Joshua vs Takam controversy: Fight prematurely stopped or perfect timing?
This past Saturday night, in front of a near capacity crowd at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, undefeated Heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua (20-0, 20 KOs) successfully defended his IBF, WBA and IBO titles against always game and deceptively tough Carlos Takam (35-4-1, 27 KOs) of Cameroon.
(Image courtesy of Sky Sports)
Despite dominating the seemingly overmatched 36 year old contender for nine plus rounds, many spectators and observers felt the stoppage called by third man in the ring, Phil Edwards, was a bit premature.
It's a constant struggle within the brutal and unforgiving pastime...the safety of the ring participants vs. the plight of the paying customers.
According to ringside commentator for Sky Sports Carl "The Cobra" Froch, both arguments for and against the stoppage are understandable.
"Look, referee Phil Edwards did nothing wrong...but I wanted to see the fight carry on."
"Yeah the fight was stopped too early, but Phil Edwards is not at fault," stated the former WBC Super Middleweight titlist to iFL TV. "He's up-close and personal with both fighters, while the fans aren't. Takam was bleeding heavily, all down his face, and he was hurt badly after losing every round up to that point. So why go on?"
"So the public can see him get badly hurt? It's wrong, isn't it?"
When talking about the entertainment value and natural drama of a prizefight, it's a bit more risky for the active participants than the players involved in game five of the MLB's "World Series", in which sports fans walked away feeling thoroughly satisfied after seeing numerous lead changes and high drama on the sport's biggest stage.
Unlike the popular American sport, boxing cannot release a disclaimer which reads, "no athlete was injured during the making of this very real drama."
It's been an ongoing discussion and controversy since the advent of pugilism.
"Look, the sensible people will say it was a good stoppage," Froch clearly points out. "The barbarians, which were all of the people here tonight, want to see a clean stoppage. They'll be saying it was stopped to early."
"I like to see a conclusive finish. I like to see someone knocked out cold."
The former prizefighter turned ringside analyst knows something about the perpetual debate involved with "premature" stoppages.
Back in November of 2013, the Nottingham favorite was defending his versions of the 168 pound championship against then undefeated George Groves, and was seemingly losing the fight on all judges' scorecards before hurting and ultimately stopping the rugged title challenger in the ninth stanza of their scheduled twelve round championship bout.
Many spectators and critics of the stoppage felt Groves should have been given the opportunity to continue.
"Howard Foster stopped the fight in our first fight at the right time, but it could have gone on," admits Froch. "If a fight can go on, we want to see it go on, don't we?"
"As paying customers and spectators, we want to see the fight go on, and why wouldn't we? We want to see how Joshua reacts in round 11 and 12...he was getting tired...to see how Takam would have fought in those championship rounds. It would have been interesting."
So who's correct in their collective assessment...the fans who wish to see the fight play out to its natural conclusion, or the spectators who favor the safety of the fighters first and foremost?
One can argue that the sport would potentially cease to exist either way. Without considering the safety of the fighters, most athletes would stop wanting to participate. But without the approval of the paying customer, the sport would fail to have an interested audience over time.
Can the sport find a happy medium?
Boxing fans often herald time-capsule bouts like Gatti/Ward 1, Corrales/Castillo 1, Ali/Frasier 1 and 3, etc. as some of the greatest fights of all-time, but don't like to consider the lingering health issues all participants were forced to endure as a result of their respective efforts.
Are fighters expected to undergo life-altering punishment every single time they step in the ring...all for the sake of legacy and entertainment?
At least pugilists on the world class stage are getting paid handsomely for their respective risks.
Are fighters at the world class level taking less punishment than the club-level participant who only earns $400 per round? Does the sport value these collective warriors' safety any less?
At the end of the day boxing is a business. It's supply versus demand. If the paying customers are happy with the product, they'll continue to pay for it.
But will the supply continue to be there if the fans don't always consider the safety of the fighters, and vice versa?
It's a question that will continue to be asked as long as there are fights being staged around the world.