WBA and IBF world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua said he will fight “like a challenger” as he weighed in heavier than ever ahead of facing Carlos Takam in Cardiff on Saturday.
The Principality Stadium will host the biggest-ever crowd for an indoor boxing show, with over 70,000 fans expected at what organisers say is the fastest-selling event in the stadium’s history.
Joshua tipped the scales at 18st 2lbs at the weigh-in on Friday – the heaviest he has ever been for a fight – with Takam at 16st 11bs.
The Briton says he is hungrier for this bout than when he stopped Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in April, despite the fact that Cameroon-born 36-year-old Takam replaced the injured Kubrat Pulev just 12 days before the bout.
“I know what it’s like to be a challenger,” said Joshua, 28. “Believe it or not I still have the mindset of a challenger. I don’t walk around with an ego just because I have a few belts on my shoulder.
“I know he has that mindset to find a way to win. If you keep on knocking on the door you find a way through. I just have to boot him out because he isn’t coming through this door.
“I’m still developing. I think that’s why people jump at the opportunity. If I trashed talked more I may be more feared. But my job is to break them down in the ring, strip them of confidence, strip them of desire and strip them of winning.”
‘I want people to be aware’ – quick quotes…
BBC Boxing correspondent Mike Costello: “The kind of threat Takam poses I think might be underestimated. His fight against Alexander Povetkin in 2014 was one of the best heavyweight bouts in recent years. He rattled Povetkin before succumbing himself.”
BBC 5 live boxing analyst Steve Bunce: “That fight against Povetkin showed that Takam is a real handful. I want people to be aware. When Joshua gets to him in five or six rounds, there may have been a struggle before then. Joshua has one defective gene, he loves to have a fight. Perhaps his one defective gene is that he might like slugging too much.”
Former world champion Joe Calzaghe on 5 live’s boxing podcast: “Joshua just has to make sure he is not complacent. But I don’t see it, he seems so calm, keeps it real. I don’t see Takam lasting more than three or four rounds. I think in every part of the fight I see the strengths of Joshua.”
New chef and new boxing home?
Joshua will earn a reported £10m minimum for facing Takam as he tries to improve on his 19 knockouts from 19 bouts.
In the build-up to the fight his team have ditched former methods of satisfying Joshua’s appetite and invested in an in-house chef to cook for him at the humble flat he resides in during his training camp in Sheffield.
Bookmakers have no concerns for the Briton, who is quoted as short as 1/66 for the victory.
The result would give many at Wales’ national stadium what they hope to see, as Joshua has been impeccably received during fight week in a city where his promoter feels more fights may lie ahead because of the ability to close the stadium roof, as will be the case on Saturday.
“We have the option here of a winter stadium, which could be very important in the career of Anthony Joshua,” said Eddie Hearn, who says the bout will be televised in over 150 countries.
“I am astonished at the incredible numbers. He reaches out to every kind of genre, kids, women, middle-aged guys. He has time for all of them.”
Calzaghe, who last fought at the stadium in 2007, said: “With the roof on, it really keeps the noise and atmosphere in. Trust me, when you’re in that ring you are not looking at the crowd but you can feel the atmosphere through your body.”
‘This will change my life’ – who is Takam?
Hearn has stated he hopes Joshua is not having his career-defining fights too early in his career.
But toppling Takam would allow Hearn the chance to execute a three-fight plan he has for Joshua in 2018 which would incorporate a first bout overseas, as well as shots at WBC champion Deontay Wilder and WBO king Joseph Parker.
Takam has 35 wins and a draw from 39 fights and took Parker 12 rounds before losing on points in 2016, so Saturday’s meeting may give some insight into how a Joshua-Parker match would go down.
The Cameroon-born fighter, who went to the 2004 Olympics, was paid by Hearn to be on standby and stresses he is fit despite the short notice.
And he will need to be conditioned as his style in previous fights is to demonstrate work ethic in order to wear an opponent down at close range, a stark contrast to Pulev’s patience and desire to box at distance.
“I am ready and going to give it all,” said Takam. “This will change my life of course. Just in boxing, not the person I am.”
Taylor’s time – a thrilling undercard
Ireland’s Katie Taylor has been promised a “dark night” by WBA world lightweight champion Anahi Sanchez.
London 2012 Olympic champion and five-time world amateur champion Taylor is vying for a first major honour as a professional on what she says is the “biggest night of my career”.
“These are the challenges I absolutely cherish and I can’t wait for it,” said Taylor, 31. “It’s a big step up, that’s why I have taken it so seriously.”
On a stacked undercard, Birmingham’s Khalid Yafai believes a win in his WBA super-flyweight world title defence against unbeaten Japanese fighter Sho Ishida will allow him to earn “big money”.
American TV networks are keen on showcasing Yafai in 2018, prompting him to declare it was “time for a big statement” at Thursday’s final news conference.
Asked about 5ft 8in Ishida’s height advantage, 5ft 4in Yafai replied: “Yes, he’s taller than me, but everyone’s taller than me, it’s not hard. Let’s see what he can cope with.”
Also on the card, heavyweight Dillian Whyte, who was beaten by Joshua in 2015, faces Finland’s Robert Helenius with the winner in line to challenge for world honours and hopes high that Whyte could meet Wilder in February.
“A lot underestimate me until they are stood there on the night and realise I am better and stronger than they think,” said Whyte.
“We are really having problems getting opponents. When I get past this we can speak about future plans.”
And on a night of boxing which will run from roughly 17:30 BST to around 23:00, Hearn will also continue to blood three fighters he tells media “will all one day be world champions” in recent Olympians Joe Cordina, Joshua Buatsi and Lawrence Okolie.