This Saturday at Vodafone Events Center in Manukau City, New Zealand, rising heavyweight star Joseph Parker faces Carlos Takam in an IBF heavyweight eliminator, with Sky Sports 3 in the United Kingdom airing the fight live at 6 a.m. ET.
We'll have live coverage of the bout on Saturday morning, but here's a look at the matchup.
Joseph Parker vs Carlos Takam
Record: 18-0 (16 KO) ... Streak: W18 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'4" / 76" ...Age: 24
Thoughts: For a really in-depth look at Parker, check out Radu's Scouting Report. Read the whole thing, but here's a snippet on the New Zealander:
Joseph Parker is certainly very dangerous and an exciting fighter to watch. He has very fast hands with brutal power and they are accurate as well, and set up by a quality jab. I honestly think that if anybody lets him throw, they don't stand a chance to defend against his power. But I also think his flaws and his relative lack of improvement should give opponents a lot to work with. I think by far the best bet is to use movement and angles to keep him guessing. He seems to have serious trouble letting his hands go against opponents who don't stay where he wants them. And he often ends up unbalanced and with his chin out there when lunging after them. I also think his long line of early stoppages is hurting his development to a certain extent.
The young puncher of Samoan descent is starting to make an impression, but this fight is a big step up for him. Takam is a veteran, a contender in the division still, and will be the best opponent Parker has faced to date, by a good margin.
But Parker's power is very, very real. He may not have the international headlines or attention of Anthony Joshua, but the 24-year-old's résumé isn't too far off AJ's pace, either. (I'm not saying it's equal, I'm not saying it's better, but it's not drastically behind.)
In his most recent outing, Parker labored a bit more than usual, going into the eighth round with journeyman Jason Bergman before securing his seventh straight stoppage win. But largely that was due to Bergman's toughness -- Parker didn't have to deal with a whole lot of return fire, but he did wind up having to work pretty hard. If you're looking for holes to poke in Parker's power, maybe that's the fight -- Bergman's been stopped four other times, after all -- but I don't see any good reason to doubt the thunder just yet.
Record: 33-2-1 (25 KO) ... Streak: W3 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 8-1-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ...Height/Reach: 6'2½" / N/A ...Age: 35
Thoughts: Takam is a contender, is a top 10 fighter in the division, but, well, that's for now. He's solid, but not special, and never has been special. That he's a contender is a reflection of the last generation of heavyweights, which is, we can only hope, being overtaken by a new crop of guys led by Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua, and maybe Joseph Parker, whose win here would establish him as a top 10 guy in the division himself.
Takam, originally from Cameroon and fighting out of France, is a 35-year-old veteran who's been a pro since 2005. He was a solid amateur, winning bronze at the All-Africa Games in 2003, and gold at the African Championships that same year. He fought in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, losing to Egypt's Mohamed Aly in the first round. (Aly went on to win the silver medal, losing the finals by forfeit due to injury, allowing Alexander Povetkin to win the gold.)
As a pro, he's been OK. He beat up some overmatched scrubs for about four years before losing an eight-round decision to Gregory Tony in 2009. His best win came against Tony Thompson in June 2014, and he also defeated the withering bones of Frans Botha in 2012 and Michael Grant in 2013.
In 2014, four-and-a-half months before beating Thompson, he went to a 10-round draw with Mike Perez in an HBO-televised fight. Perez, just two months removed from the tragic fight with Magomed Abdusalamov, did not look like himself in that fight. And four-and-a-half months after beating Thompson, Takam faced Alexander Povetkin, and was overpowered, knocked out in the 10th round.
He's won three straight against familiar veteran knockaround guys -- Marcelo Luiz Nascimento, Michael Sprott, and George Arias -- but Parker is dangerous for any number of reasons. He's younger, a bigger puncher, fresher, has home field advantage, and must have a soaring confidence. If Takam is going to win this fight, he's going to have to outbox Parker. That could, in theory, set him up to do some big damage at some point, but early he has to stay away from Parker, or this could be over before Takam can even start to execute a game plan.
Matchup Grade: B-. Takam is a holdout contender from a fading era in the division, but he's still a decent fighter, and this is the right next step for Parker. From the standpoint of being someone handling Parker's career, which I am not, but I'll pretend, it's a good fight because he should win, but it's not without risk. He has to pass a test like this to get to the next level, and the time seems right, and the opponent is a good fit. From Takam's side, it's a good fight because there's really nothing to lose and everything to gain. If he scores the upset, he not only knocks one fighter off the hype train, but he could get a chance to do it again on an even bigger stage against Anthony Joshua. Good matchup, hopefully good fight.