The Anthony Joshua Show will be coming to more football grounds near you next year.
The phenomenal 80,000 attendance expected at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium for Joshua’s ho-hum world heavyweight title defence against the barely known Carlos Takam has convinced Britain’s WBA and IBF champion and his promoter Eddie Hearn that AJ will have to carry on fighting in football grounds.
They are planning three fights in 2018 to follow this Saturday’s challenge from Takam under the retractable Cardiff roof.
Anthony Joshua plans on fighting in more stadiums after facing Carlos Takam in Cardiff
The British star beat Wladimir Klitschko in front of 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium in April
Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is planning three more fights for the world champion in 2018
Joshua says: ‘I know there are loads of kids out there who want to see me. We love the O2 in London but if we go to an arena like that not so many of the youngsters will have the chance to be there.
‘You limit it at a time when there are so many people hoping to watch a world heavyweight title fight. The big stadium gives them that chance. It’s good for boxing. The demand is there.’
Even more demand for bigger fights than the one in Wales this weekend.
This is only the second outing for Joshua this year, following his 90,000-spectator extravaganza against Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley in April.
Joshua describes thus the prime asset of Takam, a Cameroon-born Parisian who is five inches shorter than himself: ‘He has a head like a cement block which means it will likely take me 10 to 12 rounds to knock him out.’
Joshua surveys the Principality Stadium after September’s press conference with Kubrat Pulev
‘I know there are loads of kids out there who want to see me,’ Joshua said ahead of the clash
Kubrat Pulev, the Bulgarian bruiser whose withdrawal with a shoulder injury enabled Takam to take over as Joshua’s IBF mandatory challenger, was hardly a crowd-puller in the first place.
Yet 78,000 tickets had been sold before Takam stepped in as substitute, while Sky Sports Box Office pay-per-view buys are reported to be holding steady.
Yet Wales is far from renowned as fertile ground for fight promotions. One of the principality’s own, the great Joe Calzaghe, drew just 50,000 to the same stadium for his legacy victory over Mikkel Kessler.
When two British favourites, Lennox Lewis and the much-loved Frank Bruno, appeared there in a world heavyweight title fight the gate was only 25,000. Although admittedly that was a wet, cold October night before the roof was fitted.
Other London football grounds are on the radar – Arsenal fan Joshua would love to fight at The Emirates – and Hearn reasons that if they can fill Cardiff then why not take the road show to Old Trafford or The Etihad.
Joe Calzaghe beat Mikkel Kessler in front of 50,000 supporters at the same stadium in 2007
Takam is the late replacement standing in the way of Joshua in Cardiff on Saturday night
‘That shows the scale of AJ’s appeal,’ says. Hearn: ‘The O2 has been brilliant for us, our home. But AJ is too big now for a 20,000 arena.’
Assuming Takam does not spring what would be one of the ring’s biggest upsets, Joshua is getting set for two world championship unification fights next year, plus a mandatory defence of his WBA title.
The biggest one of all on the horizon is against Deontay Wilder, America’s knockout holder of the WBC belt. That would also bring with it the lineal Ring magazine title, currently held by Tyson Fury but expected to be declared vacant shortly because of the Gypsy King’s inactivity since he dethroned Klitschko two years ago.
Joshua would not be averse to fighting Fury, in another Wembley blockbuster. He says: ‘What was Tyson’s fighting weight? Eighteen stone? Well, if he comes back at 22 stone, or even 30 or 40 stones and can prove he has morphed into that weight and can move and beat journeymen then people would still be very interested. But it would depend on how he performs. He would have to show he is back in the game.’
AJ would not be averse to fighting ex-heavyweight king Tyson Fury, in a Wembley blockbuster
Hearn admits he would also be concerned by the risk of Fury pulling out, as he did twice from rematches against Klitschko. He says: ‘We can’t have people disrupting our plans.’
That agenda includes a spring unification fight against New Zealander Joe Parker, who retained his WBO title with a recent victory over Fury’s cousin Hughie. Perhaps in March or April, although Hearn says: ‘He would have to accept getting less money than Wladimir, who deserved a 50-50 purse split. What’s Parker worth? I would say 20 per cent is about right.’
Logic would seem to point to Wilder at Wembley in the summer, although Hearn talks of jeopardising that bonanza by insisting that the American first fights his No 2 heavyweight, Dillian Whyte, at the O2 on February 3.
Logic would seem to point to Joshua facing Deontay Wilder (above) at Wembley next summer
Wilder, who follows Joshua into the ring next month in a rematch against Bermane Stiverne, may not buy into that scenario. He has been saying: ‘The biggest fight out there is me against Joshua and we should get it on next. Joshua should stop running from me and come to the US to try to make his name.’
Joshua’s third fight in 2018 should be that WBA mandatory defence, probably against Russia’s Alexander Povetkin, the only man to have stopped Takam and who is back after a positive drugs test.
At 28, Joshua can be forgiven for seeming greedy. Not only to capitalise his project of becoming sport’s first billionaire but to become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lewis.
Says AJ: ‘I want all the belts. And when I get them I won’t want to vacate any of them.’
To pull that off, he will also have to KO boxing’s labyrinthine politics.
Joshua v Takam will be televised live on Sky Sports Box Office this Saturday night.