Notebook: Joyce faces Takam with heavyweight title shot at stake for him

Berlanga update; 'ShoBox' results; Charlo mandatory; Quick hits

The mission is clear for heavyweight contender Joe Joyce: Defeat former world title challenger Carlos Takam and secure his position as the mandatory challenger for the WBO title.

Joyce will square off with Takam in a 12-round fight on Saturday at the SSE Arena, Wembley in London. The card will stream in the United States on FITE (2:15 p.m., $12.99) and air live on BT Sports in the United Kingdom.

Joyce goes into the fight knowing that a win will put him in a mandatory position to eventually challenge the winner of the fight between three-belt titleholder Anthony Joshua, Joyce’s British countryman, and current WBO mandatory challenger Oleksandr Usyk. They meet on Sept. 25 in London.

“I will happily take on whoever wins, but I would love the opportunity to fight Joshua,” Joyce said. “I think he will want to fight (champion Tyson) Fury so we will have to see what happens there, but I am on the WBO track and looking to be made mandatory.

“I think Usyk could be a tricky fight for Joshua, but he should knock him out sooner or later you would think. It is heavyweight boxing, so you never know, but Usyk is no joke. He is an Olympic gold medalist, a very skilled southpaw, so he will probably pose Joshua problems with his good footwork and ring craft. I do think Joshua will get to him, sooner or later.”

England’s Joyce (12-0, 11 KOs), 35, who was the 2016 Olympic super heavyweight silver medalist, lost a five-round decision to Usyk, the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, in a World Series of Boxing bout in 2013.

Before he gets a chance to fight for a world title, he must take care of Takam (39-5-1, 28 KOs), 40, of France, who has won four fights in a row since back-to-back knockout losses to Joshua, who stopped him in the 10th round of a world title defense in October 2017, and Dereck Chisora, who stopped him in the eighth round in July 2018.

Joyce plans to hand him another KO loss.

“I'll be going for the knockout finish and that is what I am planning to do,” said Joyce, who is coming off his biggest win in November when he knocked out then-undefeated countryman Daniel Dubois in the 10th round to win the vacant European title. “It is all about getting the right fights and I think this is one to get people talking. It will keep me ready too for when I get my turn to fight for the world title.

“(Takam) is a respected opponent who has been in with the best, like Joshua and also Chisora, who has been mentioned to fight me but I don't think he wants it. It is going to be a great fight. (Takam) is coming to throw a spanner in the works but I’m not going to let that happen. It’s going to be a tough fight but I think it’s something I can overcome. It’s exciting and this is why I’m in boxing. I’m going to deal with Takam and then go on to win a world title and become a world champion.”

Takam, as usual, is confident and aiming to throw a wrench into Joyce’s plans.

“I hope you are ready for this fight because I've come here to win,” Takam said. “You won't beat me, I'm sorry. This is my time. This is Carlos Takam time. I will see you on Saturday Joe and I am here to win, not to lose. See you boy. I am ready for the win, definitely.”

At Friday’s weigh-in, Joyce was 268.14 pounds and Takam 248.8.

Berlanga plans

Super middleweight knockout artist Edgar Berlanga, one of boxing’s most exciting prospects, will next fight on the undercard of the third Tyson Fury-Deontay Wilder heavyweight championship fight on Oct. 9 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told Fight Freaks Unite on Friday.

Arum said Berlanga (17-0, 16 KOs), who will face an opponent to be determined, would fight in the final televised bout on the ESPN portion of preliminary bouts that will precede the start of the pay-per-view telecast at 9 p.m. ET.

“That slot will be great exposure for Berlanga,” Arum said of the 24-year-old Puerto Rican from Brooklyn, New York. “He’s one of our rising stars.”

Berlanga knocked out his first 16 opponents in the first round until being forced to go the eight-round distance in his last fight on April 24 in which he knocked down Demond Nicholson four times in a one-sided decision.

