Anthony Joshua says he has the mindset of a challenger ahead of his world heavyweight title defence against Carlos Takam on Saturday.
The bout will be Joshua’s fourth defence of his International Boxing Federation (IBF) heavyweight title but a first defence of the World Boxing Association (WBA), which the 2012 Olympic gold medallist won with a technical knock-out of Wladimir Klitschko in April.
But Joshua, who has won all 19 of his professional bouts insisted he remained humble ahead of a bout with France-based Takam, who only stepped in at 12 days notice after original opponent Kubrat Pulev, of Bulgaria, pulled out with a shoulder injury.
“I used to go to all the amateur boxing shows when I was an amateur and you wanted the interaction with your role models,” Joshua told a Cardiff news conference on Thursday.
“Now I see people coming up to me and I give them a bit,” he added ahead of a bout that could earn him up to £15 million ($20 million, 17 million euros), said Joshua who lives with his mother in London when not training in Sheffield.
Joshua’s unprecedented drawing power for a British boxer fighting in the UK means a crowd of over 70,000 is expected at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff — best known for staging Wales rugby union internationals.
For Joshua’s thrilling 11th round win over Klitschko in April, there was a 90,000 sell-out at London’s Wembley Stadium. “We have never seen anything like this in boxing and may never see it again,” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “This young man has transcended boxing.”
But Joshua said memories of April’s thriller would count for nothing in Cardiff this weekend.
“We’re going to have to put the Klitschko win to the side at some stage,” he said.
“That was then and this is now. Carlos is a completely different animal to Klitschko.
“But what I do know is that I’m willing to do this or that or whatever to win. In terms of style and technique it’s completely different. My mindset is different for this fight,” Joshua added.
The now 36-year-old Paris-based Takam (35 wins, 3 losses, 1 draw, 27 knockouts) represented Cameroon at the 2004 Olympics before moving to France the following year.
Joshua was unconcerned by the late change of opponent saying: “My trainer Rob McCracken has always taught me to focus on myself, my own personal development, rather than the opponent.
“He’s never trained me me for just one style of opponent. Whether I was fighting Kubrat Pulev or Carlos Takam, he’s adapted me and it’s been about my own balance, footwork and technique.”
Takam, who lost on points to New Zealand’s Joseph Parker last year before the New Zealander went on to win the World Boxing Organisation version of the heavyweight title, said he was ready to face Joshua despite the lack of notice.
“When I heard the news about the fight I was already preparing for another fight, so I am ready,” said Takam.
And Takam’s promoter Christian Cherchi insisted his fighter was not just turning up for a big pay-day.
“Of course, there could be an upset, because you are talking about heavyweight boxing and one punch can change everything,” said Cherchi. “Joshua knows this because he came back in a great way (after getting knocked down) in a great fight against Klitschko.
“Sometimes late notice means less pressure. Anthony is the favourite to win so the pressure is on him. But we believe Carlos has a great chance to win this fight.
“We haven’t just come for the opportunity, we’ve come to win,” he added.
Anthony Joshua has refused to rule out the prospect of a world heavyweight title clash with British rival Tyson Fury despite the former champion’s travails.
Fury has not fought since beating Wladimir Klitschko to win the IBF, WBA and WBO titles in December 2015 after being handed a drugs ban and then being stripped of his licence by the British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC).
Earlier this month, the 29-year-old Fury said he would not reapply to the BBBofC for the right to fight again, further reducing the chances of a return.
But Joshua, who defends his IBF and WBA titles against late replacement Carlos Takam in Cardiff on Saturday, has left the door open to a fight with Fury.
“What was his (Fury’s) fighting weight — 18 stone (114 kilograms)? Even if he comes back at 22 stone, (George) Foreman came back bigger when he was in his prime,” Joshua said.
“If he wants to fight and gets his licence at 30 or 40 stone — if he wants to get in the ring and he shows he can move about and control that weight, people will watch him.
“But if he comes back at that weight and he’s getting into trouble against journeymen, then people won’t be interested. So it’s how he performs at his new weight.”
Joshua is aiming to unify the heavyweight titles.
A fight with WBO champion Joseph Parker – who beat Fury’s cousin Hughie in Manchester last month – is set for early next year, as well as a WBA mandatory bout before a prospective clash with reigning WBC king Deontay Wilder.
Joshua shook up the sport with the manner of his win over Klitschko and his promoter Eddie Hearn stressed his charge would not accept unreasonable demands for the sake of unifying the belts.
Hearn said: “We wouldn’t be held to ransom for a belt. (Kubrat) Pulev or Takam are fine for his defence of the title after Klitschko, but if it was someone like (Fres) Oquendo, we could say, ‘no-one wants to watch that fight’.
“The aim is to fight three times next year – ideally in March, April or summer then December. In a perfect world, two of the three fights would be for the additional belts – in any order.”
For a sport built on personality and individualism, modern boxing has its fair share of stereotypes.
Take for example, the fashion. There’s a discernible style to most world champion pugilists, from the slick shades and jewellery to the designer footwear and clothing.
It all works to form part of a celebration of their achievements in the sport, a statement to trumpet their success. And one large part of the stereotypical ensemble is the watch.
Now, the watch comes in many shapes, sizes and styles but they all work to illustrate flamboyance and, ultimately, wealth. Floyd Mayweather is perhaps the most obvious endorsement of this given some of the quite ludicrously iced-out timepieces he’s flaunted on social media.
But the watch also creates a conventional image which draws a certain slant about that fighter – bold, brash, arrogant, cocky and any other exaggerated trait you want to use.
