It is one of those rare occasions where two virtually untested prospects are competing for a world heavyweight title.
In a surprising and somewhat admirable move, Charles Martin has flown to the O2 Arena in London to make the first and voluntary defence of his newly won IBF title against British rising star and potential boxing poster boy – Anthony Joshua.
Martin could have had an easier first defence – against a Chris Arreola or Dominic Breazeale – but he realises he has a lot to prove after virtually being handed the IBF title on a platter.
“They threw some names at me: Dominic Breazeale, Chris Arreola – but I don’t want one-sided fights. I’m a little bit different. I always take risks,” he told The Guardian.
While a fight with Joshua will be more financially profitable, Martin is more concerned with making a statement and a win over Joshua will certainly bring him some credibility.
Critics say Joshua is not ready, and that Martin wisely played it safe by getting at Joshua sooner rather than later.
When asked whether a title shot is premature by BBC Sport, Joshua audaciously responded: “Opinions are irrelevant, I have to do what is right.”
Conversely, there are many who seem to think Martin has zero chance against Joshua because he has not beaten a top name, even though the same can be said about Joshua.
Joshua showed us against Dillian Whyte – that he is human after all, but can come back from being hurt and return to executing his game plan when it goes off the rails.
Charles Martin has had arguably one of the easiest paths to claiming a heavyweight title in boxing history, but it is through no fault of his own.
Grabbing the IBF belt that was stripped from Tyson Fury and beating formidable heavyweight Vyacheslav Glazkov without landing a clean punch to win that belt has done little to impress critics.
To his credit, Martin showed a calmness and composure during the first two rounds of his first fight on the big stage, which is crucial if he wants to compete at the elite level.
Joshua, on the other hand, let his emotions get the better of him against bitter rival Dillian Whyte and was on the verge of knocking him out before he got clipped badly.
Over the next 2 rounds, Joshua looked frustrated and confused and susceptible to the “Body Snatcher’s” body shots and jabs.
Did Dillian Whyte expose kinks in the chiseled armor of Joshua? It’s unclear, but unperturbed British bookies already have Joshua as a 7-1 favorite.
Perception holds that Charles Martin is the most beatable of the heavyweight title holders.
He is awkward and a southpaw, which – as Tyson Fury has been a testament to – can cause problems for any heavyweight.
In Joshua’s 15 bouts as a professional, he has not fought a single southpaw. Will this be a factor?
One mistake, like he did in the Dillian Whyte fight, and the determined Martin will make Joshua pay.
Both fighters have huge power, yet tend to look robotic at times and can lack body movement.
The advantage in physique overwhelmingly goes to Joshua, but as Tyson Fury demonstrated – physique doesn’t win titles.
Lineal champion – Tyson Fury told BoxingScene.com that the fight could go either way.
“It is a good fight for them both because it is 50-50 and no foregone conclusion,” Fury said.
“More recently Fury changed his prediction and told Sky Sports “If I had to put my money on it, I’d say Charles Martin stops Joshua as he’s a 6ft 5in punching southpaw with combinations, who’s not afraid of people just because they’ve got muscles.”
Tyson will be rooting for his compatriot Joshua, as a unification fight for his belt – that was unjustly taken away from him – will be far more lucrative and could be an event worthy of Wembley Stadium.
“Both of them are big heavyweights, both have a big chance of winning—it’s a good fight. I am happy for him (Joshua), I hope he wins obviously so I can get a big slice of the cake by fighting him.”
Anthony Joshua’s high-risk approach is reminiscent of Evander Holyfield’s first crack at a world title against Dwight Muhammad Qawi after only 11 fights as a professional.
Both chiseled, undefeated former Olympians with great potential and on the ascent. Both lacking experience, yet bravely stepping up to a difficult world title challenge considerably earlier than people expected.
Worn down by the grueling heat of the arena and visibly spent, Evander Holyfield emerged victorious against Qawi with a split decision victory.
The fight earned The Ring Magazine’s benediction of best Cruiserweight bout of the 1980s.
Holyfield lost seven kilos in that fight and was badly dehydrated. A year later, the much refined Holyfield took out Qawi in four rounds.
Like Holyfield did in 1986, Joshua is stepping up to a risky challenge. And Holyfield is one of Boxing’s great champions.
Perhaps it is a prerequisite for a great champion to take on difficult challenges when they present themselves. It is what makes boxing a thrilling spectacle for all fans.
Joshua deserves some credit for being bold enough to take this risky challenge. Is it too early for Joshua? Could this fight surprise everyone and go the distance like the Holyfield Vs Qawi fight?
The fight could definitely go either way, and that is what makes it so interesting.
Joshua is still a raw talent that needs to mature, but at the same time is Martin the finished article yet?
We still know so little about them, and this fight will give us a slightly better understanding of what they have in their arsenal.
It is an opportunity to bring themselves one step closer to legitimizing their place in the wide-open heavyweight division.
Joshua is on the verge of superstardom, as evidenced by the fact that it took just 90 seconds for the fight to sell out, according to Matchroom Promoter Eddie Hearn.
Not only is this a dangerous fight for Joshua, but should he be victorious it will present a new danger for him; he will no longer be able to fight at B level anymore.
Looking through the top 15 ranked heavyweights of the IBF, it is likely Joshua’s next opponent could be New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, who takes on Carlos Takam in an IBF eliminator bout.
Parker called Joshua out in a recent video. “Anthony I am not scared of you. You said when we get together someone is going to get knocked out. Guess what, it is not going to be me,” Parker said.
As for Martin, should he win, a unification fight with Deontay Wilder or Tyson Fury will be too tempting not to pursue.
Both Joshua and Martin seem desperate to make a statement and are both relatively at the same stage of their respective careers.
Martin appears to have an ingrained self-belief. “I know how to move my head and be evasive. Real true analysts see the things I do. They can tell,” he said at the final press conference. Is it genuine confidence or is he selling the fight?
Joshua promises there will be plenty of action – as they are both heavy hitters – and hints towards the intention to produce a Heavyweight Hagler Vs Hearns. “You know what I’m like, I’m a fighter. I’m not going to go in there and dance around and try to evade punches. I’m going to walk through two to give him five. That’s just how it goes, I’m coming for him,” he said at the final press conference.
Big things lie ahead for the winner and the fans want to see a unification.
We have been waiting for an undisputed heavyweight king since Lennox Lewis in 1999.
Who should the winner fight while Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder get through their respective obligations?
Luis Ortiz anyone?