With Pulev injured, Joshua to face Takam

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Unified heavyweight world titleholder Anthony Joshua’s defense against mandatory challenger Kubrat Pulev, scheduled for Oct. 28 at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, is off but the card was salvaged when Carlos Takam stepped in on short notice on Monday.

Pulev withdrew earlier Monday after suffering a right shoulder injury in training last week that was kept secret until it was clear he could not compete.

At that point, Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn went to work to secure a replacement opponent to face Joshua on less than two weeks’ notice rather than cancel a card for which a sold-out of crowd of some 75,000 is expected.

Hearn went down the IBF rankings to secure the next leading available contender and he did not have to go very deep. Takam, whom Hearn already had on standby in case there was an issue with Pulev, is ranked No. 3 by the IBF, right behind Pulev. Takam accepted the bout and it will count as Joshua’s IBF mandatory defense while the injured Pulev will lose his position.

“I received a call from (Pulev promoter) Kalle Sauerland late (Monday) afternoon (United Kingdom time) to inform me that Pulev had injured his shoulder and may be ruled out of the fight,” Hearn said. “This was later confirmed by his doctor. IBF rules state that the mandatory will go to the next fighter in line which is Carlos Takam.

“When the Pulev fight was announced I made a deal with Takam’s team to begin camp and be on standby for this fight. When I called them this evening they were overjoyed and good to go. It’s a difficult position for AJ having prepared meticulously for the style and height of Pulev. He now faces a completely different style and challenge in Takam. This hasn’t happened in his career before but he is ready for all comers on Oct. 28.”

England’s Joshua unified two world titles via 11th-round knockout of former longtime world champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 29, in the leading fight of the year candidate before a crowd of 90,000 at Wembley Stadium in London.

Joshua (19-0, 19 KOs), who turned 28 on Sunday, has made three successful defenses since knocking out Charles Martin in the second round to win the IBF belt in April 2016. He has defended it against two American opponents, Dominic Breazeale by seventh-round knockout and Eric Molina by third-round stoppage, before sending Klitschko into retirement in a fight in which Joshua also claimed the vacant WBA belt.

Pulev (25-1, 13 KOs), 36, of Bulgaria, suffered his only defeat when Klitschko scored a crushing fifth-round knockout against him in a November 2014 world championship fight in what was that year’s knockout of the year. Pulev had won five fights in a row since, including a decision against British contender Derek Chisora and a third-round destruction of faded former world titleholder Samuel Peter to ascend to the mandatory position.

Now Takam, 36, of France, will get the title opportunity. Takam (35-3-1, 27 KOs) has won two fights in a row since losing a competitive unanimous decision to Joseph Parker, who went on to win a heavyweight world title, in May 2016.

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