By Alan Hubbard
Boxing’s coming home…to Wembley of course. Where else? Unbeaten heavyweight Joe Joyce leads the way when the sport finally returns to its natural habitat at the world renowned SSE Arena on Saturday night.
Juggernaut Joe personifies the best in boxing, good enough to have acquired an Olympic silver medal – by rights it should have been gold – and as decent bloke out of the ring as he is proficient and entertaining inside it.
What’s not to like about the amiable and athletic south Londoner who takes on the redoubtable slugger Carlos Takam over 12 rounds in defence of his WBC silver and WBO International belts.
So far he hasn’t put a foot – or a fist – wrong in his professional career which has placed him in a leading contender’s spot for a crack at a world title, which should come his way should he beat the teak-tough Los Angeles based veteran who knows the ropes alongside the best of them around the world.
The one certainty is that Joyce will know he has been in a rigorous fight with the 40-year-old from the French Cameroons.
Takam, squat, solid and a formidable roadblock even for a Juggernaut, has tangled with the top boxing brass. While he has taken it on the chin against Anthony Joshua and Dereck Chisora (whom he was really roughing up until he was himself caught cold) he is no pushover and like Joyce he can both box and bang. It should be some punch-up, while it lasts – a heavyweight bill topper for the comeback of big time boxing watched at last by a live audience, as well as BT subscribers.
Not only is this an opportunity for 35-year-old Joyce to demonstrate that he is probably the world’s most undervalued heavyweight but for boxing itself to show that we Brits are not a nation of thugs after the horrific aftermath of the Euros final at Wembley.
I have always enjoyed watching the 6ft 6in Joyce’s training routines and post victory celebrations of cartwheels and backflips that would do credit to an Olympic gymnast. Old timers will tell you is that Joyce possesses what are used to be called a paintbrush left – a jab which colours the nose bright red! Actually it is a truism because, as I have written here before, he really is an artist on canvas, producing paintings good enough for him to aspire to open his own gallery once his boxing career is complete.
At Rio 2016 Joe Joyce, BA – he has a degree in fine arts from Middlesex University – came away with super- heavyweight silver against Frenchman Tony Yoka. But the rumour was that the ringside judges had been prevailed upon for what some in the then dodgy governing body seemed an injustice when another Brit, Anthony Joshua, was given the verdict over the popular Italian cop Roberto Camarelle in what seemed a hometown decision in London four years earlier.
Such was the questionable world of so-called amateur boxing, it was no surprise when Joyce, if somewhat late in his boxing life at 29, opted to turn pro and here he has achieved considerable success being just a punch or two away from challenging for a world belt.
The manner in which he de-fused Dynamite Daniel Dubois in his last bout may have been somewhat controversial when the fellow unbeaten but half blinded Londoner took the knee for pugilistic rather than political reasons. But it shows that Joyce is a genuine force among the world’s best heavyweights. His innate qualities of grit, gumption and determination seems set to prove superior against Takam on a night when Frank Warren has plunged deep into his Queensberry’s reservoir of young talent to present a worthy Wembley supporting cast as the curtain is raised again on Britain’s fistic theatre.
I MET SEB EUBANK only once, backstage at Wembley a few years ago, when his dad was boxing. I found him a charming, chatty and thoroughly likeable young man with a persona distinctly different from his old man and older brother.
Alas, boxing has lost a number of well-known figures recently, most of them passing away relatively later in life.
While this in itself is tragic, Seb was just 29, and had embarked on his own professional career, which sadly has ended abruptly after he apparently suffered a heart attack following swimming in the sea off Dubai where, as a proud new dad, he was residing. Sincere condolences to Chris snr, Seb’s mother Karron and the Eubank family.