Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Potential Options For New Heavyweight World Champion Anthony Joshua

The biggest story in Boxing’s Heavyweight division continues to be Tyson Fury’s upset victory over long-reigning unified IBF/WBO/WBA/IBO Heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko in November of last year. Sometimes when a longtime champion is defeated after unifying portions of a world championship in a given weight class what can unfortunately happen is the politics of the sport can play a role not only in regard to a potential rematch, but also in regard to whether or not a sanctioning organization chooses to sanction that rematch for its version of a world championship.

It became apparent shortly after Fury’s victory over Klitschko that there would be an issue with regard to the International Boxing Federation (IBF) and its version of the World Heavyweight championship. This was due to IBF number one contender Vyacheslav Glazkov being next in line for a mandatory title defense for the winner of Klitschko-Fury. Klitschko’s option for an immediate rematch however, meant that Glazkov would either have to wait for the winner of the rematch or for the IBF to strip Tyson Fury of its world championship and thus enable Glazkov to fight for the vacant championship.

As most Boxing fans know, Klitschko invoked his option for an immediate rematch a few days after he lost to Fury. Fury being contractually the obligated to face Klitschko in that immediate rematch was thus unable to fulfill his commitment as far as the IBF was concerned. The International Boxing Federation subsequently stripped Fury of the IBF Heavyweight world championship and sanctioned a fight in January of this year between Glazkov and Charles Martin for the vacant IBF world championship.

Whenever two fighters meet each other in a fight for a vacated world championship it is not unusual for either fighter to be criticized or for the sanctioning organization in question to be criticized for sanctioning the fight for a world championship by fans or experts. Even though the fight between Glazkov and Martin pitted two undefeated Heavyweights against each other, the fight was treated with little fanfare and was in fact on the undercard of another Heavyweight world championship fight between undefeated WBC world champion Deontay Wilder and top contender Artur Szpilka.

The outcome of the fight between Glazkov and Martin can best be described as “Inconclusive.” Martin was credited with a knockdown in the third round after Glazkov had slipped and went down to the canvas. Glazkov badly twisted his right knee and even though he beat the count was unable to continue due to what was later revealed to be a torn ACL. Martin had become a world champion in rather undistinguished fashion.

This led to Martin facing criticism from some Boxing fans, who did not hold him in the regard normally given to a world champion. Martin would choose to make his first title defense nearly three months after winning the title and chose to face another undefeated fighter in knockout artist and IBF number four rated contender Anthony Joshua on April 9th. The American Martin would also choose to face Joshua in Joshua’s home country of England.

It was clear that Martin was looking to make a statement in his first title defense against a fighter who had knocked out every opponent he had faced as a professional. Although Joshua entered into the fight having knocked out all fifteen of his previous opponents, he also entered with significant pedigree as an amateur as a former Olympic gold medalist in the Super-Heavyweight division. As a professional, Joshua has only continued to impress having won the British and Commonwealth Heavyweight titles as well as stopping former world title challenger Kevin Johnson for the WBC International Heavyweight title.

Although Joshua had steamrolled through all opposition placed before him prior to this fight it was logical to question whether or not he was ready to challenge for a world championship after only fifteen professional fights. It was also logical to wonder whether or not the atmosphere of the event would have a negative effect on him.

It was clear however, when the two fighters squared off before a sold-out crowd at the O2 Arena in London, England that Joshua was not fazed or intimidated by the occasion. What would happen in this fight should be described as simply one fighter taking advantage of and executing on an opening his opponent left for him.

Joshua began this fight looking like a fighter on a mission as he came out aggressive and almost immediately began looking for a home for his right hand and the process put the champion Martin on the defensive. It was in the second round where the former British and Commonwealth champion would successfully make the transition from contender to world champion.

Joshua connected with a flush right hand to the chin of an open Martin sending the undefeated world champion down to the canvas. Although Martin was able to get up from the knockdown Joshua would drop him for a second time seconds later with another right hand. This time Martin, who had gotten up at the count of nine following the first knockdown would misjudge the count following the second knockdown and get up to his feet right at the count of ten. Anthony Joshua had become a world champion with the type of suddenness and devastation that people clamor for in regard to the Heavyweight division.

The question now becomes what is next for Anthony Joshua? Although Charles Martin chose to get back in the ring rather quickly after winning his world championship, it is not something that is the norm in this day and age. It is possible that the IBF could sanction an elimination fight to determine a new number one contender for Joshua sometime later this year.

If Joshua is intent on climbing back in the ring before a new number one contender can be determined by the IBF there are a few interesting possibilities out there for him. Fighters such as former world champion Bermane Stiverne, Erkan Teper, and former world title challengers Dereck Chisora and Kubrat Pulev may all be viewed as potential options for the new champion.

 This observer however, believes it is more likely that Joshua may choose to wait on the outcomes of the upcoming WBC world championship fight between Deontay Wilder and number one contender Alexander Povetkin, which will take place on May 21st in Russia as well as the rematch between Tyson Fury and Wladimir Klitschko, which is tentatively scheduled to take place on July 9th in England before deciding on his next opponent. No matter who Anthony Joshua fights next it is clear that he has established himself as the latest player in the Heavyweight division and even though there are fighters both at the world championship level as well as contenders in the division, who may have more professional experience than he does, he is a force to be reckoned with and should be taken seriously by all potential opposition.

Although there is no disputing who won this fight and also no questioning as to the punching power of Anthony Joshua, it disturbed this observer to see some fans on social media outwardly criticizing Charles Martin following the fight for what some called an inability to take a punch. Readers who have regularly read my work over the years know that I will always give the benefit of doubt to fighters as they are the ones who get hit by punches. What sometimes gets overlooked by fans however, is that fighters take a risk each time they enter the ring.

They take a risk not only in regard to their standing in a given division as well as potential economic value and future fights that could be made, but more importantly they risk their lives each time they enter the ring to do battle. Although some fans might be critical of Martin after losing this fight and may choose to make an issue of his miscalculation of the count following the second knockdown, it is important to remember as I have often said over the years “Anything can happen at any given time in the sport of Boxing and that is what makes the sport so great.”

This especially holds true in regard to the Heavyweight division. Anyone can get caught at any given time and any fighter can have a bad night. An argument can be made that Charles Martin was the victim of bad circumstances when he won the IBF world championship over Vyacheslav Glazkov in such a fashion that left more questions than answers.

Many champions throughout the course of Boxing history have won world championships only to lose them in their first title defense. This observer believes that Martin is certainly not done as a contender in the Heavyweight division and it will be what he does following this knockout loss that will determine whether this is a mere bump in the road for him or whether the criticisms that Martin has dealt with both before and after he became world champion were justified. He now has a chance to truly answer those critics by showing he can come back from defeat. If Martin is able to bounce back the possibility certainly exists that he could find himself in a potential rematch against Anthony Joshua down the line.

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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