By Frank Lotierzo
IBF heavyweight title holder Charles Martin stands 6-5 and weighed 249 1/2 in his last bout. His opponent and challenger Anthony Joshua stands 6-6 and weighed 245 in his last bout. Martin is 29 years old and Joshua, a gold medal winner in the 2012 Summer Olympics, is 26. They're both undefeated and also believe they represent the future of their division which at one time was the flagship division in professional boxing. Neither has been in the ring with a top-10 contender. A major difference between them is that there's a ton more money invested in Joshua's future.
Joshua, because of his looks and Adonis build, is somewhat the new template of what the world heavyweight champion might look like in 2016. He projects the strength of a fighter who can break anything he hits. Just on physicality alone Joshua could pass for being an NFL tight-end, an NBA power forward or, as I stated, the heavyweight boxing champion. His presence gives him a big edge over his contemporaries when it comes to selling tickets and becoming a star. His earning potential is limitless, especially in the UK. If he beats Charles Martin Saturday night he'll put himself in position to make a fortune staying at home fighting other British heavyweights while at the same time virtually shutting the U.S. out of big money heavyweight bouts for the next 18 months.
When handicapping big fights, one must take into consideration why certain match ups are made. Martin 23-0-1 (21) very easily could've made a couple of low risk title defenses before meeting Joshua 15-0 (15) for even more money. The fact that Martin was so willing to meet Joshua on Joshua’s turf at this stage indicates how confident he and his backers are that he can beat Anthony. They know Joshua is the establishment favorite and there's more glamor and pageantry in him winning, which in all likelihood translates into the judges seeing things through the eyes of Joshua more than Martin, yet that didn't scare them away. And it's not lost on Team Martin just how much of an injection Martin's career would realize if he beats the new “next must see heavyweight.” And if he loses, as long as he was competitive, he's still in the running for another big fight down the road.
As for Team Joshua, they weren’t willing to risk the return on their big investment this early unless they're as sure as can be regarding the result. Joshua and his backers jumped at the chance of fighting Martin. Their eagerness indicates that they believe Martin is the path of least resistance to the title and also that they believe their fighter has all the tools needed to win without further refinement.
Earlier this week Joshua predicted that Martin wouldn't last past the sixth round. “He’s not my toughest opponent yet. Right now, looking at Charles, he’s a counter-puncher, he’s laid back, he doesn’t work the full rounds. It should be a nice controlled fight. The Dillian Whyte fight was a tough fight. We were both hungry. The guy was very strong to the head, that was a tough fight for sure. So I don’t think Charles will impose those type of threats that Dillian did.”
Martin retorted, “Everybody thinks that he’s a superstar. I know that he’s green. I know he’s not ready. I’m gonna get him right now while he’s green…take him out.”
As for Joshua’s prediction of a KO by round six, Martin stated, “He’s not ready. He’s gonna get tired like he always does thinking he’s only gonna go five rounds. He’s gonna get tired and that’s when I’m gonna jump on his head. Period…I know I’m gonna knock him out! In the Dillian Wyhte fight, he got real tired. He has no footwork, he can’t box, he can’t move. The only thing he’s relying on is his power and I’ve got more tools than that. I’m more than just a powerful puncher. I can do it all!”
Charles Martin seems like a decent man, and because of that it's hard to be a staunch critic. However, when I watch Martin fight, I see a total beginner, and not even that gifted a one. He pushes his punches and his back foot is often times not planted when he throws his left cross from his southpaw stance, and the punch loses a lot of its power. And he has a bad habit of leaving himself exposed for a counter-right hand, a punch Joshua used a lot during his demolition of Kevin Johnson when they fought last year.
Martin's offense is very vanilla and lacks imagination and, as Joshua pointed out, he never fights a full round. And Martin, at least to me, looks lost after combinations of three. As if he's saying to himself subconsciously, I threw the jab, cross and hook, now what, and then he has to recalculate. If I were to describe Martin's offense, I'd simply say, “He throws punches and hopes.” I think if he were an Eastern European or Midwestern American fighter, not many would take him seriously.
Joshua is a much more thoroughly tutored fighter with a relatively solid rudimentary background. When Anthony cuts loose, he doesn't stop and the punches keep coming until the dynamic changes. Unlike Martin, Joshua doesn't lean in and lunge, he moves in taking half steps at a time. And once he's inside there's a big difference. Joshua can get off with quick short hooks and uppercuts in close, which is rare for a fighter with such a long reach. Anthony is direct and his concise punches from the center are accurate and hard….whereas Martin has to step back and create distance once inside because he can't fight in close quarters as effortlessly as Joshua can.
It's a fact that neither Martin nor Joshua has really been tested by an upper-tier contender. But Joshua is coming off of a spectacular knock-out over Dillian Whyte who entered the bout 16-0 (13). During the second round Whyte caught Joshua with a big left hook on the chin that really shook him. Whyte proceeded to go in for the kill and had Anthony holding on. Joshua survived the roughest patch of his career and came back and knocked Whyte out in a devastating fashion in the seventh round. That may have been a blessing in disguise for Joshua, because its things like that which hardens a fighter and once they pass a couple of those kinds of tests their confidence escalates.
Charles Martin has had a few more fights than Anthony Joshua, but Joshua has been in with better opposition and is slightly more tested in his 32 rounds as a pro than Martin has been in his 74 rounds as a pro. Against Dillian Whyte, Joshua boxed when Whyte wanted to brawl and then attacked when Whyte was looking to rest and regroup and showed versatility that Martin has yet to exhibit.
On paper Joshua gets the check in every column when sizing up the match. I wouldn't be surprised if Joshua took Martin apart and stopped him early or if he looked ordinary and won a closely contested fight. However, I would be surprised if he lost. When I tabulate the money and brain trust behind him that willingly accepted the risk, along with he's the better technician with more tools…..I can't pick against Joshua in this fight.
I see Charles Martin as the first mile marker on the expressway to Anthony Joshua becoming a big star, and a wealthy one who will be selling out major venues in the UK for the next 18-24 months.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com