Boxing’s heavyweight title has always lured both a casual and hardcore audience to arenas and television screens alike. Muhammad Ali, ‘Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson are among heavyweight greats etched in folklore of generations past. The latter of which was arguably the last heavyweight champion to truly captivate the public’s attention on a large scale. To his credit, Wladimir Klitschko held an iron grip on the heavyweight strap over a ten year span, thwarting the attempts of all credible challengers to topple him from the throne. But, whilst being technically capable, Klitschko’s somewhat cautious ring style failed to ignite public interest on a scale similar to his predecessor’s.
The barren wasteland of credible challengers has seen some growth in the last eighteen months. Manchester born heavyweight Tyson Fury, traveled behind enemy lines and replaced Klitschko as the heavyweight kingpin, beating Klitschko over twelve rounds in Germany. Across the pond, knockout artist Deontay Wilder has continued to deliver some eye pleasing moments. Despite facing some questionable opponents, Wilder has displayed moments of quality such as the Stiverne fight.
Staying on this side of the pond, Cuban heavyweight Luis Ortiz looks to be a threat to any current belt holder. Coming off a knockout victory over seasoned veteran Tony Thompson, Ortiz currently sits at #1 on the WBA rankings. At thirty seven years of age and almost four hundred amateur bouts reportedly, the career clock is ticking for the Cuban.
Across the Atlantic, a star was born almost four years ago at the 2012 Olympic games. Representing Great Britain, London native Anthony Joshua, finished out his amateur career as an Olympic gold medalist. A committed student of the game, with a marketable look and personality, Joshua was a potential cash cow for the UK market.
Joshua’s rise through the professional ranks coincided with the retirement of David Haye and a somewhat stalemate of British heavyweights. The highly touted David Price had failed to fulfill the potential many had bestowed upon him, losing back to back fights to Tony Thompson. Derek Chisora’s stock had continued on a downward trend, coming up short against Vitali Klitschko, Tyson Fury and David Haye in recent years. Fury’s rise had moved at a pedestrian pace before the Klitschko bout, with the UK public not exactly coming in droves to support the Manchester man. Circumstances created an opening for a heavyweight that could connect with the UK fan base.
Anthony Joshua’s journey to this point has been relatively unscathed. Dispatching opposition such as Kevin Johnson, Gary Cornish and most recently Dillian Whyte. With a calculated ring style, level headed demeanor and a solid support system around him, Joshua looks the part thus far. Eddie Hearn has matched Joshua conservatively, allowing for a minor step up each time out. On paper, an IBF world heavyweight title fight should be an extensive step up in class from Dillian Whyte. But, the fact Charles Martin is the current belt holder after stopping Vyacheslav Glazkov, makes this a level playing field experience wise.
Charles Martin turned professional four years ago. Carrying an undefeated record (23 wins 1 draw), Martin never reached the heights Joshua did as an amateur. The pinnacle of Martin’s amateur career was becoming the National PAL champion and runner up in the 2012 National Golden Gloves championships. But, as we have seen numerous times over the years, success as an amateur holds no guarantee of success in the professional ranks.
Four years entrenched in the paid ranks, one could argue Joshua has faced a slightly higher level of opposition overall. The manner of victory over an experienced veteran like Johnson in his thirteenth fight, whom had gone the distance with Vitali Klitschko, Chisora and Fury, speaks volumes of his potential. Joshua has gone about each job in a professional manner.
On his part, Charles Martin has smoothly sailed up the ranks. After turning professional in the back end of 2012, Martin had an active 2013. Notching up eleven victories over the twelve month period, Martin was the first fighter to stop Joey Dawejko, and handed Vincent Thompson and Glendy Hernandez their first professional losses. The following year, Martin won the vacant WBO NABO heavyweight title by beating another previously undefeated fighter in Alexander Flores via KO in the fourth.
Martin’s crowning moment arrived in unfortunate circumstances in January this year, when he met Vyacheslav Glazkov for the vacant IBF title. Glazkov suffered a knee injury in the third round and was unable to continue, allowing Martin to leave the ring with the title. Nevertheless, Martin like Joshua, has continued to bowl over those put in front of him. At a similar point of their careers and twelve rounds to reinforce or shatter the hype, the winner is on the verge of stepping into the deep end of the division.
Anthony Joshua tipped the scales earlier today at 17 stone 6lbs, whilst the champion stepped off the scales weighing 17 stone 7lbs. Should Joshua leave the O2 Arena tomorrow night with the IBF strap draped around his waist, the UK will hold the lions share of the heavyweight honors. Martin, in Joshua’s backyard, will hope to be the second American in recent years to quash the ascent of another highly touted heavyweight on British soil.