Some doubted if this fight was the right move for Anthony Joshua, worried that the challenger could be found wanting for experience or ability, thrust into a world title fight so early in his career. Those doubts were fading within seconds, and before long they were extinguished completely.
Anthony Joshua had the champion on the back foot immediately, testing him with a series of early right-handers. It seemed only a matter of time before he connected, and when he did – less than 60 seconds into round two – the fight was over. Charles Martin was sent to the canvas, a look of incredulity across his face.
The champion barely beat the referee’s count, and seconds later, he was back on the deck, thanks to another clinical right hander. It was an underwhelming defence, but that was at least in part down to a calm, composed start that gave Martin nowhere to go, allowing his raw power to get the job done with breathtaking speed.
All else aside, Anthony Joshua has become a world heavyweight champion in 16 fights and 34 rounds. Believe the hype. Thanks for joining me. Goodnight.
Tyson Fury hasn’t been slow to respond:
I should add that Martin looked unhappy after that second count, and there are suggestions he miscounted. I don’t think it would have mattered a great deal either way.
Anthony Joshua speaks!
““I ain’t gonna get too carried away. Every heavyweight has power, but it’s about speed. I showed him levels, I said I would. There’ll probably be some negativity, people saying Martin was easy, but a few days ago he was this big dangerous southpaw.”
That’s more of a dig at the critics than Martin, who Joshua is quick to applaud for coming over to London – even though it hasn’t worked out for him. The new champion is not one for bigging himself up, but there’s definitely a defiant edge here.
“I don’t take nonsense from no-one, but I’m humble... all the hype is good for everyone in boxing. Get behind every boxer, not just myself. They’ve been calling me out since last year… I’m going to keep grinding, keep working… when I step into the ring, I’ll be ready.”
Are you listening, Tyson?
Charles Martin’s face, sitting up on the canvas after walking straight into that first right, was an absolute picture. He’d never taken a punch like that in his life, and there was no coming back. Martin won the belt in three rounds, and lost it in two.
Anthony Joshua is the IBF heavyweight champion of the world!
The O2 is an absolute cauldron, every Joshua hit drawing a huge roar. Early in round two, a right hand from Joshua connects – and Martin is down! He looks totally dazed, barely beating the count... and Joshua pounces instantly, ruthlessly, to send the champion back to the floor. The referee ends the fight inside two rounds!
Seconds out, round one... Joshua in the blue corner, Martin in the red. The referee, Belgium’s Jean-Pierre van Imschoot, brings the fighters together to touch gloves. It’s on!
Joshua moves with a left jab, and misses with a right-hander. Martin is reluctant to step in, keeping his left raised. He has an advantage on range, but Joshua is cautious too. A right-hander does connect, and another, exploiting Martin’s upright stance. A couple of swings from Martin, and Joshua lands another right! A tentative start, but that’s Joshua’s round.
Here we go
Twelve rounds of boxing, for the IBF heavyweight championship of the world.
Both fighters look, in truth, a little nervous as the anthems are played out. This is one of those great boxing occasions; a fight that’s easily the biggest of both men’s careers. Who will emerge happy and glorious? There’s only one way to find out...
AJ, like Robin van Persie and Michael van Gerwen before him, is getting the full Seven Nation Army treatment. Sports crowds do know there are other songs, right?
Here comes Charles Martin... the defending champion is greeted with a hail of boos. He’s wearing a crown! Martin wins the ringwalks, hands down.
Here comes Anthony Joshua... In a white robe, to the tune of Mo Money, Mo Problems. It’s a disarmingly casual entrance, in keeping with a guy who plays Fifa the night before fights.
Joshua is on his way to the ring for London’s first heavyweight title fight in fifteen years. It’s time!
Joshua is shadow boxing away in his dressing room. David Haye, alongside Audley Harrison in more convivial circumstances than usual, reckons if Martin can take Joshua beyond six rounds, he can cause some problems. Haye and Harrison both call the fight for Joshua, early. I’m inclined to agree; Joshua in four. Predictions, anyone?
Audley Harrison, haunting Joshua’s big night like the ghost of Olympic gold past, reckons Martin’s southpaw style won’t cause Joshua too many problems. The champion is prowling his dressing room, looking pensive at best, apprehensive at worst.
Who’s next? Ah yes...
After the fighting, a dose of fighting talk from Groves:
I’m very happy... he’s unbeaten, we didn’t know how good he was going to be. I’ve always been great with my jab... I hurt Brophy in the first round, but he showed his strength. I wasn’t going to become reckless, the body shot showed the power I’ve got. Everybody wants to talk about me like I’m a fading fighter... I spent two years with a trainer who wasn’t getting the best out of me. I’ll fight anyone. Absolutely anyone.
Round four gets under way, and soon enough, a right-hand body shot takes the wind out of Brophy. He’s down, and he’s out. Groves wins very comfortably inside four rounds.
Groves v Brophy – round three: A cut under Brophy’s right eye, which first appeared in round one, has begun to open up after another tough round for the underdog. Groves isn’t taking any chances, landing with a few solid shots as Brophy grasps for a foothold in the fight.
Groves v Brophy – round two: Brophy on the defensive, allowing Groves to weave around him at will. Groves has had weight concerns in recent months, but his fitness hasn’t been tested at all here.
