ANTHONY JOSHUA insists he still has the challenger mentality as he enters his fifth world title fight against Carlos Takam at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium on Saturday night.
Inside a very British-looking theatre at the Cardiff Museum – velvet red chairs, Victorian-style carpentry and high windows – Anthony Joshua was typically elegant and charming in his pre-fight approach to business at the final press conference.
“It’s an honour to defend these belts,” said the WBA and IBF heavyweight champion at today’s final press conference. “But I’m a challenger in my mind, it’s not like I’m here saying I’m the big ‘I am’. My feet are on the ground and I keep on grinding.”
If the widespread recognition of being the division’s best he received after defeating Wladimir Klitschko in April had changed him, you wouldn’t know it. And he accepts that it’s time to move on from that night at Wembley Stadium, but not without taking valuable lessons from it.
“We’re going to have to put that Klitschko win to the side at some point, that was then, this is now. Carlos is a completely different animal but what I do know now is that I’m able to do anything to win. I can be knocked down and get up, I can adapt. Anything can happen in boxing.
“What is the biggest privilege of being world champion? I’m always around hungry athletes as well, and it’s good to be a positive influence on them,” said Joshua. “I was training for this fight in the same gym with all the amateurs who are 10 years old. It’s nice to still be a champion and keep it real, and keep it at grass roots.”
Carlos Takam, meanwhile, showed no sign of pressure or irritation either. Wearing a t-shirt down to his knees and wispy long beard, the challenger spoke of his delight at getting this chance at 12 days’ notice. His promotion from a spot on the November 4 bill in Monaco to a place alongside the heavyweight king was met with a mixed reaction from fans, but for Takam it’s only positive.
“I changed the way I was training straight away when I heard about the fight,” he said with a smile. “I invite you on October 28 to see the outcome of the fight. This will change my life of course, but it won’t change the person I am. I am going to win.”
Joshua, too, was forced to alter his approach but thanked trainer Rob McCracken for ensuring his game is versatile enough to cope with the late change.
“Rob helped me because when I first turned professional, and in training when I was forced to do the longer rounds I wondered if this was for me,” Joshua laughed. “But Rob trains me to focus on myself, and train different ways. I’m so grateful I wasn’t just training for Pulev.”
McCracken admitted that the late change “wasn’t ideal”, but believes the contest will be a better one as a result.
“We’d trained for three months for Kubrat Pulev,” explained McCracken. “I watched Carlos Takam against Alexander Povetkin [l ko 10] and Joseph Parker [l pts 12] and he’s a good fighter who can cause problems. But Pulev would have been a cagey fighter, and it will be different with Takam. The winner will be the fans, because this will be a far more exciting fight.”