By Allan Cerf
Anthony Joshua, YET ANOTHER late starter to boxing meets not unskilled Charles Martin, an even later-comer on April 9, 2016 On Showtime (USA) and Sky Sports Box Office (UK). At stake is Martin’s IBF Championship Belt.
Joshua, 25 part of super-clever promoter Eddie Hearn’s stable is the friendly, intelligent, British Olympic hero - winner of the Gold Medal at the London Olympics of 2012. Charles Martin, is well a guy who, besides a draw early in his career, is an undefeated beltholder. He won the IBF title when Vyacheslav Glazkov destroyed his knee in the third round and could not continue. It’s very hard to speculate who might have won had Glazkov not been injured, because strangely, prior to the injury, neither Martin or Glazkov had shown any sign of life.
Both fighters started boxing at absurdly late ages, 18 for Joshua, and the unbelievable 22 for Martin. Both have come a long way despite such an obvious handicap. Both are big, with similar reaches so size should play no role in the outcome. Martin is left-handed and looks dangerous in his KO’s but he has that draw and a majority decision (in his favor, please note) on his ledger. He’s older by 3 years. Joshua has a perfect record, 100% with all fights ending before time.
The ultra media-friendly Joshua is all smiles: Gold Medal Winner, loved by an adoring British public, genuinely polite- Joshua could have made it in any number of trades given his intelligence. With his size and athletic ability, it’s not hard to undertand the decision he made. For virtually all male british adolescents, regardless of class, color or background, a coming of age rowdiness is obligatory. Some lads strip lead from the roofs of the local medieval church. Others deface monuments. Joshua says he hung out with the wrong crowd and caught trouble in 09.’ In 2011, age 22, Joshua was pulled over for speeding and then nailed with half a pound of weed with intent to sell. The judge - probably because of what he saw of Anthony’s true charachter, gave him community service. The near-miss saw AJ change overnight - he says the shame to his Nigerian-born family was far worse (for him) than the charges. He now no longer goes out at all, which seems a little extreme. I also immediately questioned his weight lifting when I saw film of him doing it. All wrong for boxing.
Charles Martin, not without power and a southpaw with decent mobility, is undoubtedly the best fighter Joshua has faced. Should he win, Joshua says David Haye to follow- a REAL step up and one which many would pay to see. I applaud Joshua’s calm "let’s get on with it," British approach, while retaining some doubts. His very late start for one. Yes, he had a distinguished amateur career, but was once stopped. In no way did he deserve to win the Gold Medal in London - under heavy fire in 3 different fights and in the minds of virtually everyone, the undouted loser to Cuba’s Erislandy Savon and somewhat less profoundly to Italian Roberto Cammerelle in the Final. Some of the cream of British sports authorities called the decision "home-cooked." Nothing new in the Olympics, and I guess we can’t expect Joshua to cop to it - not in this day and age where you need every break to make it, across the board. So here he comes with his gold medal, youthful face, big smile and the potential to make a fortune in the pro ranks.
Anthony Joshua, of Nigerian descent, was born in England but spent much of his childhood in Nigeria before returing to Great Britain. An all-around athlete at school and despite a short period as a teenage ’tearaway,’ and an early 20’s relapse, AJ seems mature far beyond his years and very attentive to his huge fanbase. Like Lennox Lewis and other boxers who find similarities with chess - he is reportedly an excellent player.
Martin had a decent amateur career but starting so incredibly late (he says 23!) his plan is to literally to get in and out of the game . Unlike say, Andre Dawson, who just doesn’t like the sport, Martin has not said that. In an extended interview which very much impressed me with the clarity of his thinking, Charles said he never stopped pushing as an amateur; same thing in the pros, minimal time off. The laser focus is designed to get him up boxing’s ladder, get the money and then get out. He does not want to linger in the sport as he said repeatedly in the interview. His southpaw stance may be his biggest attribute and while he’s got power and size, he remains something of an unknown, as foolish as that may sound.
Charles Martin is a devoted family man who likes doing whatever his partner likes doing, he states, which usually involves his children, in particular the L.A. Observatory. Born in St. Louis, he had no choice but to fight and certainly didn’t enjoy it. His family, thankfully moved him away and he calls himself a nomad: the family constantly relocating all over the U.S. He got in the obligatory 20-something trouble, but nothing terribly serious, before, like Joshua, straightening up for good. He never dreamed he’d be a boxer he says and after a stint doing construction with other family members, was on the verge of joining the marines when he had a change of heart. The guys at the contruction sight were huge boxing fans and well - one improbable thing led to another.
Average of all letter grades: B
Average of all letter grades: B
. There are 2 peculiar wildcards in this fight in my opinion: Joshua’s crazy weight lifting and Martin’s sleep-walking through a fight he might have been losing against Glazkov. Martin has said that Joshua’s huge muscles could tire him ’late,’ and it sounds as if, in his heart of hearts, he thinks the fight will go long - in which case I agree, the muscles will hurt Joshua, big-time.
. Both fighters are part of a trend?... of late starts in the sport, in these cases, extreme late starts. You can’t help but question how upset either would be if the fight game doesn’t pan out as they’d hoped - though Joshua has tremendously more to lose: endorsements, a wide following - all that ’extra’ curricular money that comes from being famous. Martin is not famous. Neither has claimed that they will become an all-time great; interestingly Martin insinuates a younger Klitscko would have continued to own heavyweight boxing. For the record, current champ Tyson Fury (the real champ) says he was stunned and beaten badly by Joshua in amateur sparring.
. Bottom line: We have 2 equally sized champions one of whom will own a belt (Martin’s) after the night is over. After learning of Martin’s great leaping ability and success in other sports, I rate athleticism as equal. BOTH guys are saying they want to fight the best, immediately, both for now, are doing it. I think Martin however, is the boxer saying it from the perspective of a fairly long-shot that he has no reason not to take.
Fight and Prediction:
A fight we fans love, or I do. Heavyweights who will punch. One career is not over, but hits the ground very hard with a loss. Joshua has more to lose, slightly better boxing skills and is perhaps a little quicker. His weight-lifter’s muscles however, could do him in a fight that goes long.
Joshua by TKO 7