If all goes well for Berlanga and he comes out healthy on Oct. 9, Arum said he then would fight at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 11, the night of the Heisman Trophy award show that ESPN televises from New York. Top Rank and ESPN have made the slot immediately following the awards show an annual boxing event in New York.

“And then we want to bring him to fight in Puerto Rico, where the fans will love this kid,” Arum said.

Arum said the main event of the Dec. 11 card was not yet determined but could feature former three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the former pound-for-pound king. Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs), 33, of Ukraine, lost his unified lightweight world titles to Teofimo Lopez in October but bounced back for a very impressive and one-sided ninth-round knockout of Japanese contender Masayoshi Nakatani on June 26 in Las Vegas.

‘ShoBox’ celebrates 20 years

Almost 20 years to the day since Showtime’s prospect-oriented series “ShoBox: The New Generation” debuted on July 21, 2001, with a card at Bally’s in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the series put on an anniversary tripleheader at the Heartland Event Center in Grand Island, Nebraska, on Friday night.

Super middleweight Isaiah Steen (16-0, 12 KOs), 24, of Cleveland, won a unanimous decision over Kalvin Henderson (14-0-1, 10 KOs), 31, of Fayetteville, Arkansas, in a bout that was originally scheduled in October but postponed when Henderson withdrew during fight week with an illness.

Henderson was aggressive but not nearly effective enough as Steen, who is the half-brother of junior middleweight up-and-comer Charles Conwell, controlled the fight with his jab and movement and was rewarded by the judges with scores of 97-93, 97-93 and 96-94.

In the third round an accidental head butt opened a cut over Henderson’s left eye. The round featured good two-way action with both men landing hard shots. The fight did not feature sustained action but there were bursts of it with Steen typically getting the better of it.

In the co-feature, welterweight underdog Shinard Bunch (15-1-1, 13 KOs), 21, of Trenton, New Jersey, appeared to handily defeat Janelson Bocachica (17-0-1, 11 KOs), 22, a Puerto Rico native fighting out Detroit, but was saddled with a split draw. One judge had it 97-93 for Bunch, one had it a shocking 96-94 Bocachica and one had it 95-95. Bunch seemed to win easily as he dictated the fight. He outboxed Bocachica in virtually every round and landed an abundance of clean head-snapping jabs and right hands that Bocachica had no answers for.

In the opener featherweight Martino Jules (11-0-2, 2 KOs), a 24-year-old southpaw from Allentown, Pennsylvania, took a clear decision against Armenia native Aram Avagyan (10-1-2, 4 KOs), 30, who badly missed weight by coming in at 129 pounds for a fight contracted at the featherweight limit of 126. The fight proceeded with Avagyan paying an undisclosed amount of his purse to Jules, who knocked Avagyan down with a left hand in the final minute of the bout and won 79-72, 78-73 and 77-74.

Jermell Charlo mandatory ordered

The IBF this week ordered three-belt junior middleweight titlist Jermell Charlo to next make a mandatory defense against Bakhram Murtazaliev.

The sanctioning body sent a letter to Charlo promoter Tom Brown of TGB Promotions and Jolene Mizzone of Main Events, Murtazaliev’s promoter, notifying them of the order and reminding them that Charlo’s IBF mandatory was due on June 26.

They have until Aug. 20 to make a deal or a purse bid will be ordered.

What that means is that if Charlo (34-1-1, 18 KOs), 31, of Houston, wants to maintain his IBF version of the title — he also holds the WBC and WBA belts — a potential rematch with Brian Castano, the WBO titleholder, would not be for the undisputed championship.

Murtazaliev (19-0, 14 KOs), 28, of Russia, stepped aside to allow Charlo and Castano to meet for the undisputed title on July 17 in San Antonio but the fight was ruled a split draw with both sides expressing interest in a rematch. Part of the step-aside deal was for Murtazaliev to get a fight on the Charlo-Castano undercard, where he won a lopsided eight-round decision over Khiary Gary.

Murtazaliev had previously stepped aside to allow last September’s unification fight between Charlo and then-IBF titlist Jeison Rosario.

