Former IBF World heavyweight champion Charles Martin must be in a desolate place right about now. Gone is his world title, gone is his undefeated record and gone too, more than likely, is his moment in the spotlight. Heathrow to LAX is going to be a long flight.
Most fans of heavyweight boxing first heard Martin’s name when he was declared Vyacheslav Glazkov’s opponent for the IBF’s vacant world belt. He was 22-0-1 heading into the match with Glazkov, and he had made four successful defenses of his NABO heavyweight belt. The record was largely built up on shows in theaters and casinos. In April of 2015 he knocked out Tom Dallas in the opening round on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko versus Bryant Jennings at Madison Square Garden.
The fight with Glazkov was on a major stage, but the way it went down did not do Martin any favors, nor did it answer any questions about him. Glazkov, who entered the favorite, injured his knee in the third round and Martin went home with the belt after mounting very little in the way of offense. Most people remember Deontay Wilder’s fight with Artur Szpilka from that night at the Barclays Center and not Martin’s fight.
Martin entered his first title defense as even more of an unknown than his opponent, Joshua, who had at least fought all his adult life as a marquee-name fighter. There were no fights in hotel conference rooms or steak houses for Joshua on his way up the ladder. Not surprisingly, Joshua was a very strong favorite, though some money reportedly did come in on Martin as the fight approached.
As champion, what was Martin’s mindset? Was he “fighting Joshua because they offered the most money,” or was he “trying to catch a future star early in his career and start building my legacy.” Martin can be forgiven for taking the money, as his purse was almost assuredly many times bigger than any previous payday.
What is a little harder to forgive is his performance in the fight. Martin talked a good game in the build-up, and promoter Eddie Hearn did his job by providing the fight with a massive stage. But once Martin was in the ring, he looked like a rudimentary fighter. Stiff and tentative in his movements, he didn’t throw a meaningful punch in the first round.
The second round was more of the same, as Martin could not open up. Joshua certainly did, as he realized he had a target that was not moving much. Martin left himself wide open and he found himself sitting on the canvas looking up at the roaring British crowd of close to 15,000.
“I can tell you what happened. I got hit with a right uppercut. That’s what happened. When Larry Holmes hit me, it was the same kind of feeling. I’m going to take it easy, think a little bit, and see what the good Lord has for me to do. Maybe He’s trying to tell me something and I’m not listening.”
This quote by Marvis Frazier, the son of the legendary Joe Frazier, came immediately to mind.
The peaceful look Martin had on his face told the world he must have been having a thought similar in nature to that of the younger Frazier so many years ago. It seemed as if that near smile on his face did a weak job of masking Martin’s embarrassment.
Afterwards, Martin’s protests were nearly non-existent, and he held Joshua’s hand up as the belt went around the British fighter’s waist. Right now, most of the boxing world would bet that Martin’s gesture of honoring the new champion was the last time Martin would be near a world championship.
So what is next for Charles Martin? It would be best for boxing if Martin went back to the drawing board, won a hard fight and then settled in to get in some fights and ring-time. Perhaps if a second chance to showcase his skills on the world stage comes again for him, Martin will be more prepared. Or, perhaps the good Lord has something else in store for him.