Anthony Joshua believes fighting Carlos Takam rather than Kubrat Pulev could prove a “blessing in disguise” and a step towards achieving his ambition of fighting in Nigeria.
The IBF and WBA heavyweight champion defends his titles at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium tonight.
Joshua has had less than a fortnight to prepare for Takam after the injured Pulev’s withdrawal. As is often the case with title defences against mandatory challengers, Takam – like Pulev before him – is far from the calibre of opponent a demanding public had hoped for after seeing Joshua stop Wladimir Klitschko.
However, the little-known Frenchman, according to Joshua, could prove crucial to his hopes of eventually realising another of his career goals.
This week he spoke of his desire to simultaneously hold all four world heavyweight titles, but for even longer the fighter born to Nigerian mother Yeta and Irish-Nigerian father Robert has wanted to fight in the West African nation. With boxing promoters often also considering it necessary to build interest in fights that require specific circumstances, the 28-year-old is confident that with Takam, who was born in Douala in Cameroon, he will be assisted in doing just that.
“It’s definitely a blessing in disguise,” said Joshua, who yesterday weighed in at a career-heaviest 18st 2lbs, significantly bigger than his 16st 11lb opponent.
“There’s massive interest. Takam’s good, he’s from Cameroon; it’s Africa, people are watching for sure.
“It doesn’t have to be an African fighter to fight there; it definitely has to be a champion though. We have to know who they are, and providing there’s no politics, anything’s possible right now.
“I’m not in a rush to go anywhere. I like fighting in London, in the UK.
“I come from a grassroots system, so I like fighting in this UK grassroots type of atmosphere.”
Joshua, whose full name is Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua, tonight fights for the first time while widely considered the world’s leading heavyweight.
He recognises that the victory over Klitschko and his status since then has led to an even wider following, dominated by a more casual fan.
“People, even if they’re not die-hard boxing fans, want to say, ‘I was there’, because of the type of fight the Klitschko one was,” he said.
“People now just want to be involved in the entertainment side of boxing because there are some memorable nights that are going to happen sooner or later, and they just want to say, ‘I was part of that journey’.”
Of his increased weight, Joshua added: “I’ve been doing a lot of running: maybe I’m starting to fill out as I get older, so who knows what it is? I definitely feel a lot fitter.”
Joshua also said he would not celebrate like he has already won should he knock down the 36-year-old Takam, after watching Klitschko recover when he did at Wembley.
And the challenger said: “When I heard the news about the fight I was already preparing. I invite you to see what will happen. It’s going to be a great fight. I’m coming to beat him.”