It was a twist of fate which handed Anthony Joshua his early opportunity to become world heavyweight champion last year. Now he has been warned he faces a fighter who will “run through walls for this one” as Carlos Takam stepped in as a replacement in Cardiff next week.
Joshua’s trainer, Rob McCracken and his promoter, Eddie Hearn, were today hastily hunting new sparring partners and devising a new training schedule after the withdrawal of his scheduled opponent, Kubrat Pulev, late last night because of injury.
Hearn said Joshua, the defending WBA, IBF and IBO champion, took the late switch in his customarily unfussy manner. But the change means he will now have to be involved in what Hearn described as “heavy-duty ringwork” as late as next Monday when he would ordinarily have tapered down his preparations and spent the fight week simply ticking over.
Hearn said: “Takam is a durable rough-house fighter who puts on a lot of pressure. He is relentless. And he has been handed the biggest chance of his life here. He’ll run through walls for this one.
“Anthony, though, has been preparing for a completely different challenge. He has spent nine weeks working towards meeting a 6ft 5in stand-up style of fighter in Pulev.
“Now he’s got to get ready for a 6ft 1in scrapper who loves to fight inside and swings big ones over the top. It’s completely different.
“And this new opponent is very capable of taking AJ into the later rounds, where it sometimes gets hairy for him. So there could be a banana skin here. We haven’t gone through the list and found some random fighter to step in.
“Pulev was the mandatory challenger for Anthony’s IBF title and Takam is the next one in their rankings so he automatically steps up.
“And here’s the thing. He has been preparing in the gym and in his head for seven weeks to fight Joshua, since we first put him on standby.
“So he couldn’t be more happy or more ready.”
It was in April last year that Joshua seized the opportunity to claim the IBF title from the vastly-inferior Charles Martin. The American had been handed his own slice of good fortune when he unexpectedly claimed the title three months earlier because Russian Vyacheslav Glazkov was forced to retire from their fight for the vacant belt with a knee injury.
Now fate has intervened again, disrupting the 28-year-old Londoner’s carefully laid plans as he will meet Takam, who like Martin will be a big underdog plunged into a fervent pro-Joshua atmosphere in front of 70,000 fans at the Principality Stadium.
The 36-year-old, a French-Cameroonian and former Olympian, has recorded 27 of his 35 victories by knockout but has been defeated three times. His most significant win was a points victory against American Tony Thompson - who had twice failed in world title clashes against Wladimir Klitschko - in June 2014. It earned Takam the WBC silver heavyweight title and he was beaten on points last year by WBO champion Jospeh Parker, of New Zealand.
Hearn was first informed of Pulev’s injury only yesterday evening. After four hours of frantic work setting up a replacement, he admitted that he had “dodged a bullet” to save the show.
He added: “Rob McCracken phoned me at 6pm and told me the news. I got straight on to Pulev’s manager Kalle Sauerland, who told me he still wanted to fight. It was a huge pay day for him and if he didn’t box, he would lose his mandatory challenger status.
“But we agreed that we couldn’t have a show of this size with a guy going in to it injured, even if he thought he could get through it. It is hard enough fighting AJ if you’re 100 per cent
“We had to take the doctor’s advice, which was for him to pull out.”
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