So, when two-weight world champion Badou Jack sat down in a hushed Jumeirah Beach Hotel cafe for this interview with a striking diamond-encrusted Rolex on his wrist, the predetermined profile was created.
But over the course of two days following the Muslim boxer during his Dubai leg of a goodwill tour of the Middle East, visiting boxing gyms and holding talks in schools, he broke boxing stereotypes, his ritzy Rolex a source of contrast.
The watch, incidentally was a gift from his promoter – Floyd Mayweather – following his first world title success in 2015 after beating Anthony Dirrell, and while it feels a little detached given the placid personality of its owner, it’s a prideful emblem of the Swede’s success.
Indeed, two years on from that WBC super-middleweight win and Jack has amassed a CV which includes some of the toughest men at 168lbs, most notably British pair George Groves and James DeGale.
But it’s after blasting through another Brit in WBA champ Nathan Cleverly in his August light-heavyweight debut on the undercard of Mayweather’s mega clash with Conor McGregor, that you might say his time is now – though the audience has been a little slow to recognise that.
“I like it that they’re overlooking me still. That means there is no pressure on me when I step in the ring,” Jack says. “People will realise that I’m the real deal. I’ve fought five world champions in a row; Dirrell, George Groves – he wasn’t a champion when we fought but he is now – Lucian Bute was a former world champ, DeGale is a world champion and an Olympic gold medallist, and Cleverley was a two-time champion.
“I fought them back-to-back, not even the superstars, Triple G (Gennady Golovkin) or Canelo (Saul Alvarez), have fought the calibre I have back-to-back like that.
“I’m going to continue like that.”
The Rolex isn’t just a source of contrast in terms of personality as it also represents the shift his personal life has taken. Unlike two years ago, time has become its own currency.
A first-time father to a daughter last year with a son on the way in 2018, the soon-to-be 34 year old isn’t sure how long he’s going to continue in the sport. A devoted family man to his wife and child, Jack has one eye on life after boxing with Dubai a future new home.
With the impressive resume of a two-weight world champ, Jack wants to cash in and challenge himself against the toughest fighters.
“Right now, I’m trying to save as much as possible, save it, invest it, be smart with it and get out boxing healthy,” he explains.
“I don’t want to be punch drunk, I don’t want the sport to retire me so you’ve got to have good defence, good trainers, good people around you and be smart with your money.”
He adds: “Ultimately, I want to fight the best in the division, (Adonis) Stevenson, (Sergey) Kovalev and whoever else is out there. I know Adonis has a mandatory but hopefully they can give him (Eleider Alvarez) a little step-aside money so me and him can get it on.
“I know he’d rather fight me than his mandatory because I’m a much bigger name. Hopefully we can make it happen. He’s holding that belt hostage right now, so I’m gonna free it from him.”
As far as initiating trash talking is concerned, that right there is Jack at his peak and while his friend and agent Amer Abdallah would like to see more of that, it’s not something which comes naturally.
“I can do the trash talk if I have to. I’ll never start it but if someone talks to me then I’ll talk back. But that’s my style. I like to show in the ring that I can fight,” he says. “You can say I’m a nice guy but I like to show my nasty side in the ring.
“Some people say you have to talk trash to sell a fight but look at Anthony Joshua.
“He’s a humble, nice guy. Even Andre Ward – that’s more my personality.”
He adds laughing: “You can call me boring but I’ll still beat you up.”
– Message of peace –
While Jack is no stranger to pain, recent tragic events in the city he’s called home since 2010 caused considerable hurt.
As a resident of Las Vegas, the news 58 people lost their lives, and a further 549 were injured, following the shooting earlier this month hit hard and it’s part of the reason for his visit to the Middle East as he aims to spread the word of peace.
“People think of it as a crazy party town but to me, I have a quiet life. It’s a great city for families It’s just the strip with all the casinos but other than that, it’s a beautiful city,” he explains.
“It’s crazy. I was watching CNN all night with my wife and she was really scared. She said how she didn’t want to go to the strip no more. It made me think that it’s not safe here but it’s not just that; it’s all the racism, all the stuff going on with Trump, it’s just really sad to see.”
Abdallah, a kickboxing champion himself, articulates further.
“We don’t stereotype every single Roman Catholic as a paedophile because of some of their priests or every single Roman Catholic as a mass murderer as Adolf Hitler was.
“You can’t stereotype 1.8 billion Muslims because of the less than one per cent of people who fly under the Muslim flag.
“Badou preaches peace, he lives like a peaceful man. This is our platform to be able to actually tell the world that our race is humanity, our religion and political preference is freedom and mankind.
“The bottom line is, evil is evil, whether you’re white, black, Christian, Muslim, atheist whatever it may be. Peace is peace.”
Whether it’s Jack and his watch, or some western perceptions of Islam, more often than not stereotypes are wrong – a takeaway point for us all.
Adonis obviously. Maybe someone we don’t like. A racist fighter? A scumbag, Kovalev has made some racist comments so maybe him.
Roy Jones was one of my favourite fighters growing up but I’d never want to fight him.
Terence Crawford at No1. As far as skills Vasyl Lomachenko he would be but he hasn’t fought the best, although that’s not his fault. Rigondeaux, Canelo and Triple G – I thought he beat Canelo – but I don’t know the order but Crawford is number one.
I was there for his fight in June. I’m not a big UFC fan but I was there to do some interviews and stuff. He was a boxer at first so we’ve trained in the same gym. He was not on that level then, I was in the Olympics and World Champs then and he just started but he’s a good fighter.
I think he’s a national Swedish amateur boxing champion so he can punch, he’s a great fighter and he’s a great guy, too.