ANTHONY JOSHUA’S march towards becoming sport’s biggest star gathered pace today as hundreds of adoring fans turned up at the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena to watch him stand on a set of scales, writes Matt Christie from the Anthony Joshua weigh-in. The WBA and IBF heavyweight champion weighed in at a career-high 254lbs – four pounds heavier than when he defeated Wladimir Klitschko in April, and 19lbs heavier than tomorrow night’s unfancied challenger, Carlos Takam.
The Parisian underdog’s physique was impressively sculpted and his 235lbs is significantly lower than he scaled when he defeated Tony Thompson (257lbs), and lost to both Joseph Parker (241lbs), and Alexander Povetkin (252lbs).
“I’m confident within myself but never over-confident,” said Joshua. “I don’t want to be cocky and make mistakes. I was reading everywhere that I was going to come in a stone lighter, as if I’ve been starving myself or something, but I definitely feel better than I have in previous fights.”
In typically pristine condition, Joshua’s five-inch height advantage over Takam was also apparent as the Englishman towered over his rival and glared down into his eyes. Takam instinctively grabbed Joshua’s hand and the pair engaged in a curious face-off with neither willing to let go of the other.
“I think Takam has a mind-set that he has nothing to lose and that’s why he grabbed my hand,” Joshua explained. “It was one of those to see who had the stronger hand shake.”
Whatever the reason for the odd handshake-cum-arm wrestle, it was the first hint of needle of the build-up. As is standard with all Joshua outings (unless the opponent is long-time nemesis Dillian Whyte) there has been no ill-feeling at all, with the only real story being the fact that nobody gives Takam – who came in at 12 days’ notice to replace the injured Kubrat Pulev – the slightest chance of winning.
This is very much the latest episode of The Joshua Show and, for now at least, the fans in attendance don’t seem to care a damn for who the co-star is as long as they catch a glimpse of the main man. Some teenage fans who were at the front of the huge crowd claimed to have arrived in Cardiff as early as 9am, some five hours before Joshua took to the stage, just to make sure they had a good view of AJ in his pants.
“I wasn’t expecting this!” said Joshua, grinning from ear to ear as the crowd chanted his name.
One man who has been rumoured as Joshua’s next opponent is the aforementioned Whyte, who famously shook Joshua in the second round of their bad-tempered December 2015 showdown before being laid out in seven. He will take on former contender Robert Helenius – a massive cult hero in his native Finland but booed here – in an eliminator for the WBC title.
“I’ve been grafting and the weight alone tells a story, I’ve been working hard,” said Whyte, who came in at 17st 9 1/2lbs, some 13 lighter than when he flattened Malcolm Tann in August. “I can’t wait to get in there and have it, man.”
“When asked his prediction for tomorrow night, Whyte – who is chasing a showdown with WBC boss Deontay Wilder as well as the Joshua return – bellowed “Pain!” which seemed to amuse some in attendance. Helenius, should you be interested, came in at 17st 10 1/2lbs.”
Elsewhere on the bill, Birmingham’s Kal Yafai (8st 2 1/2lbs) will defend his WBA super-flyweight title against Japan’s Sho Ishida (8st 2lbs) while Irish star Katie Taylor (9st 8 1/2lbs) hopes to snare her first world title when she challenges for the WBA lightweight title against Anahi Esther Sanchez. At the time of writing, only Taylor can win the strap as Sanchez came in one pound over the 9st 9lb division limit.