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Joshua vs Takam: Fight preview and matchup

Anthony Joshua returns with a late replacement opponent on Saturday.

Anthony Joshua

Boxing at Wembley Stadium Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

Record: 19-0 (19 KO) ... Streak: W19 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'6" / 82" ... Age: 28

Thoughts: Joshua has become one of the sport’s bigger stars, a draw in the United Kingdom, where he takes his show to Cardiff for this fight.

This was supposed to be Kubrat Pulev, the mandatory challenger for Joshua’s IBF heavyweight title, one of the two he holds along with the WBA, but Pulev pulled out due to injury, and Carlos Takam was drafted in. It’s not a huge step back, and it’s not a step forward, it’s just a step.

When Joshua controversially won gold at London 2012, his pro prospects looked bright, but there were plenty of doubters, too. There was some belief that he’d been pushed to that gold medal because he would be a big story with the Olympics taking place in his home country, and because of that, there was some expectation that maybe when he stopped being treated with kid gloves as a pro, he’d be exposed.

So far, not the case. Joshua has really only had two people even sort of test him as a pro. The first was Dillian Whyte in 2015, a grudge match where Whyte pushed Joshua to the seventh round. It was the first time Joshua got his gas tank tested. He passed.

The second, of course, was this year’s instant classic with Wladimir Klitschko, a back-and-forth heavyweight slugfest which Joshua won via 11th round stoppage. Joshua was down in the sixth round, and was given a stern test in every respect by the veteran ex-champion. Again, he passed.

When the Klitschko rematch fell through due to Wladimir’s retirement, there was really no question that the next fight would be a step back for Joshua. So he’s getting rid of a mandatory. It’s not the most intriguing fight and almost nobody expects him to be seriously tested here, let alone lose, but Joshua is worth tuning in to see. He’s quickly become one of the top stars in the sport, and he deserves to be.

Carlos Takam

Anthony Joshua and Carlos Takam Media Work Out Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Record: 35-3-1 (27 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 7-2-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 6'1½" / 80½" ... Age: 36

Thoughts: For essentially a last-minute replacement for Pulev, Takam isn’t a bad opponent. As Joshua noted this week, Takam is a tough dude — he’s been stopped once in his career, a 10th round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin in 2014, but Joshua isn’t expecting a quick night.

Realistically, though, it kind of all depends on how Joshua approaches Takam, and then how much of Joshua’s power Takam can take. I’m not saying that Joshua is invincible or that Takam, who can punch, can’t catch him with something and score a shock upset. But that’s what it’d be: a shock upset.

Matchup Grade: C-. It is what it is — the fight with Pulev, I might have given a C+. It wasn’t a great one, either. This is Joshua taking care of something he needs to take care of before (hopefully) fighting Deontay Wilder or someone who’s a more credible threat, if one exists. The good thing about this fight is Joshua himself. He’s become a must-watch heavyweight.

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