World heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua will put his belts on the line when he faces Carlos Takam in front of 78,000 fans at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday. The British Olympic champion is unbeaten in 19 fights since turning professional and was the heavy favourite to beat mandatory challenger Kublat Pulev this month. Pulev pulled out with an injury, a move that angered Joshua, and Takam has been drafted in as a late replacement. That has forced Joshua to discard all his preparations and adapt to fighting a boxer with a different style, but he is an even shorter favourite to beat Takam on Saturday.
At Bet365 Joshua is just 1/66 to beat Takam, while Boyle Sports, Bwin, and Sun Bets have a slightly more generous 1/33 and Marathon Bet is offering 1/25. Essentially, the bookmakers think Joshua’s victory is a foregone conclusion. After all, he has knocked out everyone he has ever faced, including the legendary Wladimir Klitschko, and some of them were better fighters than Takam.
Takam is 36, eight years older than Joshua, and this is his first shot at a world title after a long and relatively successful career. He has won 35 out of 39 career fights, losing three and drawing the other. He has mainly fought in France, where he lives, and his greatest successes have come over boxers in their 40s – Frans Botha, Michael Grant and Tony Thompson. The highest-profile fights in his career so far have ended in defeats. He took on Joseph Parker in May 2016 and lost on points, and the Kiwi has since gone on to win the WBO title. He was also knocked out by Russia’s Alexander Povetkin in 2014 and may have thought he would never again get a chance to shine on the biggest stage. But Eddie Hearn, Joshua’s promoter, put him on standby in case Pulev pulled out and now he has a shot at the big time once more.
Takam has been training in the hope of facing Joshua and always keeps himself in good shape. He should provide a strong test for the Brit, despite being a 50/1 outsider with the likes of Sky Bet and Betfair. He has only been knocked out once in his career, by Povetkin in what many considered to be the best fight of 2014, and he fought as recently as June. He has strength, determination and a rock-hard chin, and at 6ft 1ins he is five inches shorter than Joshua and unlike anyone the Brit has ever faced.
However, it is unlikely he will be able to withstand the onslaught of Joshua’s ferocious blend of power, pace and technique. The best price you can get on a knockout win for Joshua is just 1/12 at Betfair, so to find value you have to look at round betting. Joshua has already been talking about a future super-fight with American Deontay Wilder and has been accused of taking the threat of Takam too lightly, but he did provide one telling quote: “I think we’re going for a 10- to 12-round fight because this guy’s head is like a block of cement.”
He makes a good point as it Takam can really take a punch, so it might pay off to go for Joshua to get a late knockout. It took him until the 11th round to stop Klitschko and you can get 80/1 at Boyle Sports on an 11th round knockout this time around. The bookies think it will be over far quicker than that as round three is the 5/1 favourite with Bet365 and William Hill, followed by round two, round four and round one. However, if Joshua is to be believed, it will go further than that, which would please the 78,000 fans packed into the Principality, and therefore the 5/1 on offer at Betfair on Joshua winning in rounds 7-12 looks a really good bet. You could even hedge it with the 15/8 available on him winning in rounds 4-6.