Anthony Joshua

WATCH: Anthony Joshua continues dominant streak with TKO of Carlos Takam

The unified heavyweight champ was a little sluggish, but still managed to extend his TKO streak

This may not have been the showcase knockout that Anthony Joshua or the 78,000 fans at sold-out Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, had likely envisioned.

Yet the unified heavyweight champion’s 10th-round TKO of late replacement Carlos Takam on Saturday could turn out to be a valuable in terms of his evolution.

Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) overcame a likely broken nose — suffered in Round 1 on an accidental head butt — and saw his stamina and boxing ability tested throughout by an incredibly game Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs).

In the end, the 2012 Olympic gold medalist from England was too poised and powerful as he opened up cuts above both of Takam’s eyes until a flurry of unanswered combinations in Round 10 led to a questionably early stoppage from referee Phil Edwards.

“Listen, I come to fight, I don’t sit on the edge and make decisions,” Joshua said of the stoppage. “As you can see, it was a good fight until the ref stopped it. So up until then, much respect to Takam for putting on a good show.

“I have no interest in what’s going on with the officials. That’s not my job. My job is to worry about my opponent. I was watching him. I was trying to take him down round by round and unfortunately the ref stopped it before. I think people want to see Takam unconscious on the floor. Am I right? OK, so now I understand. That’s where I was trying to get to.”

The fight broke an indoor attendance record for a boxing match, eclipsing Muhammad Ali’s victory over Leon Spinks in their 1978 rematch which drew 63,350 at the Superdome in New Orleans.

Takam, 36, a native of Cameroon who fights out of France, accepted the fight on 12 days’ notice after mandatory opponent Kubrat Pulev pulled out with a shoulder injury. But the veteran turned in a gutsy performance and never stopped coming forward, despite being floored by a perfect counter left hook in Round 4. He also enjoyed some of his best success late as Joshua appeared to be breathing heavy.

Joshua, 27, was making his first appearance since a thrilling April knockout of former champion Wladimir Klitschko that announced him as a worldwide star. Joshua was forced to overcome adversity in that fight, getting up off the canvas in Round 6, and did the same early against Takam when a head butt gave him a bloody nose in the opening round.

“It feels [broken]. But you know what? Like [Evander] Holyfield coming under and popping up, this is championship fighting,” Joshua said. “I imagine it was broke and I couldn’t breathe. He started catching up in the later rounds and it would’ve been a massive disaster so I had to keep my cool. I have a couple of months to heel it up. I’m going to see some good doctors to crack it back into place.

“You have to control these situations because if I showed any signs of weakness, the referee could’ve jumped in and done whatever. But I just continued to fight. That’s all you can do.”

Despite giving up nearly five inches in height losing the majority of rounds, Takam made Joshua work by countering his jab with a stiff one of his own and sneaky right hands. But the 6-foot-6 Joshua outlanded Takam 152 to 52, according to CompuBox, in what will go down as a good learning experience considering the champion has been a pro for just four years.

Joshua made the fourth defense of the IBF belt he won in 2016 by knocking out Charles Martin and the first of the vacant WBA title he won against Klitschko. His goal for 2018 is to hang on to both belts, which means bending to the mandatory needs of the sanctioning bodies.

If Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sports, Joshua’s promoter, has his way in 2018, Joshua will enter the ring three times against a trio of huge names.

“Anthony Joshua wants to be in the real fights,” Hearn said. “I promise you and I promise the fans he will give you the fights that you want. I promise you that. [WBC champion] Deontay Wilder, [WBO champion] Joseph Parker, [lineal champion] Tyson Fury – they are the 2018 fights.”

Joshua said his first plan is “to get my nose cracked back in place.” From there, he said he plans to stay a bit longer in Great Britain and delay his eventual United States debut. Considering the crowds he’s drawing (including 90,000 in London against Klitschko) and the money he’s making, it makes sense.

“I think people want to stay here and it’s a beautiful thing,” Joshua said. “Look what boxing is doing. Let’s continue to keep boxing great in the UK.”

Hearn continued to mention the name of Fury, who relinquished his heavyweight titles due to mental health and drug issues and hasn’t fought since his 2015 upset of Klitschko, saying, “We want to see you come back to the sport.”

While Fury would likely produce Joshua’s biggest fight purse, the fight most boxing fans want is Wilder, the 6-foot-7 American who wields the division’s most dangerous weapon in his right hand.

Both Hearn and Joshua agreed that keeping their titles was most important but did stress the importance of seeing the fight come to fruition in 2018.

“AJ has told me he wants the belts,” Hearn said. “Deontay Wilder — he talks a lot, he’s not really fighting anyone right now. Deontay Wilder versus Anthony Joshua has to happen.”

“It has to happen,” Joshua said. “It has to happen, for sure. After I fulfill these obligations, my door is open to any challenger provided it’s Wilder or [anyone]. It’s no problem. That’s where I’m coming from.”

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