Plenty of famous footballing faces ringside tonight, including Jamie Redknapp, José Mourinho and Joshua’s good buddy, Watford’s Troy Deeney. Mourinho has said he admires the respect between Joshua and Martin, which will mean a lot coming from him.
There are also a couple of boxing legends sharing a sofa at home to watch the fight.
Groves v Brophy – round one: Groves has started strongly, and Brophy is against the ropes very early on. Groves keeps his hands low, using the jab to rock Brophy back. The Scottish fighter rallies late in the round, landing a right-hander, but it’s Groves’ round.
Time for George Groves, who is up against the dangerous David Brophy as he aims to battle back to another world title shot. Groves has lost three – two to Carl Froch, one to Badou Jack. It was just two years ago that Groves topped the card at Wembley, entering on an open-top bus, while Joshua boxed in daylight...
Benn, introduced as The Destroyer, marks his debut in fearsome style – unleashing a flurry of body shots to break his opponent down within two minutes, a crunching left ending the fight! Dad Nigel, sharply turned out, is straight in the ring to celebrate with Benn Jr. Plenty of potential even in that 120-second cameo...
Coming up, Nigel Benn’s son Conor takes on Ivailo Boyanov in a four-round contest, and George Groves fights David Brophy before the main event, which looks unlikely to start at 10.30pm. In the meantime – tonight’s headliners have the nicknames ‘Prince Charles’ and ‘AJ’, which are both pretty rubbish. Suggestions for new ones, please.
Selby defeats Hunter on points, the judges scoring the fight 115-111, 116-110, 116-110 in the champion’s favour. He retains the IBF world featherweight title after a stern examination from Hunter, who lost his focus after a blistering start. Carl Frampton may be on the horizon for the Barry boxer.
The tale of the tape
Martin weighed in at 17st 7lb – one pound heavier than Joshua, who tipped the scales at, you guessed it, 17st 6lb. The champion, born in St. Louis and based in Carson, California, is an inch shorter than Joshua at 6’5”, and three years older.
The defending IBF heavyweight champ has fought 74 rounds in his career – more than double Joshua’s tally of 32. Joshua has a couple of belts himself – he’s the current British and Commonwealth champion. He’s also still the defending Olympic champion – only Muhammad Ali and Leon Spinks have held world and Olympic titles at the same time.
The two men are ranked just inside the world’s top ten by Ring Magazine – Joshua at No8, Martin at No9. Both of these men have also never lost a fight – Martin has won 23, 21 by knockout, and drawn one. Joshua has won all 15 of his fights by knockout – 14 of them inside three rounds. Someone’s 0 has to go.
The undercard action is well under way at the O2 Arena, with Matthew Macklin beating Brian Rose on points in a scrappy middleweight bout, before Jamie McDonnell defended his WBA bantamweight title in style, dominating late replacement Fernando Vargas and forcing a stoppage in the ninth.
There’s a humdinger in progress between IBF world featherweight champ Lee Selby and US fighter Eric Hunter, who dramatically put Selby on the canvas in round two. Hunter has threatened throughout, but has also been penalised twice for low blows, and Selby looks to be well ahead on points after eight rounds.
We need to talk about Tyson
Ever since Tyson Fury stunned Wladimir Klitschko, and an entire arena, in Düsseldorf, he’s been on an apparent collision course with Joshua. Fury announced a rematch with Klitschko this week, but his mind still seems set on his compatriot:
Fury also had a hefty hand in this world title fight even happening – it was his (perfectly reasonable) decision to fight Klitschko again, rather than mandatory challenger Vyacheslav Glaskov, that saw him stripped of the IBF belt. Martin fought Glaskov, who retired with a knee injury, and here we are.
The two fighters have been engaged in an unseemly war of words on social media in recent days, with Fury vowing to “throw it on the floor and piss on it” if he ever gets the IBF belt back. Charming. Fury’s luck does appear to be in today:
Welcome to a world title fight with a difference. Less than four years after winning Olympic gold – and around a decade since he first pulled on a pair of gloves – Anthony Joshua will fight for the right to call himself a world champion.
Joshua, who has fought just 32 rounds in a dominant professional career, finds himself fighting for the IBF world heavyweight belt, worn by Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis and, for almost ten years, Wladimir Klitschko. Tonight’s opponent, Charles Martin, hasn’t earned his place in that company yet, but he has the belt. Martin, an unheralded southpaw fighter, took his chance after Tyson Fury was stripped of the title, one of many he prised from Klitschko’s grasp back in November.
Martin has been widely touted as the underdog, against a challenger who appears fixed on the path to greatness. The American still represents a big step up for Joshua, who has swatted his previous opponents aside in brutal fashion – save for January’s scrap with old enemy Dillian Whyte. This may be an unexpected world title opportunity, against a champion without the usual lustre, but Martin still has an unbeaten record and awkward style that should worry Joshua.
Defeat would put a significant dent in Joshua’s reputation and aspirations; victory would see him vault into a different league. A world title is a world title, whatever the circumstances. Is AJ ready for his date with destiny? We’re about to find out. Ringwalks at around 10.30pm BST; news and build-up to come.
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