THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW: Anthony Joshua takes over Cardiff

THE ULTIMATE PREVIEW: Anthony Joshua takes over Cardiff

This week, the KO show has come to Cardiff courtesy of Watford’s Anthony Joshua (19-0, 19KO). Three years after AJ’s last visit to the Welsh capital, the heavyweight has returned to defend his IBF and WBA unified world titles.

CHANGE OF OPPONENT

Facing Joshua is a challenge for anyone in his division, especially if you’re tasked to do it on 12 day’s notice. In fairness, he’ll have his own adapting to do and now the task in hand is to face a completely different style to the one he originally spent weeks preparing for.

Kubrat Pulev (25-1, 13KO), the initial mandatory challenger who suffered a shoulder injury, awkwardly holds his arms out to fend opponents off as the pressure approaches. When the Bulgarian attacks, he often lunges in with an awkward effectiveness. To combat it, Joshua is likely to have been working on timing Pulev with sharp straight shots and counters.

However, the threat that Cameroon-born Carlos Takam (35-3-1, 27KO) poses is very different. The IBF #3 ranked contender is a lot more compact and he rarely opts for long-range exchanges. Instead, the Frenchman squeezes his shell up behind a tight guard and tries to remain a relatively small target on his way in, where he’s more comfortable working.

Anthony Joshua

If Takam adopts his usual style, it’s not one that most would recommend and it should suit Joshua down to the ground. If Takam takes the opposite approach and boxes at long range, he’ll be doing something against his natural instincts and is likely to make mistakes. For those reasons, a Joshua knockout or stoppage is a likely outcome and it could come early.

JOE CORDINA WITHOUT PLANNED TITLE FIGHT

When the event was announced, it came with the promise that Cardiff’s own Joe Cordina (4-0, 4KO) would fight for his first championship to mark his first appearance on home soil since turning professional.

Joe Cordina

This now won’t be the case and the 25-year-old, who has split his training camp between Essex and Sheffield, will instead take on Barcelona’s Lesther Cantillano (3-8, 2KO) in a non-title affair.

It’s been difficult for matchmakers to secure a vacant belt or champion suitable for the aptly nicknamed ‘Welsh Wizard’, who is hungry to progress but still in the early stages of his career. Cordina, a 2016 Olympian, will fight over eight rounds and at lightweight, where he insists his future lies.

LACK OF WELSH INVOLVEMENT

One issue for disappointment is the lack of Welsh involvement in the nine scheduled fights. It’s extremely unlikely that a super-show in any other city in the United Kingdom would feature just one hometowner.

Only Cordina will fly the flag, despite two-time Commonwealth Games medallist Sean McGoldrick (3-0, 1KO) also being on the same books. It’s Matchroom’s first visit to Wales in over three years and their lack of appetite to include more Welsh boxers on the show suggests they won’t be returning anytime soon.

The matchmakers did offer Aberdare’s Dorian Darch (12-5-1, 1KO) a slot against Dave Allen (12-3-1, 9KO) following the withdrawal of Commonwealth champion Lenroy Thomas (21-4, 10KO). However, the opportunity came too late for the heavyweight who was probably, and understandably, an afterthought. Allen now faces Kent’s unbeaten, and unknown, Scott Saward (3-0).

HUGE FAN RESPONSE AND INTERACTION

Despite booing promoter Eddie Hearn on two occasions, the fans have stayed positive. St David’s Hall was packed near its 2,000 capacity at Wednesday’s open workout and more than 4,000 fans crammed in to the Motorpoint Arena for the weigh-in. Too often have Welsh fight fans been starved of major events and they’ve made the most of a special occasion, just like when Guillermo Rigondeaux visited the city last summer.

Joshua has remarked at his surprise of the public’s response on numerous occasions throughout fight week. The hungry crowds are a concrete sign that Joshua has truly cracked stardom and might be the most high-profile sportsperson in the country, though still seems unaware of his full attraction status. This is the biggest promotion and build up ever seen in Wales and since Floyd Mayweather’s seemingly final retirement, Joshua has become the biggest one man brand in the sport.

Anthony Joshua

It’s undoubted that most fans, especially the ‘casual ones’, already loved Joshua long before his epic 11th round knockout of Wladimir Klitschko in April. Tomorrow’s bout, Joshua’s first since the dream date at Wembley Stadium, has been a different level of love, though – and he’s worked hard to earn it with little touches that have gone a long way in Cardiff.

To Joshua’s credit, he interacts with his fans as much as those around him allow him to, stretching the schedule to fit in selfie-after-selfie and unlimited autographs. He bypassed the media at Wednesday’s open workout and instead spent 40 minutes with hundreds of fans. Then at today’s weigh-in, Joshua again went out of his way to meet fans until his security team literally had to tell the crowds to disperse.

UNDERCARD

Birmingham’s Kal Yafai (22-0, 14KO) makes the second defence of his WBA world super-flyweight belt against Japan’s Sho Ishida (24-0, 13KO) in what might be the undercard’s most exciting matchup. Barry Town’s Andrew Selby (10-0, 5KO) has recently been sparring Yafai, who is the favourite and will have to deal with Ishida’s considerable height advantage.

Ireland’s Olympic champion Katie Taylor (6-0, 4KO) will attempt to repeat her stellar amateur achievements less than a year since turning professional. She faces Argentina’s former champion Anahi Sanchez (17-2, 9KO), who can no longer keep the WBA world lightweight title after failing to make weight.

Enfield’s Frank Buglioni (20-2-1, 15KO) was due to defend his British light-heavyweight title in a thumping domestic unification against Commonwealth ruler Callum Johnson (16-0, 11KO), who has since been ruled out. Southern Area super-middleweight champion Craig ‘Spider’ Richards (10-0, 4KO) has stepped in, and up a division, in a bid to gatecrash the scene and capture the Lord Lonsdale belt.

Heavy hitting 2016 Olympians Joshua Buatsi (2-0, 2KO) and Lawrence Okolie (5-0, 4KO) complete the card in what should be routine showcases of their potential.

TICKETS

More than 75,000 fans will pack out the Principality Stadium. It’s the first time the site has been used for boxing since Joe Calzaghe’s super-middleweight unification with Mikkel Kessler in 2007.

Anthony Joshua

A lot has changed over the last 10 years, including the Millennium Stadium’s name and most importantly for the fans, the modernization of ticket touts. Users of secondary ticket websites have often bought tickets for Joshua’s fights in mass quantities and resell them far above their face value.

However, their manipulation hasn’t worked for tomorrow’s fight and many ‘touts’ will be out of pocket. Thankfully, tickets are still available at or below face value on StubHub, who also sponsor the event.

TRAVEL

The infrastructure of Cardiff, a relatively small capital city, will be strained a little bit more than on international rugby match days and concerts at the Principality Stadium, which is expecting a record crowd.

It’s due to engineering works, which are taking place on the 131-year-old Severn Tunnel. They will disrupt the travels of Joshua fans coming across the English border, who are advised to leave early if they plan on entering the stadium when gates open at 5pm.

Passengers will be diverted on alternative routes and Great Western Railway have confirmed the services from London to Cardiff will run less frequently. Services after the event will also be disrupted with buses replacing trains between Cardiff and Newport.

BOX OFFICE

The fight is available to watch on Sky Sports Box Office for £19.95. Viewers are able to book using their Sky+ remote or online. Click here for more information.

IMAGE BY HUW FAIRCLOUGH. For more images or to contact Huw for booking, visit his official website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

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