The Anthony Joshua vs Charles Martin fight that will take place on April 9th in London has some fans slightly unconvinced. Considering the rest of the heavyweight landscape, you can sympathize somewhat. Neither man has been extensively tested at world level, and when they have been tested, both have come away with things to think about. Martin won the title in dubious circumstances, when a knee injury forced Vyacheslav Glazkov to retire in the 3rd round of their January match, and no one knows for sure whether Joshua is capable of winning the title and holding onto it, so rapidly has his career accelerated.
All this makes for an unlikely title fight between two men who have yet to prove their pedigree in a division that has suddenly come alive again. However, the optimist in me says that there are too many positives in this fight that it should be ridiculed in such a way. There are many reasons that should stop people from dismissing this fight too quickly, and I go through some of them below.
Firstly, the only thing that really makes this fight feel awkward is the fact that it is for a world title. Remove the belt from the equation, and suddenly the fight makes complete sense. Two unbeaten young fighters are going to find something in one another that they both need; a stern test. Charles Martin is an awkward southpaw who shows good movement for a heavyweight, and 21 stoppages from 23 victories is testimony to his punching power. However, he is prone to some clumsy work at times, and his hands have a tendency to be anywhere other than in a guard around his head.
That is something that Joshua could exploit with devastating effect. If there is one thing that the boxing public agree on, it is that AJ can hit. His former opponents think so too. Jason Gavern says that he has “been in with everybody… and I’ve got to say, Anthony Joshua is in the top three fighters I’ve ever been in with… [when we sparred] we did around 12 or 15 rounds together. He’s so heavy handed. Sparring with him sucked… every time he hit me it hurt.” However, Joshua isn’t without his faults either. His recent fight with Dillian Whyte revealed a tendency to stiffen up when put under too much pressure, and a left hook that wobbled him in the second round has led some commentators to question the resilience of his chin.
The winner of this fight will have passed a stern test, but will also be under no illusion that there is much more work to do, finding themselves with no choice other than to take on the very elite. The belt that they will earn as the result of winning will put them in the sights of every other heavyweight considered a contender or champion, which means that there are some excellent fights that could be made in the coming year. Joseph Parker and Carlos Takam are in a final eliminator bout for Martin’s title in May, and Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury have expressed interest in facing the winner.
If you asked me if this was a fight worthy of a world title, I’d say “probably not”. But defining this fight by the title alone won’t allow us to see the value it will bring to the sport, and to their careers. Are they respectable opponents for one another? Yes. Will this test them both? Yes. Are we going to learn things about the pair of them? Yes. Will it lead them to face the very best in the division within 2-3 fights? Yes, it will. Will it be exciting? Well… it won’t be Hagler vs Hearns, but it definitely won’t go 12 rounds. Judging by their interviews on Sky Sports’ Gloves Are Off, both men are certain they will get the knockout, and both can provide one.
Enjoy it while it lasts.