Originally July 24th was to be a day highlighted by the anticipated third encounter between undefeated two-time Heavyweight world champion Tyson Fury, the current holder of the WBC crown in the Heavyweight division, and former WBC world champion Deontay Wilder. As most know, the fight was postponed due to Fury and several members of his team testing positive for the COVID-19 virus. The latest twist in what has been a turbulent time not just in the division, but in the entire sport due largely to the ongoing global epidemic.
In the absence of the third chapter in the Fury-Wilder saga, an intriguing fight took place at the Wembley Arena in London, England that had serious implications as to the near future of the Heavyweight division. This observer is referring to the Heavyweight elimination bout between undefeated WBO mandatory challenger Joe Joyce and longtime contender and former world title challenger Carlos Takam. An encounter that for all intents and purposes amounted to an elimination bout to determine the next mandatory challenger in the World Boxing Organization’s (WBO) Heavyweight ratings to face the winner of the upcoming world championship bout between unified IBF/WBA/WBO/IBO world champion Anthony Joshua and current WBO number one contender and former Undisputed World Cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, which is scheduled to take place in September.
In many ways, this fight though compelling because of what was at stake can be summed up simply as a battle of youth versus experience. The youth end of the equation was in favor of the younger and seemingly stronger unbeaten Joyce. Despite stopping over 90% of his opponents in his twelve previous professional bouts, the 2016 Olympic Silver Medalist had not been tested significantly in his professional career, and naturally the question of how he would respond to a test had been asked.Joyce’s opponent in Carlos Takam appeared to be the type of opposition capable of answering just how good Joyce might be in being a fighter with a level of experience that could provide him with a test. Some may remember Takam for his valiant effort in his challenge of the then undefeated unified Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua in October 2017.
Although Takam was stopped in that fight, he was able to give a good account of himself in defeat and has remained one of the division’s top contenders in the years since. At forty years old after a career of forty-five professional fights that began in 2005, it was logical to question just how much Takam had left at this stage of his career. In addition to Joyce’s youth in being five years younger than him, Takam also had to deal with a disadvantage in height of nearly five inches to the 6’6 Joyce.
It appeared for a time that Takam would not have as much difficulty as someone might have assumed going into this fight regarding whether he had the ability to navigate Joyce’s reach as he spent much of the early rounds trying to use head movement to slip underneath Joyce’s punches. A strategy that proved to be reasonably successful and created opportunities for him to land his right hand to the head of Joyce. While he was not always the more active of the two fighters, the success Takam had in frequently finding the target with his right hand, I felt carried the tempo of the fight through most of the early rounds.
In round five, Joyce, who had gradually found success of his own in landing hooks to Takam’s body, appeared to have what was to that point his best round of the fight as with the success in landing to Takam’s body, Joyce, the current Commonwealth Heavyweight champion was able to get some space between himself and his opponent. As it appeared as Joyce’s strategy was to gradually step up his offense from this point in the fight on, he surprised Takam by opening round six with a barrage of punches that did have him stunned, on the defensive, and struggling to return offense
Although Takam was stunned, he did not get knocked down. The volume of offense from Joyce however, was enough to convince Referee Howard Foster to step in and stop the fight. A stoppage that appeared as though it might have been a little quick as Takam was still attempting to find a way to return offense, was met with disgust by Takam and his handlers.
There is no disputing that Carlos Takam was under heavy fire from Joyce and did appear visibly stunned. Even though the stoppage did appear to be quick in this observer’s eyes, Referee Howard Foster was the closest person to the combat inside the ring and thus had a better view than anyone as to whether Takam was in eminent danger or was capable of continuing. Though I stand by my initial reaction that the stoppage was a bit quick, I do not believe it was a case of a referee recklessly jumping in before it would have been appropriate to do so. This is more of a circumstance where it may have been a matter of seconds before the window of a stoppage would have been the right call if one is objective and views things fully. As such and having seen the consequences of what can happen when fights are allowed to go on longer than they should, I will always give the benefit of the doubt to the referee under these circumstances.
Although for Carlos Takam, this setback is the definition of a tough break, much like his loss to Anthony Joshua, he gave a good account of himself in defeat and will likely get another opportunity against a top contender off of what was a good performance. For Joe Joyce meanwhile, he now has placed himself firmly in position to challenge for a world championship at some point in the future. Just how quickly he will get that chance will likely be determined by what occurs at the top of the division as the wish for unification of the World Heavyweight championship, a goal that appeared so close at the beginning of 2021, remains so far from becoming reality. For top contenders like Joe Joyce however, such stalls in progress could well lead to opportunity.
“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”
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