The UK loves a heavyweight boxer. From Henry Cooper who famously had Ali in trouble in their bout, to Frank Bruno and of course Lennox Lewis, all were household names and amongst the biggest sports stars in the country. They were front page, not back page news which is the usual home for sports. So in 2012, especially with the Olympic Games being held in London the emergence of a good looking, super heavyweight gold medallist from those shores was the cue for much excitement.
Promoter du jour Eddie Hearn snapped up Joshua who turned pro soon after the games and has had probably the easiest promotional job of his career. Joshua has size, athleticism and a confidence that makes him seem almost invincible to the general British public who have taken to him in their hordes. Any “AJ” fight sells out the O2 Arena in London within minutes, (That’s 18,000 tickets, and could sell twice or more than that) and his most recent fight, with rival Dillian Whyte, who actually beat Joshua in the amateurs, a British Title Fight, headlined an extremely successful PPV card in Britain.
Across the Atlantic, about a month later, “Prince” Charles Martin, a largely unheralded Heavyweight claimed a version of the Heavyweight Title as he won the IBF belt stripped ridiculously from Tyson Fury who had a contractual rematch clause with the former unified champ Wladimir Klitschko. Martin had quietly worked his way up the rankings after taking up boxing at the extremely late age of 22. From a tough background, Martin had spent time living on the streets and is a born fighter in every sense of the word.
Developed by entertainment entrepreneur Michael King who piled money into building a stable of American heavyweights in an attempt to reclaim the golden years of Ali, Foreman, Tyson and Holyfield. Martin took to boxing and found that he was pretty good. He can look deceptively lazy, has a flatfooted, languid style but he can punch , and his straight left (he’s a southpaw) is an underrated weapon. You get the sense that nothing scares Martin, a fight is just a fight, he seemed practically peeved to win the title when his opponents’ knee gave way and hardly a punch had been thrown in anger. Unlike most Joshua opponents he won’t be walking to the ring a beaten man. He’s going to have a fight.
But Joshua is an overwhelming favourite, despite his relative inexperience and wafer thin resume, his power punching and athletic physique make him seem like a super hero. In his last fight against a rugged Dillian Whyte, he was chin checked and severely wobbled early, but came back to win with a devastating stoppage of his own. How Whyte pans out from here will show whether that moment was one that pointed to a suspect chin or proved that he could take a shot as well as give one.
So this is a perfectly teed up title fight, in that you have a power punching, heavily hyped Briton with 20,000 people roaring him on and a nation behind him, facing a tricky southpaw who can bang himself and won’t be intimidated, although it will be a completely new experience for Martin to walk out to fight in front of that many people cheering for his opponent. He brings the championship and Joshua brings the star power. There’s so many unanswered questions with these two fighters it makes it a fascinating matchup, that could puncture the tyres on the AJ hype train, or send him absolutely stratospheric, winning a world title in only his 16th pro fight. Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza is already tagging him “his new Tyson”, he’ll be hoping that it’s Tyson that shows up in Joshua this weekend and not one of his old opponents and fellow muscular Brits, Frank Bruno.