The time is upon us – Anthony Joshua has a world title shot. The undefeated Londoner, largely considered one of the most promising prospects in the sport, will face Charles Martin for the IBF belt at the 02 Arena on April 9th. British boxing fans, already in dreamland with 12 world champions and one of the most exciting domestic heavyweight scenes on the planet, have a chance to savior further success with Joshua’s impending championship clash.
What does this mean in the greater scheme of things? Well, one issue that still lingers is whether the timing is right for the 26 year old. Most of us felt that another 12 to 18 months would have seen him gain the experience needed for such an opportunity, as his current resume, although impressive, has a noticeable lack of current top contender opposition aside from Dillian Whyte. Whyte was badly knocked out in the 7th when the pair faced off, but certainly gave Joshua some things to reflect on during the rounds preceding.
Indeed, it might be one example of where his power has actually let him down; he has dispatched every opponent so quickly, there’s barely been enough time to observe him before the fight is over. Kevin Johnson, never stopped before, was knocked out in two, the combined experience of Denis Bakhtov, Konstantin Airich and Jason Gavern totalled 8 rounds between them and unbeaten Gary Cornish, who was then holder of the IBO Inter-Continental title, was utterly blitzed in 97 seconds. Experience could be a factor against an opponent who has had more fights, fought more rounds, and has still managed to showcase good punching power.
Another query to make is whether Joshua has earned this. Aren’t there other prospects who may ask why they have been omitted from consideration? Well, not as many as you might think, as most of them are busy elsewhere. Luis Ortiz is defending his WBA interim title against Tony Thompson, so he’s out. Alexander Povetkin is reportedly booked for a mandatory shot against Deontay Wilder in April for the latter’s WBC belt, Malik Scott is being touted as David Haye’s next opponent, Erkan Teper, Antonio Tarver and Chris Arreola are facing lengthy bans after failing drugs tests and Tyson Fury & Wladimir Klitschko are deep in talks for their rematch in the Summer.
Then there’s talented Kiwi Joseph Parker, who reveals that while speculation grew of meeting Joshua, Martin’s team had made contact with him in the hope of staging a fight in New Zealand, but the fight never materialised due to the costs that Parker would incur for the privilege. “I just suggested it was ludicrous to even think about the sort of money they were asking for” he explained. “They contacted us to see if we would front with millions of dollars for a fight down here… The money [Martin’s team] were asking for is huge. It’s available in England, but it’s not available here”.
So to England they went and have done enough there to lure Joshua away from his long term plans into facing the unbeaten American in London. The winner would not only walk away with the IBF belt, but also with a name on their records that really would mean something. Martin’s victory over Vyacheslav Glazkov (which earned him the belt) was marred by very little activity in the opening rounds before the Ukrainian succumbed to a serious knee injury in the third, and a convincing win would earn him the belt in a way that the Glazkov last fight didn’t fully manage to.
As for Joshua, well… with the boxers mentioned above otherwise engaged, what else is there to do with him? Other than a fight against someone like Kubrat Pulev, there are precious few fighters left that would silence the critics by providing the “stern test” they so desperately want to see him take. Whether enough time has passed for Joshua to work on the things he learnt in his last fight will remain to be seen, but as it stands, we have a world championship title fight between two unbeaten heavyweights, both of whom can really hit. This should be a hearty recipe for fireworks and is something that we should look to enjoy rather than dissect too much. The champion, Charles Martin, has his first defense against one of the division’s defining up-and-coming fighters and the challenger, Anthony Joshua, has the chance to demonstrate the extent of his potential at the very top of the sport. This should be a good one.