Photo credit: Johann Walter Bantz
Such is the enormity of Anthony Joshua fights these days that the withdrawal of Bulgarian heavyweight Kubrat Pulev just two weeks before fight night was never likely to derail the promotion or force a postponement. To recreate the logistics committed to October 28th, within the confines of a packed pay-per-view schedule and Christmas expenditure looming would have been close to impossible.
French Cameroonian Carlos Takam steps from the shadows and two routine encounters in 2017 to save the show. One assumes he had rivals for the post, even at late notice, but the most obvious choice of Dillian Whyte, who appears on the undercard and brings some renown following his first bash at Joshua, will be saved for another day.
Remember these tickets are already sold, there is a desire to fulfil the International Boxing Federation’s mandatory nomination to preserve Joshua’s custody of their belt ahead of the assumed unifications of 2018 and Whyte’s profile will merit a defined rematch promotion at some point in the future.
The growing momentum behind Whyte, not to mention Matchroom Boxing’s American ambitions, suggests they feel there is a route to the World Boxing Council’s belt for the outspoken and newly dedicated Body Snatcher. No offence intended Mike McCallum. Whyte currently polishes the WBC International belt twice a day, which positions him for a shot at Deontay Wilder – though not as much as a failed blood test might a cynic might suggest.
For the record, Takam is a powerful fighter, of creaking vintage, who has travelled the world in a long and winding career. If judged on the rock-em-sock-em clash with Alexander Povetkin he will present Joshua with an aggressive but hittable target. Physically, he was better matched with Povetkin than he will be with Joshua, though a victory over then veteran Tony Thompson, the disgraced American, suggests he has the ability to ‘get-to’ taller opponents too.
Anthony Joshua is not Tony Thompson of course, but it is worth noting ahead of any dismissal of the new challenger that Joshua has already had to mentally shift gear once to accommodate Pulev when he expected Klitschko. Now he must refocus and maintain diligence in wrapping up camp and adapting his game plan. The unflappable Rob McCracken will be key to helping the 28-year-old adjust and realign his tools.
Joshua remains a relative novice with just 19 professional bouts, all ending early, behind him and hubris cares not for logistics, plans or reputation.
One closing note, spare a thought for Kubrat Pulev. A veteran with a dream who has just lost a major pay day, and according to promoter Eddie Hearn’s conversation with IFL.TV, his mandatory position with the IBF.
Injury, like hubris, has no conscience.