Indomitable spirit: Carlos Takam interview
Heavyweight Carlos Takam speaks to Luca Rosi about last year's clash with Anthony Joshua in Cardiff and why he would love to fight Dereck Chisora...
Following his impressive showing against Anthony Joshua in October, Carlos Takam is a man in demand.
The French-Cameroonian fighter took time out from his March UK tour – that included a visit to Sky Sports HQ in London – to speak to Boxing Monthly. Accompanied by his promoters, Salvatore and Christian Cherchi, as well as trainer/manager Joseph Germain, Takam also called in on unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua at his training camp in Sheffield.
The two have remained firm friends since the opportunity of a lifetime fell to him to challenge the Watford heavyweight in 2017, albeit at very short notice.
Takam recollected, “Yes, it’s true that I only found out that I’d be fighting Joshua only 12 days before the  October showdown. But I was already in training for another fight and I had even done some altitude training back in August. So I was well prepared and it certainly didn’t affect the result of the match in any way.
"Of course, it would have been better had I had at least a month to work on the strategy and fine tune my preparation. But I’m not one to turn down a fight, especially one of this magnitude. I always want to fight the best and I’m always ready for a challenge. It’s in my nature.”
The fight itself at Cardiff’s Principality Stadium didn’t disappoint. Takam continued, “I think we put on a fabulous show for the fans and hopefully they got their money’s worth. Joshua broke his nose following an unfortunate clash of heads in the second round and then he caught me with a good shot, which led to a nasty cut over my right eye.
"Later in the fight I suffered another cut to my other eye. That was difficult for me to manage as the blood was flowing into my eyes, which was reducing my visibility. I was rubbing them constantly to wipe away the blood. But I had the courage to carry on and I didn’t let it get to me. I told myself, ‘There’s no way that I’m going to quit.’”
And what of the controversial tenth-round stoppage? “I was stunned. The referee [Preston’s Phil Edwards] hadn’t said anything to me previously to indicate that he was thinking about that. At the point he intervened [1.34 of round ten] I felt good physically and mentally.
"I was in no trouble whatsoever. I don’t understand why the fight was called off. If you watch the fight back, you’ll see that Joshua misses with a right hand and he had only landed one or two shots.
“In my opinion, it was the wrong decision but I accept it. In hindsight, I should have been busier in the tenth, and upped the tempo. Congratulations to Anthony, he’s a great fighter and a gentleman. By the way, let me set the record straight on one thing. It’s not true that I turned up at Joshua’s hotel after the Dominic Breazeale fight in 2012 to ask him to fight me. One of my sponsors had invited me to the fight and we happened to be staying in the same hotel. I didn’t know that. We met at dinner and exchanged a few pleasantries. That was all.”
Takam acknowledged the role of the 78,000 spectators in creating a memorable occasion in Cardiff.
“The British fans were fantastic, they love their boxing and are very knowledgeable. At first, they didn’t know who I was and started to boo me. But afterwards, even though I had fought against their man, they started singing my name! I think they appreciated my performance and understood that I put on a great show at such short notice.
"Many even came to my hotel to congratulate me and shake my hand, which was truly humbling. That’s why I’d like to fight again in the UK. You don’t get that in many places around the world.
“I also heard that the Sky commentators said some very complimentary things about me too, which was very nice of them. I’d like to thank all the thousands of fans who follow me and everyone for their support. I’ve been invited as a guest of French television to the Joshua-Parker fight at the end of March, so I hope to see and meet many more of the British fans.
"I look also forward to returning to Cardiff. I want to remain neutral but what I will say is that they’re both good boxers and if they fight to the best of their abilities, I’m sure they’ll deliver another great spectacle for the fans.”
Takam’s love for boxing started as a youngster growing up in Douala, the second largest city and economic capital of Cameroon. “It was never my plan to become a boxer,"" he recalled.
"Me and my friends used to stay up until the early hours to watch the big fights from the States. I also remember when Jean-Marc Mormeck won the world cruiserweight title against Virgil Hill [Marseilles, 2002]. I then joined my local gym and started to get experience in the amateur ranks, albeit against my father’s wishes. He wanted me to prioritise my studies but by then I was hooked.
“I realised my dream of fighting for Cameroon at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. That was always my objective as it’s the pinnacle for any amateur boxer,” stressed Takam. “It was an amazing experience, mixing with so many world famous athletes in the village.
"I remember the American sprinter Maurice Greene sitting next to me in a restaurant and also the NBA star, Allen Iverson. It was surreal. The boxing didn’t go so well, I got beaten in the round of 16 by [the aptly named] Mohamed Aly of Egypt, who ended up winning silver [against future Takam foe Alexander Povetkin, who took gold by way of walkover].”
The 37-year-old realised that he would have to leave his beloved Cameroon and head for Europe if he wanted to make it in the paid ranks. “There were no opportunities from a boxing point of view back home, so I took the decision to go to Europe," Takam recalled.
"My first port of call was Belgium where I stayed for around a year. Then Michel Acariès [whose brother Louis was a former European middleweight champion who lost a very close decision to Britain’s Tony Sibson] took me to Noisy-le-Grand, a Paris suburb.
"He offered me a test against a local heavyweight, which went well, and that’s where I met my coach, [Martinique-born] Joseph Germain, at the Marcel Cerdan gym. I recognised him from Mormeck’s fights on TV and I wanted him to be my coach. That’s how my boxing adventure started. I made my pro debut in 2005.”
Having suffered his first (points) loss in his 19th fight against Frenchman Gregory Tony, Takam would string together a 13-fight unbeaten sequence. “I had wins against experienced campaigners such as the ‘White Buffalo’, Francois Botha, Michael Grant [Takan won the WBF world heavyweight title], a draw against Mike Perez in Canada followed by a points win against Tony Thompson.
"I’m not afraid to fight anyone – the day I feel fear is the day I’ll quit. I’ve only ever boxed the best. I don’t like easy matches. I suffered my second loss against Povetkin in the tenth round in Moscow. I began to tire in the eighth and couldn’t sustain the pace. But you know I always want to fight the best, I relish a challenge.”
The Paris based heavyweight won his next three fights, including wins over Reading heavyweight Michael Sprott and Brazilian George Arias in Turin – his first victory with the ‘OPI Since 82’ promotions company of Salvatore and Christian Cherchi.
Takam explained: “In under six months, Salvatore and his team secured the fight with Joseph Parker in New Zealand [Manukau City, a suburb of Auckland]. I felt as though I enjoyed lots of good spells during the fight and in the end I lost narrowly on points. It was a pretty close call on all three judges’ cards.
"He won fair and square but I should have probably got to New Zealand at least three weeks or a month sooner to better acclimatise. It could have been timed better to factor in things such as jet lag.”
So what does the future hold for the Frenchman [Takam gained his citizenship in 2015]?
“I want to continue to be involved in world level fights and that’s why we’re here in England to speak to Dereck Chisora and see if we can fight on the David Haye-Tony Bellew undercard on 5 May at the O2 in London. Chisora isn’t keen on a fight with Joe Joyce, who has only had three fights. People have asked me in the past about Tony Yoka [who has since been handed a one-year suspended ban for missing drugs tests] but I have no interest in fighting him. By the time he’s at my level, I’ll have retired.
"Chisora would be an exciting match-up – even though he’s a bit crazy, he’s a good guy so I believe it’s a fight the British fans would like to see. Of course, a rematch would Joshua would be incredible, but I don’t care who it is with, my aim is to win a version of the world title.
"I want the world to know who I am. I want a world belt. And I will continue to work hard to realise my goal. We Cameroonians are indomitable lions!”