It’s been a bit of a farce really, hasn’t it? Following one of the greatest sporting upsets of the 21st century in November, Tyson Fury found himself stripped of the IBF belt less than two weeks after he claimed it. His contractual rematch with Wladimir Klitschko meant he was unable to face his mandatory challenger (Vyacheslav Glazkov) within the specified time period, leading to the Ukrainian squaring off with the little-known but more than respectable Charles Martin for the honour of being crowned heavyweight champion of the world.
The January bout took place at the Barclays Center in New York on the same card as Wilder vs. Szpilka, with Glazkov the slight favourite to win on the night. What followed next was nothing short of a disaster. Having gone down twice in the third round (neither caused by a punch), Glazkov had no choice but to give up on his title dream, having unfortunately sustained a pretty serious knee injury.
The belt was awarded to the underdog – American southpaw Charles Martin. Not only had he won the IBF title in a short night’s work, but he’d earned a staggering $433,300 in the process – his biggest payday by a landslide.
Then, the mad scramble began. A world title had been claimed by a relatively unknown fighter who was yet to beat anyone with any real credibility. All of a sudden, the IBF route became the golden gateway for all promising heavyweights. Perfect for Anthony Joshua, you’d think.
The formula seemed clear – avoid Wilder, Fury or Klitschko while still developing, claim a world title, become even hotter property on the world stage, put on a few less-than-meaningful defenses before finally risking it in a multi-million-pound super-fight.
Many – myself included – actually thought the Martin fight would come after one more tune-up bout in April. After all, 15 professional bouts (all of which have ended fairly abruptly), isn’t a great deal of experience for a fighter on the verge of stepping up to world level.
Eddie Hearn had other ideas, however, and kudos to him for paying to bring a world champion over to England. Though Martin certainly won’t roll over, it should be a fairly routine and explosive win for Joshua once he adjusts to the American’s unconventional southpaw style.
So why did Martin elect to stage his first defence across the pond, against one of the most powerful and devastating fighters on the planet? Does he simply want to prove a point and gain some credibility? Does he genuinely feel like he has Joshua’s number? Probably not.
Money talks in boxing, especially when you’ve never had a million dollar payday. If it’s about the money and exposure, Martin will know Joshua is the man to fight – but would other big offers have arrived if Matchroom had stalled and fought for the EBU title instead? You’d have to assume they made him – and Al Haymon -an irrefutable offer.
$400,000+ for fighting Glazkov is nothing to stick your nose up at, but imagine being able to earn at least five times more by risking a belt practically given to you anyway. It’s a win-win for Martin. If he gets knocked out, it’s fine – nobody expected a great deal from him anyway. If he wins, he becomes a household name, and his stock goes through the roof.
It would be great if the new IBF king came over and looked like a credible, dangerous champion on April 9, but I just can’t see it. Does anyone really mind, though? Martin can head home with enough zeros in his bank account to last a lifetime, Anthony Joshua can call himself a world champion and Matchroom can begin to plan out his first couple of comfortable defences. Who knows? Dillian Whyte could even get his world title shot in a ‘Bad Intentions’ rematch before the turn of the year.