When iconic Boxing announcer Michael Buffer’s trademark phrase ‘Let’s get ready to rumble’ rang out in the O2 Arena in London on April 9, all the build-up to Anthony Joshua’s big fight with IBF Heavyweight Champion Charles Martin came to a head. Martin had won the title in January of this year as a result of a third-round injury to his Ukrainian opponent Vyacheslav Glazkov and this was his first defence and a real chance to test his strengths about the young British phenom. Joshua won the 2012 Super Heavyweight Olympic Gold medal in his home city of London and went pro in October 2013. In just over two years, the Watford-born boxer had won 15 fights with 15 knockouts and had the chance to make history in this fight by winning a world title faster than legends like Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson in terms of fights fought.
From the entrances it was clear the Joshua was confident of victory in the fight, and despite all of his bravado, notably coming out with a crown (did no one inform Charles Martin that ‘Princes’ do not wear crowns?), Charles Martin did not seem that confident and that materialised itself in the first round. He was very tentative and seemed reluctant to test his chin against Joshua’s power, allowing the Brit to dictate the pace of the fight and pressure the American for the first round. The second was exactly the same and the first clear shot that Joshua landed dropped Martin to the canvas and whilst he beat the count, it clearly startled him.
Seconds later AJ was to land another right hand, almost a carbon copy of the first, that dropped ‘Prince’ again and this time he failed to meet Jean-Pierre Van Imschoot’s count. That second shot send euphoria through The Rule where I was watching the fight and it was clear that there was a sense of national pride in Joshua becoming IBF World Heavyweight Champion in 16 fights with 16 knockouts.
Yet, he is the second Brit to win a world title in the last six months in typically the most popular weight division in the sport of Boxing, but elicited a completely different reaction from that of Tyson Fury. The fundamental reason for that is because Fury is someone that is hard to buy into – his views on members of the LGBT+ community are abhorrent and he is a sexist and misogynist, all of which adds up to a fairly deplorable person. Whilst Anthony Joshua is no angel and in 2011 was caught speeding and in possession of cannabis, he carries himself as a gentleman and has remained humble throughout since winning Gold in London.
Much as people in Britain could be proud of boxers like Henry Cooper, someone who was a gentleman and was completely likeable, AJ is someone who people can be genuinely proud to say is one of our own and is a great representative of both British boxing and Britain on the whole. Assuming Fury beats Klitschko in their July rematch, a fight with Joshua at Wembley Stadium inevitably awaits, but Joshua’s win opens the heavyweight scene right up. This is a transitional period for the division, with the Klitschko’s almost gone and those memorable other faces of the early 21st century now retired. Joshua is part of the new breed ready to take over and re-establish the appeal of heavyweight boxing.
Who, therefore, should Joshua fight next? Probably not Fury, despite the huge money involved in that fight, as there are so many more options available and currently their schedules do not align and AJ should not sit on the shelf when he is clearly so fresh . A rematch with Dillian Whyte, the only man to seemingly offer some resistance to Joshua is a possibility. Dereck Chisora is a fairly big name and could materialise whilst there are other European names out there like Johann Duhaupas who are not as big a name but are a defence of the belt.
Joshua fights with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable and Hearn is keen to get him fighting where American audiences can see him for potential matches across the Pond later in his career with Deontay Wilder and possibly Luis Ortiz. With that in mind Joshua could probably face someone like Bermane Stiverne in London with the fight available to American audiences to build his reputation further over there. Glazkov, the man Martin ‘beat’, is owed a rematch due to the nature of his defeat but a torn ACL will entail a long recovery period and therefore that is not a match for the immediate future.
In my opinion, the next fight on the horizon for Joshua will be against the victor of the IBF title eliminator fight in May. This sees highly touted New Zealander Joshua Parker (18-0-0, 16KOs) take on experienced Cameroonian Carlos Takam (33-2-1, 25KOs). Parker is favourite for their bout and should he get through unscathed, a July date is possible to meet Joshua. Regardless of who he fights next, Anthony Joshua is World Champion and unlike Tyson Fury, he is a champion that we can be proud of.