It’s becoming a predictable script. Last weekend, Anthony Joshua once again blitzed an opponent, who was dropped twice in the process and like many others, failed to hear the starting bell of the third round. Except, this most recent fight was so very different. The opponent in question was (now former) world champion Charles Martin, who was brimming with confidence during fight week. Brooding and understated, he talked all the right talk and had the reserved aura of a champion by rights.
Fast forward to the immediate post-fight aftermath and his shroud of mystery had been well and truly lifted. Two thunderous right hands pierced Martin’s guard, the second of which was enough to convince him that Joshua was a step too far. Sluggishly getting to his feet and offering muted complaints at being counted out, he openly wanted nothing else to do with an opponent who just hit too hard. He walked back to his corner having given up his title with barely a protest, and slinked away into the night.
So… another belt has made its way to the UK, and the British heavyweight scene has just got even more interesting. However, despite the nature of Joshua’s success, we should encourage some reservation as we look to what might lie ahead for him. What is certain is that Martin did not provide the extensive and thorough examination that many critics feel Joshua is in need of undergoing. These same critics would say that is unsurprising; Martin hasn’t faced anyone on the ‘world’ stage before and won the title in dubious circumstances, when a knee injury rendered Vyacheslav Glazkov unable to continue in the 3rd round of their January title fight.
Which if course raises questions about whether Martin was a bonefide champion himself. Without being disrespectful, the bell sounded for the first round, and he found himself immediately out-jabbed and unable to cope with an opponent who showed improved footwork and movement. The exchanges all went in Joshua’s favor, and the knockout came a round later. Watching the fight again, it was obvious that even ‘AJ’ expected to work a little harder, shrugging to his corner as the referee waved the fight off. “What more do you want me to do?” he seemed to say as his team embraced him.
My instinct tells me that Joshua won the belt just as much as Martin lost it. Maybe the occasion got to him, maybe he isn’t as good as the title said he was, or maybe he just had an off night, but the Charles Martin we were promised just didn’t show up. Whatever the case, it is extremely unlikely that Joshua will be able to do away with the likes of Tyson Fury, Alexander Povetkin, Joseph Parker or Deontay Wilder in the same manner. Now he is a champion, those kinds of fights will not be far off, and all the above fighters could very well possess the tools needed to derail Joshua’s rampant charge towards the history books.
But despite my hesitance, I take nothing away from the new champion. I am truly delighted for him, and it is certainly not his job to give himself a hard night’s work; if he can finish every fight in such fashion, then he absolutely should. It’s clearly working for him at the moment, and none of it seems to be going to his head. He impresses in the ring, trains hard in the gym, lives the life, and comes across well in interviews, and he does it all with a degree of balance and self awareness that escapes so many fighters who become superstars.
I do wonder what will happen though if his unstoppable force meets an immovable object, or if he can’t pin down an opponent long enough to apply that force. Does he have a solid enough Plan B to take on the division’s elite? I now firmly believe he belongs among them, but beating them is another thing entirely.
The fantastic thing is, now that Joshua has a belt, it is very likely that we will get to find out sooner rather than later.