It is the toughest task in matchmaking. The fight before the title fight.
You need an opponent who is tough but not too much of a threat. Somebody whose name will attract interest rather than criticism. Somebody who will make your man work for his victory without emptying his tank. The stakes become even higher when the next fight is for the heavyweight title.
This weekend Joe Joyce fights the respected Carlos Takam at Wembley Arena with a world title shot within sight. It is a dangerous thing to say but it feels like Warren’s team have made the ideal choice of opponent. For all the latest fight odds, visit our sportsbook.
“I’ve seen so many things over the years where guys have had the number one position and fallen over. It does happen,” Warren told 32Red. “What people forget about Joe is that although he’s had a wealth of amateur experienced as a pro he’s only had 12 fights. They’ve all been at a decent level though and he has built a decent record.”
“Now we’re in a position where we can’t afford to fall and we’ve got to get this one out of the way. Then we can sit back and wait and see what happens with Anthony Joshua and Oleksandr Usyk. The WBO will decide what happens then. Joshua will have quite a few mandatory challengers due.”
Joyce (12-0, 11 KO’s) is one of those mandatory challengers. The winner of the fight between Joshua and Usyk will be obligated to defend the WBO belt against him. However, boxing is never quite as simple as that. Joyce may sit proudly atop the WBO rankings but, as Warren said, there is no date set in stone for his shot. He needs to stay busy and Takam has been chosen for the job. Joyce is heavily favoured but Takam will be there for every second of the fight,
“Takam’s manager – Joe DeGuardia – really fancies the job,” Warren said. “Joe’s no mug and they really fancy it. This isn’t a case where we can say Joe [Joyce] will be too young and too fresh for him. We do hope that he will be too fresh for him but he’s certainly not too young. Takam has a lot of experience and we know he comes to fight. If he can put Joe out of his stride, that might cause him a few problems. We want Joe to go out and look good.”
British and Commonwealth welterweight champion, Chris Jenkins, defends his titles against Ekow Essuman on the undercard and junior middleweight hope Hamzah Sheeraz will make his latest appearance. The British scene at 154lbs has been bubbling away without really boiling over for a while now and the unbeaten Sheeraz (12-0, 8 KO’s) might just be ideally placed to burst through.
The 22-year-old has been earning rave reviews from boxing experts and insiders – David Haye and Carl Frampton both sang his praises after his last outing – and is beginning to latch on with fans. This weekend he fights 15-1 Spaniard, Ezequiel Gurria, and has another opportunity to further build his reputation as one of Britain’s most talented prospects.
“Hamzah is coming through and looking the business. I think we’re gonna get a good show out of him. He can really fight the kid,” Warren said. “He reminds me – and don’t get me wrong, I’m not going over the top here and comparing him – but physically he’s built like Tommy Hearns. He throws really good body shots and not many tall, rangy guys do that. It’s usually all based on the jab. He can do that but he can really fight inside too. Providing they are no problems on the way up, I really do think that he’s a good, talented fighter.”