Olympic Gold Medalist Anthony Joshua took on IBF World Champion, Charles Martin in a packed out O2 Arena on Saturday night. In his 16th professional fight, did the bout come too soon for the 26-year-old?
The answer is simple… no. It was a masterstroke from Eddie Hearn and the rest of Joshua’s team.
The term ‘hype job’ has been floating around the boxing world recently regarding Anthony Joshua and his alleged premature title shot. With the likes of Tyson Fury, as well as the now, former IBF Heavyweight Champion Charles Martin attempts to unsettle the Brit with the term and start the usual mind games which always has a part to play in a fight of this magnitude.
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However the attempt at getting under Joshua’s skin did not prevail. 17,000 fans within the O2 Arena witnessed Joshua approach the ring in a calm and collective manner. Dressed in white like his childhood hero Muhammad Ali, the former Olympian mirrored the aura the boxing icon brought into the ring.
On the other hand, Martin managed to display similar, Ali-like traits. His sense of confidence was epitomised by the crown he wore to the ring however it was the crown which foreshadowed the end of his brief reign as champion.
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It took AJ two rounds to dethrone Martin, who came into the ring with an abundance of confidence as he claimed to have never been hurt in the pro ranks. The opening bell saw two cautious men approach the centre of the ring, wary of each other’s power resulting in the opposite to the frantic scrap some had predicted.
Unlike Joshua’s opening round against Dillian Whyte back in December, you could see Joshua was calculating his opponent and measuring that right hand. Martin approached the fight in the same cautious manner; looking for the counter as Joshua moved in seemed to be the general idea behind his start.
Despite the patient start and Martin’s reluctance to take the fight to Joshua, the second round saw the fight open up a bit more and the pace gradually increase. With Martin getting in close and waving a wayward jab, Joshua produced a devastating straight right hand which caught Martin flush on the chin and sent him to the floor. The Champion looked towards his corner in despair followed by a sly grin. He took the full eight count before getting onto his feet and what followed was a mirror image.
Martin got caught by the same shot and although he contested the 10 count, it is fair to say, there was no coming back from those shots and the stoppage was rightly called by the referee.
It wasn’t Joshua’s win that surprised everyone, but the way in which he won. The amount of maturity shown was commendable compared to the war that he was in a few months ago against Whyte. He knew he had to establish his boxing skills and the effect of his power would prevail in due course.
The reflexes he showed to counter the lead right from Martin uncovered a new layer of Joshua’s boxing ability in the pro ranks. With the ability to box on the back foot and counter, he will no longer be considered a one-dimensional fighter intent on getting that knockout in the first round.
Matchroom Sport and the rest of Joshua’s team must get some credit for this victory. The faith they had in his ability and confidence to let Joshua fight for a World Title so early on in his career was a pure masterstroke. They realised Martin was arguably the weakest of the three current Heavyweight Champions and the way in which the fight was negotiated was both swift and rewarding for Joshua.
His stock level has risen to another level following this victory and his stronghold of the British Boxing’s ‘casual’ market is clear to see. He has used his Olympic status and exposure through Sky Sports in his favour and has arguably established himself as Britain’s biggest PPV star.
Whatever the future may hold for Anthony Joshua, it is safe to say he has now taken a step into the big time. With the IBF title to his name, he will become an increasingly sought-after fighter. With the likes of Tyson Fury (25-0) and David Haye (27-2) calling out the new IBF Champion, it is a matter of time until we see the mouth-watering domestic Heavyweight fights on British soil.
However, it still might be too soon to put Joshua in the ring with the likes of Fury, Haye and Wilder for that matter. The next few defences are essential to his development. They could either leave him in good stead or consequently leave him short in his preparation for the inevitable big unification fights.
It is reported Malik Scott (38-2-1) will be Joshua’s next opponent, with the fight scheduled to take place sometime over the summer. Scott has the ability to produce a decent performance and could give Joshua much needed rounds due to his experience. However, it can be argued that Scott’s previous losses to Wilder and Chisora via stoppages could mean an easy night's work for Joshua who after his last display, hits as hard, if not harder than the WBC Champion Deontay Wilder.
Another potential opponent is New Zealand’s Joseph Parker (18-0) who is in an IBF final eliminator against the veteran Carlos Takam (33-2-1). Parker has a resume filled with stoppages but his levels of opposition thus far in his career are significantly weaker than Joshua’s and it is widely accepted Joshua would make easy work of Parker who, like Martin, could freeze in the limelight.
As for now, Joshua should take a step back and take in his accomplishment. He is a highly humble individual who understands the notion of hard work. He has the title around his waist and the world at his feet. The hard work starts now, his creation of a legacy starts now.