It remains to be seen if Murtazaliev would accept another step-aside proposal to allow Charlo-Castano II. Murtazaliev became the IBF mandatory challenger when he outpointed Jorge Fortea in November 2019 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the Canelo Alvarez-Sergey Kovalev undercard.

Quick hits

WBC interim heavyweight titlist Dillian Whyte’s next fight still likely will be in the United States but a month later than initially discussed. Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn had said Whyte might be on an August card on DAZN, although nothing was set. On Thursday, Whyte (28-2, 19 KOs), 33, of England, told Fight Freaks Unite that while nothing is confirmed just yet his next fight “looks like it’s September in USA.” Whyte, who has boxed once previously in the U.S. in 2017, is coming off a one-sided fourth-round knockout of Alexander Povetkin on March 27 in Gibraltar to regain the interim belt and avenge a knockout loss to him in his previous bout.

Manager Tim VanNewhouse, who in April left Split-T Management after a six-year stint to go out on his own, has signed the first fighter of his new endeavor in amateur heavyweight standout Najee Lopez, 21, of Atlanta. The 6-foot-2 Lopez began boxing at age 13 and had more than 140 amateur bouts. He was a two-time national champion, 2020 Puerto Rican Olympic alternate, gold medalist at the 2019 Olympic qualifier nationals and a 2018 National Golden Gloves finalist. VanNewhouse said Lopez will make his pro debut as a cruiserweight on Aug. 14 in Atlanta.

Heavyweight Murat Gassiev (28-1, 21 KOs) knocked out Michael Wallisch (22-5, 15 KOs), 35, of Germany, in the fourth round on Thursday at the Dynamo Volleyball Arena in Moscow. Gassiev, 27, of Russia, a former unified cruiserweight world titlist, nailed Wallisch with several hard shots in the fourth round before dropping him with a clean overhand right. He beat the count but moments later the referee stopped it as Gassiev pounded him. The fight was Gassiev’s second heavyweight fight since losing his cruiserweight belts in a unification fight for the undisputed title to Oleksandr Usyk in July 2018. Gassiev then moved up in weight but injuries, promotional issues and the pandemic caused long stretches of inactivity.

Kenshiro Teraji (18-0, 10 KOs), 29, of Japan, will make the ninth defense of his WBC junior flyweight title when he faces countryman Masamichi Yabuki (12-3, 11 KOs), 29, on Sept. 10 the Kyoto City Gymnasium in Kyoto, Japan, organizers announced this week. Teraji won the belt by decision from Ganigan Lopez in 2017 and is coming off a decision win over Tetsuya Hisada in a defense on April 24 in Osaka. Yabuki has won five fights in a row.

Boxing will return to Washington, D.C., for the first time in more than 18 months, a layoff caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Hometown light heavyweight Dusty Hernandez-Harrison (34-0-1, 20 KOs), 27, will headline the Sept. 4 show in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be named at the Entertainment & Sports Arena, the home arena for the WNBA’s Washington Mystics and the Capital City Go-Go of the NBA G-League. Also on the card, which was announced on Thursday by Rising Star Promotions, will be super middleweight Demond Nicholson (23-4-1, 20 KOs), 28, of Laurel, Maryland, against Atlantic City, New Jersey, native Decarlo Perez (17-6-1, 5 KOs), 30, in an eight-rounder.

Show and tell

Amir Khan has had some big losses but also some big wins. When he was at his best, he was fast, powerful and very dangerous, and he had a good run as a junior welterweight world titlist. One of the most impressive wins of his career came when he met Zab Judah in a 140-pound title unification fight. Khan, who was making his fifth defense, dominated Judah, who was making the first defense of his third junior welterweight title reign. Khan strafed Judah with combinations, bloodied his nose and mouth and then knocked him out with a body shot in the fifth round. I covered the fight on July 23, 2011 — 10 years ago on Friday. Here is my ringside credential.

Joyce-Takam photo: Queensberry Promotions; Berlanga photo: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Charlo photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

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