Photo Credit: Reuters
London heavyweight, Joe Joyce was tested by a game Carlos Takam tonight at Wembley’s SSE Arena, taking a barrage of punches in the early rounds, before turning the momentum around early in round six, prompting referee Steve Gray to stop the action in what some will perceive as a premature stoppage.
Speaking to Steve Bunce after the fight, Joyce said: “He’s a tough African lion so, you know all credit to him…it was a good fight, he hit me with some good shots. I managed how to work him out and where to land and stuff but you know, he’s still dangerous and I had to take my opportunity when I saw it…I’m pretty tough…I weathered the storm and fired right back.”
“The Juggernaut” started tentatively, pawing out his signature slow but effective jab, landing occasional right hands behind it, whilst Takam moved side to side with a predictable yet awkward rhythm, bobbing up and down, landing thunderous, swinging overhand rights above Joyce’s jab.
In round two, the Cameroonian- Frenchman continued to find success with looping right hooks over the top of Joyce’s defence and began employing a left hook which worked effectively upstairs as well as to the body.
Takam, 40, seemed to be causing noticeable problems for the undefeated belt holder, knocking back the head of Joyce, winning the rounds with power punches that took precedence over Joyce’s accurate jabs.
Round three saw Takam mixing it up well, utilizing jittery movements to confuse Joyce as he entered KO mode. Joyce remained composed, using one-twos, measured jabs and occasional right hand leads to make Takam think twice at times, but it was Takam’s stinging power shots that were the more eye-catching. Both men traded with swinging combinations to see out the bell.
The fight began to heat up in round four, as if the end of the third had lit a fuse for the action. Takam continued his relentless attacks over the top with hooks from both sides and Joyce began landing hard body shots which caused the former title challenger to retreat at moments in the round.
Photo Credit: Reuters
Joyce continued to fire out precise jabs to in an attempt to create a comfortable distance but the seasoned Takam was unwilling to grant him that luxury. His will was simply too strong.
Round five saw Takam, 39-6-1 (28KOs), mix his shots well, working effectively high and low, further exploiting the holes in Joyce’s defence. Joyce, 13-0 (12 KOs), remained unfazed, sticking to basics with some decent scoring punches but failing to capitalise on a slower, at times plodding Takam.
Determined to rise to the occasion, Joyce came out from the corner in round six with a different approach on his mind, buckling the knees of Takam in the opening five seconds of the round with a clean left hook to the jaw which very nearly sent him to the canvas.
Sensing blood, the long overdue killer instinct came out of the 2016 Olympian who abandoned his jab in favour of menacing hooks and hard straight rights. Takam covered up but failed to answer with shots of his own, prompting the fight to be waved off at 0:49 of round six.
Steve Gray’s decision to end the fight at that particular moment will surely be viewed by many boxing fans as controversial. Takam, who has demonstrated durability throughout his career against some world class opposition appeared to be alert, maintaining a defensive guard and made efforts to move out of harms way. Until the sixth round he had also landed the more telling blows.
On one hand, the referee has the best view in the arena, and in a sport where one damaging punch can have life changing consequences, it is always better to air on the side of caution - especially in the heavyweight division. On the other hand, it can be argued that Takam, a veteran warrior entering the twilight of his career should have been allowed a chance to answer back in a fight that he was winning.
Joyce remains undefeated in 13 contests and secures a WBO mandatory position, enabling him a shot at the winner of Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk.