Anthony Joshua retained his two heavyweight title belts here last night but this was a far from convincing performance, with many in the Principality Stadium feeling referee Phil Edwards had acted prematurely in stopping obdurate opponent Carlos Takam in the tenth round.
Joshua had thrown everything at the super-sub with the tank-like physique and granite chin, but he was beginning to tire when Edwards stepped in to bring the fight to a close, much to Takam’s fury.
At the end of it all the young man who is fast becoming a superstar now has a record which reads: 20 fights, 20 stoppages.
Yet this was far from perfect, and the 28 year old took great risks at times, exposing himself to counter punches which could cost the Briton in fights against the likes of WBC champion Deontay Wilder. He will know he has much to work on.
There were mitigating circumstances as Joshua had his nose broken in the second round by Takam’s forehead, although he had recovered sufficiently by the fourth to ensure his French-Cameroonian opponent had to take a standing count after being knocked down by a left hook.
The punch opened a nasty cut above Takam’s right eye, and he was twice inspected by the ringside physician before it was all over.
When it was finished, Joshua addressed the 80,000 crowd, looking forward while paying due respect to his opponent.
“What do you want, UK fans ? Wembley, Cardiff ? Las Vegas ? I just want to keep the sport growing,” he said over the microphone, the entire stadium roaring to his every word.
“I didn’t have control of it, it was the ref’s decision [to stop the fight]. Respect to Takam. He was like Evander Holyfield, ducking down, popping up.”
Holyfield was not a bad comparison, and Joshua certainly learnt again from this performance. His ears may still be ringing from the screams of trainer Rob McCracken, who consistently urged his charge to box and not go for the knockout punch.
Takam, his face bloody and cut, was a warrior to the last and he was deeply vexed by the stoppage.
“I don’t know why the referee stopped the match,” he said. “I respect the champion and the UK fans, they are great fans and I am happy to box here. I don’t why they stopped it.
“I want a rematch, I make my preparations with 12 days to fight Anthony. I want a rematch, I want to box him again, I want him, he is a great champion.
Takam’s stock has undoubtedly risen, coming in as he did with just 12 days notice after Cubrat Pulev withdrew after suffering a shoulder injury.
He could well be a re-match opponent, but that will be down the line. The sights of Joshua and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, are already fixed on unifying the heavyweight division.
“AJ’s told me he wants the belts. Deontay Wilder against Anthony Joshua has to happen,” said Hearn after the bout. “There’s also a great heavyweight called Tyson Fury.
Anthony Joshua will give you the fights you want. Wilder, Fury, Joseph Parker – they’re the 2018 fights. I don’t think we should go abroad. But Anthony Joshua will fight anyone.”
He had to fight for far longer than he expected to here. When the two fighters emerged it was into an electric atmosphere, particularly as local Welsh hero Joe Cordina had shone on the undercard.
But Takam proved a tough man to put down, with Joshua only able to put him away in the 10th when Edwards felt Takam had taken enough punishment after a right nearly knocked him off his feet. It seemed premature but Joshua’s bandwagon goes marching on.
So, too, does Katie Taylor’s. After just 11 months as a pro fighter, she defeated Anahi Sanchez to become the first Irish woman to hold a professional world title.
The lightweight fighter claimed the belt on points after twelve rounds, Sanchez removed from champion status after she had failed to make the weight on Friday.
Taylor had Sanchez hurt and down in the second round with a peach of a body shot, though the Argentine toughed it out and pushed the ferocious Taylor through the rounds.
But this was a great moment in the career of Ireland’s ‘Raging Belle’, who has now the triple accolade of being an amateur world champion, an Olympic gold medalist and now a champion in the professional ranks.
“It means more than words can express,” she said. “It was the biggest night of my career and a big learning curve for me. I got a bit wild times, I left myself open. It was a very tough fight, thank God I have come through it.”
“This is the start for me,” added the 31-year-old.” I want to dominate the lightweight division and unify these belts.” The other highlight of the night was when Kal Yafai defended his WBA world super flyweight title against previously unbeaten Japanese fighter Sho Ishida, winning 118-110, 116-112, 116-112 on the cards after an exacting contest against a longer, taller opponent.