It’s almost time. With Charles Martin and Anthony Joshua going head-to-head for the IBF heavyweight title in a matter of hours, the eyes of sports fans worldwide are currently pointed directly at The O2 Arena in North Greenwich. Will it be Charles Martin – the relatively unknown southpaw champion, or Anthony Joshua – the London 2012 golden boy? Ahead of tonight’s battle, we spoke to the American Charles Martin about remaining focused, plans to stay in England and his ‘sneaky power.’
Truth be told, Martin seems pretty relaxed about entering the cauldron that is The O2 Arena as the pantomime villain. There’s unlikely to be more than 500 people in the 16,000 attendance cheering the self-proclaimed ‘Prince’ on, but as he told us, it doesn’t bother him one bit.
“I’ll love it. A fighter should never be caught up with the crowd anyway. It could be people cheering your name, or screaming ‘You’re gonna get knocked out!”. I don’t get caught up in it. I’ve learned to channel it out since the beginning.
“I don’t worry about this stuff. I won’t even be thinking about this fight until I’m there – when I’m arriving at the venue, getting my hands wrapped and making my way to the ring. I don’t get nervous – I do this for a living! It’s just another day and another crowd. He’ll be the only person I see in there – tunnel vision.”
Not only did he say he’ll handle the atmosphere with ease, but he also believes he’ll remain in England to fight – should he hang onto his belt. The sport is well and truly thriving on these shores, and the undefeated champion hinted that he perhaps didn’t get the respect he deserved in his native country.
“The boxing’s just popular over here,” He told us. “It’s good for the sport. In America, they’re not focusing in on their champions. They’ve got world champions in their backyard, but it’s like ‘Meh, whatever’. Why would I want to defend my belt over there? I would defend it over there no times if you asked me.”
“England is where it’s at. I want to fight where people respect me. Otherwise, it would be a superstar music artist performing at a bar. You might as well just do karaoke! You get more of a good feeling when you’re in the presence of a packed-out crowd like The O2.”
In spite of being the belt holder, Martin will enter the ring as quite a strong underdog – with odds on a win for the American being similar to those of Tyson Fury beating Wladimir Klitschko in November. We finished by asking him why fans should be backing Charles Martin to prevail in this blockbuster fight, in spite of what the odds tell us. The response was both passionate and genuine. He concluded:
“I’m here to give him his first loss. He’ll learn from this. He’ll learn not to mess with Prince Charles Martin. He’s trying to come in here and knock me off. I am not letting nobody do that to me. My self-pride is too high to let anybody come in and do that. I haven’t ever been knocked out. No fights, no sparring, nothing. Ain’t ever been stopped.
“He’s weak. I’ve got that sneaky power, and I’m going to hit him with some stuff he won’t see. I got sneaky power man. I ain’t just that muscle-bound guy. I’m nice and smooth, nice and lean, and it fools people. Left or the right-hand man. I’ll knock him out with either.”
No matter who prevails this evening, these are exciting times for the heavyweight division. In the next 12 months, we could see some massive unification bouts – some of which will undoubtedly involve the winner of this evening’s contest. May the best man win.