Joshua eyes rare unification; Wilder, Fury, Parker in sight

Anthony Joshua will now look to add the WBO and WBC titles to unify all four heavyweight belts. Stu Forster/Getty Images

Anthony Joshua did exactly what he had to do on Saturday night and pummelled Carlos Takam for 10 bloody rounds to leave the brave Frenchman in a miserable state at the end.

There was a tiny outrage at the referee's messy intervention but the awful truth, on a harsh night in Cardiff, is that Takam was nine rounds down going into the tenth. Each eyebrow had an open wound, which had been inspected by the ringside doctors. Takam might just register as the toughest man Joshua has fought when, at some point in the next 10 years, the British idol retires.

The endless quest for Joshua's next test continued in the minutes after victory as he stood in the ring, rubbing his cracked nose and looking back on a performance that was at times perhaps too measured.

"I will give the people what they want. I will fight anybody," said Joshua from the ring. The nose injury was caused by a nasty butt in round two and forced Joshua to blow out large plumes of blood as he struggled to keep his airways clear. A doctor later confirmed that it was not broken, just badly bruised and swollen.

"I needed to do a professional job. I needed to take him out safely," Joshua insisted. He is right and he did, offering few highlights as he slowly battered Takam until the six or seven unanswered punches forced the referee to intervene.

The crowd of just under 80,000 booed. They always do, but Takam's complaints in the ring were muted by his own corner who had to go immediately to work to shut the cuts across his brows. Takam did more than he promised and silenced any doubters with his resistance.

Joshua has been linked with the WBO champion Joseph Parker, the WBC champion Deontay Wilder and the absent champion Tyson Fury. Right now Joshua has the IBF and the WBA belts and no heavyweight has ever managed to unify the four belts.

The WBO has been operating for 30 years and was not part of the unified parcel Lennox Lewis held. Joshua wants all four in his collection and he has the appeal, the standing as the number one heavyweight at the moment to make it happen. Joshua might not be the best heavyweight on the planet but he is the best known and the most popular.

Fury is back on the fringes, threatening to shift some weight and apply for a licence somewhere before it is simply too late for him to be relevant. He beat Wladimir Klitschko to win the WBA, IBF and WBO titles in Dusseldorf in November 2015 and has not fought since.

He is the man that Joshua wants the most, the man that Joshua knows he has to beat. The fight is, however, a year or more away from ever happening. Fury is 29, unbeaten in 25 fights and Joshua is 28, unbeaten in 20 fights: they have some time on their side.

A fight with Parker would see Joshua acquire an important piece of jewellery if he leaves the ring with Parker's WBO belt. Parker is also on Fury's list after the unbeaten New Zealander sneaked a tight decision over Fury's cousin, Hughie, in September.

If Fury can get in shape, win the WBO belt, then he could be the one chasing Joshua and the belt would give him some bargaining power. However, there are some procedural problems for Fury to overcome before he fights and the small matter of shifting as much as 10 stone.

The fight that has obviously been most talked about is a showdown with Wilder, the dangerous but reckless WBC champion. Wilder defends his title for the sixth time on Saturday in New York when he meets Bermane Stiverne.

Wilder has only been the full distance once in 38 fights and that was against Stiverne back 2015 and since that night he has biffed and bashed his way through five defences against men just like Takam.

Wilder has not met Fury, Parker or the exiled Russian, Alexander Povetkin, and is a long, long way short of being the most avoided heavyweight in history. Wilder and his people believe they are the attraction and they also want a fight with Joshua to be in the USA.

"He can make so much more money fighting Joshua here in Britain," insisted Hearn. "He's the world heavyweight champion but he is not the attraction in the fight. Anthony Joshua is the attraction and he doesn't need to go running to America to fight."

Joshua wants to keep busy, possibly fighting three times next year and I simply can't see how he fights inside again -- admittedly the roof was up at the Principality Stadium -- and that would mean stadium fights with crowds of 60,000 or more. He could be back in Wales in twelve months after stops at Wembley and even the Theatre of Dreams, Old Trafford.

There will no doubt be the usual offers from various promoters in some new and exotic fighting outposts for the right to stage a Wilder vs. Joshua fight. Lagos and Dubai will be mentioned, both making bold claims with an intoxicating mix of promises and there is even an outside possibility that Saudi Arabia wants to be part of the boxing game.

Joshua is a boxing scholar and dreams of his own 'Rumble in the Jungle', the night Muhammad Ali ruined George Foreman, and 'Thrilla' in Manila', the final brutal fight in the Ali and Joe Frazier series.

The great fights and fighters of history are never far from Joshua's mind and that is what convinces me he will be involved in something epic on the road. "They were unforgettable fights, the fights that shaped history," Joshua said.

Big Joshua wants to be part of a history he adores and next year he will start to seriously make his own claim to a long-term position in the heavyweight pantheon if he can fight Wilder, Parker and even Fury.