“I’M still angry about the stoppage,” says Carlos Takam. “Very, very angry.”
Though it’s been four months, a premature stoppage in boxing hits you like a power cut. If you’re lucky, you might get a subtle forewarning, a light flicker, or the sound of devices coughing and spluttering, but, for the most part, it comes out of nowhere. Just happens. That programme you were in the middle of watching, five minutes from its climax, is wiped from the screen, and you’re left in the dark in more ways than one.
This was something like the experience of seeing Carlos Takam, a brave and surprisingly adept Frenchman, suffer the indignity of being prematurely stopped in front of 90,000 British fans last October.
His world heavyweight title fight against Anthony Joshua, played out before a sold-out Millennium Stadium crowd in Cardiff, had been going so well until that point. Joshua, of course, was comfortably ahead, in accordance to the script, but Takam was giving almost as good as he got and was offering looks the former Olympic champion had yet to encounter in his young professional career. Together, they were going rounds. There was enough back-and-forth for it to remain interesting. They made it to the tenth. Joshua showed signs of tiredness. Takam was bleeding.
But then it ended.
Ninety-four seconds into round ten, the referee, Phil Edwards, decided he’d seen enough. He tripped the power and now the entire street was up in arms.
“I don’t know why this guy stopped the fight,” Takam tells Boxing News. “I was not hurt. I was okay.
“I asked him [Phil Edwards] after the fight, ‘Why did you stop it? Why did you stop it?’ I want to see the referee again, face to face, and ask him again: ‘Why did you stop the fight?’ It was terrible.”
Takam appreciates he was fighting back from a losing position. He also appreciates the fact Joshua had landed a decent shot in round ten. But for a man who has built his reputation on toughness, both as a 12-year professional and a sparring partner to the stars, Takam’s sudden need for protection was all the more peculiar. At best, you could argue Edwards was unaware of Takam’s durability, or perhaps didn’t feel it was relevant in the context of the fight. At worst, however, it could be argued Takam was stopped the way he was always meant to be stopped; on his feet; at the first hint of danger.
“The guy stopped the fight in the tenth round and we still had two rounds,” Takam continues. “In those two rounds I was going to give it everything. When I spoke to my coach in the corner he told me before the tenth round that I should go easy and save myself for the last two rounds. Then I would give everything to end the fight. I said, ‘Okay. Let’s do that.’ But then the guy stopped the fight and I don’t know why. I couldn’t believe it. It was crazy.
“I knew in the last two rounds something was going to happen. Either I was going to put him down or he was going to put me down. We were going to give everything. Why didn’t the referee let us do that?”
Still, one upside for Takam is this: once the power was turned back on, his face, name and skills stuck in the minds of those who watched him push Joshua. They respected the grace with which he accepted a contentious defeat. They appreciated the goodwill he extended to Joshua. Most of all, though, fans who assumed Takam was simply a fall-guy, drafted in following the withdrawal of original opponent Kubrat Pulev, were now reassessing their view of someone who, at times, appeared a step ahead of Joshua, technically at least, and was very much in the contest heading into round ten.
“It was a good fight,” says Takam, who has also boxed the likes of Joseph Parker and Alexander Povetkin, and boasts wins over Tony Thompson, Michael Grant and Frans Botha. “Nobody knew me before the fight. When they announced Carlos Takam was going to fight Anthony Joshua, everybody said, ‘Who is Carlos Takam?’ They didn’t know me.
“But now everybody knows me. I think it was a good experience for me to have many, many thousands of people see me box in a big stadium like that. It was a great experience. Now people know me and respect me. That’s a great feeling. Everybody in Britain supports me.”
So well-received was Takam, in fact, there’s every chance he could return to Britain in his very next fight. The 37-year-old, still highly ranked with the IBF and WBC, is currently in England negotiating an opportunity to box Dereck Chisora, another former world title challenger, on May 5 in London.
“We’re here to make the deal with the Chisora team,” reveals Takam, 35-4-1 (27). “I hope it’s going to be signed. I want to fight Chisora next. It will be a good next fight for me. He’s a good guy but a bit of a crazy guy.
“I know I will beat him. When I sign fights, I sign them because I think I am going to win. I don’t take fights to lose. I never go into a fight thinking I’m going to lose. This fight will be no different.
“I’d be very happy to come back [to Britain]. I don’t think all the referees here are bad. I don’t want that guy [Edwards] again, though. I need a different referee. A good referee.”
Carlos Takam, having boxed in front of 90,000 people in Cardiff, is eager to be back in a big fight and back under the lights. He only hopes they aren’t switched off prematurely next time.