canvas in South Africa at the hands of Rahman.
Takam may well be relying on “one punch” just like the one Rahman landed on Lewis 16 years ago.
And if it happens, the golden-boy of boxing could be seeking revenge just like “The Lion” had to all those years ago to re-establish his authority.