They came to see another explosive knockout from Anthony Joshua, the flattening of a 36-year-old journeyman opponent called up at 12 days’ notice to fight heavyweight boxing’s new superstar.
So when the referee moved in midway through the 10th round to stop Joshua administering more punishment to the game but beaten-up Carlos Takam, the 78,000-strong crowd made their feelings known.
Jeers rained down from all sides of the Principality Stadium on Saturday after Joshua’s 20th straight professional victory was sealed. He’d got through an uncomfortable fight with a busted nose and his WBA and IBF belts intact, but his army of fans wanted more.
“I think people wanted to see Takam unconscious on the floor,” Joshua said. “My shorts and boots were white at the start and now they are pure pink,” he added. “It’s the ref’s job to allow the fighter to live another day.”
Fighting for the first time since beating Wladimir Klitschko in April, Joshua was unexpectedly taken beyond seven rounds for only the second time of his pro career as Takam _ a veteran of 40 fights _ lived up to his reputation as a tough, durable opponent.
The Frenchman, an injury replacement for Kubrat Pulev and giving up nearly 30 pounds (13 kilograms) to Joshua, took an eight count in the fourth round after toppling from a left hook and fought on with a cut above his right eye that twice required treatment. He absorbed some big shots and also had a cut over his left eye by the time Joshua caught him with a hook-uppercut combination in the 10th.
Joshua was moving in to land more blows when the referee stopped the fight. Takam shook his head in disgust and many in the crowd booed the decision.
“I don’t know why the referee stopped the match,” said Takam, whose name was cheered after the fight.
Joshua was fighting at the heaviest weight of his professional career _ 254.8 pounds (115.6 kilograms) _ and predicted a grueling slog against an experienced opponent that gets in close and works the body.
It got even trickier for Joshua when the fighters clashed heads in the second round, leaving the Briton with blood streaming from his nose.
Joshua looked frustrated at times, and even showboated in the seventh round by walking into Takam’s range with his arms out and head down, then shaking his head as Takam threw a punch. He was constantly talking to Takam, attempting to draw him in.
“I had to keep my cool,” Joshua said.
The win set up Joshua for a unification fight in 2018 with either WBO champion Joseph Parker or WBC champion Deontay Wilder, though initially he may need to face a mandatory challenger for the WBA belt.
Especially in Britain, Joshua has become a phenomenon, easily packing out big stadiums _ there were 90,000 fans at Wembley against Klitschko, and almost as many at Cardiff on Saturday _ but fighting in the United States, or maybe Africa or the Middle East, does interest him.
“I’ll fight anyone,” Joshua said.