Anthony Joshua has come in lighter and leaner and with “the mindset of a challenger”, ahead of the defense of his two world heavyweight title belts against Carlos Takam in Cardiff on Saturday.
Yet the undefeated 28-year-old admitted on Thursday that he had concerns. “With Takam’s style and his strength, I wish I’d come into this fight heavier so we could have just stood there and slugged it out,” said Joshua of the Cameroonian, 36, the International Boxing Federation’s No 3 challenger, who has come in on 12 days’ notice after an injury to Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev.
Joshua had prepared for a taller, more awkward boxer. “I thought I was fighting Pulev – a real amateur-style boxer. I had to stay off the line, jab with him and match his speed. Takam is a different style of fighter, more aggressive, so I might have come in a bit heavier if I’d known,” he explained, having been stripped of body fat and consigned to a diet created by Mark Ellison, the nutritionist who also looks after the Manchester United squad.
“People can relate to boxing because it’s a labourer’s sport. You have to get up early, work hard, work hard when you are tired or sick, and work away from home. That’s why working people support us,” said Joshua.
“I’m just a reflection of hard work. The UK boxing scene is grassroots. I still go to my amateur club. Just before this championship fight, I was training with all the amateurs – kids that were just 10 years old. You can only achieve what you see, so when they’re training with Olympians and professional world champions, they’re inspired.
“That’s really nice to be the champion and still keep it real training with the grass-roots athletes.”
Takam, who looked overawed by Joshua on Thursday as they went into a stare-down, remains an underdog. But he says he believes he can join the likes of Mike Tyson’s destroyer, Buster Douglas, and shock the world.
Paris-based Takam (35 wins, three losses, one draw, 27 knockouts) represented Cameroon at the 2004 Olympics before moving to France the following year and is expected to earn about £750,000 with Joshua’s purse closer to £10 million.
He explained: “My experience will help me win the fight. When we get in the ring it’s just two fighters. Only at the end of the fight will we know who the real world champion is. I saw Joshua go down [against Klitschko in April].
“I saw he has a weak point, and we’ve been working on targeting that. I’m going to come forward, fight my fight. It wouldn’t be a shock if I won because of the confidence I have. I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
Takam’s left hook is dangerous but Joshua will look to avoid it by employing his ramrod jab. He said: “Rob McCracken [his trainer] has always taught me to focus on myself, my own personal development, rather than the opponent. He’s never trained me for just one style of opponent. Whether I was fighting Kubrat Pulev or Carlos Takam, he’s adopted me and it’s been about my own balance, footwork, and technique.”
The bout, the fourth defense of Joshua’s IBF heavyweight title but a first defense of the World Boxing Association belt which he claimed with a technical knockout of Klitschko in April, has sold 75,000 tickets at the Principality Stadium.