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Carlos Takam has spent much of his career on the outside looking in. Only fortuitous circumstance – fortuitous for him, not for the injured Kubrat Pulev – granted him a world title shot against Anthony Joshua in 2017, and even then, he had only 12 days to prepare for the man then considered the pre-eminent heavyweight in the world.
At 42, this may be his last major card. A man who could rival Luis Ortiz for mind-boggling longevity if not for belts, there has long been a sense that Takam has never quite been given the respect he deserves. He would have willingly fought Tyson Fury, a fight he was denied; he mustered all his strength for a prolonged jostle with Alexander Povetkin, undone by a destructive late left hook.
Joseph Parker did not really want to fight him, but eventually did so in a hard-fought, tactically astute eliminator. He took Derek Chisora, perhaps the one man in heavyweight boxing even more resilient than him, eight rounds, and lasted 10 in the ring with AJ.
Joe Joyce is the only man to stop him in eight rounds, and even then Takam’s corner felt he was pulled prematurely by referee Steve Gray.
That is not to overstate the impact of Takam’s career – there have been real lows too, not least the loss by unanimous decision to the obscure Gregory Tony, who was admittedly a much bigger man.
There is a danger he will struggle to connect against tonight’s opponent too; Tony Yoka is almost 6″ taller and with 4cm greater reach.
It is no surprise Takam has often been overshadowed not just metaphorically, but physically.
Yoka, meanwhile, is considered the face of France’s (albeit limited) heavyweight boxing scene, although he is on a journey back to form after losing his last fight to Martin Bakole. In France, the true greats have been middleweights – Marcel Cerdan has never been matched in any other division – but it is surprising Yoka hasn’t done more.
The 30-year-old enjoyed a hugely successful amateur career, one littered with names like Parker, Filip Hrgovic, those who stand among the top 10 current heavyweights. He won gold medals at youth level, but as a professional he has only had 12 opponents.
Other than Bakole, he has beaten them all, winning nine of those 11 bouts by knockout. Even when he has gone the distance, he has impressed, one of his standout feats his win by unanimous decision over Christian Hammer.
A little mobility and he should ease past Takam in this 10-rounder, who may be rock solid but who can be undone by speed and a flurry of punches.
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Yoka vs Takam details
- Date: Sunday 11 March
- Venue: Zenith Paris, France
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 10pm UK time
- TV/live stream: The fight will be shown on Sky Sports Action, or you can stream it via the Sky Go app. For non-subscribers, it’s also available with a NOW 24-hour pass, which costs £11.99
- Undercard highlights: Dan Azeez is looking to become European champion against Thomas Faure – win that and the London light-heavyweight wants a clash with local rival Anthony Yarde
- i predicts: Yoka to win by stoppage rounds 7-9
- Tony Yoka vs. Carlos Takam; Heavyweight
- Thomas Faure vs. Dan Azeez; Light-heavyweight
- Farhaad Saad vs. Macauley McGowan; Super-middleweight
- Lauren Price vs. Naomi Mannes; Women’s welterweight
Will Fury Usyk happen?
It appears from all corners that Tyson Fury’s unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk is not definitively off, but it looks unlikely in the near future.
That is due to a dispute over purse split. i understands that Fury’s camp were not happy with initial suggestions of a 50-50 split, on account of the British heavyweight’s greater pulling power when it comes to ticket sales and publicity.
Usyk’s team point out, quite rightly, that he holds three belts to Fury’s one. Were the fight to take place in Saudi Arabia, there would not even be the benefit of a home crowd for Fury, barring a few thousand of his travelling fans.
What may serve as a note of caution: Joshua’s ticket sales for the Jermaine Franklin fight are surprisingly low, and that is at an arena rather than a larger stadium. Floyd Mayweather recently fought in front of a largely empty O2. The fans are voting with their feet and should Fury opt for a lesser opponent, it may come back to bite him.
Any other business
- Jake Paul has challenged Mayweather to fight – one-on-one – after “Money’s” huge entourage made appeared to confront the YouTuber and he was filmed running away.
- Claressa Shields is reportedly keen to fight Natasha Jonas next in the UK, which would put a rematch with Savannah Marshall on hold again.
- Eddie Hearn wants Conor Benn to return as soon as possible after he was cleared by the WBC. Manny Pacquiao looks like the most likely opponent, but Hearn says there are other options being explored. Either way, the fact he is considering the 44-year-old who now largely channels his time into politics represents an irredeemable fall from grace.