The boxing calendar just got more exciting on British shores.
Less than two hours ago Anthony Joshua, seen by many Brits as the heir to former heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis, announced via Twitter that he will have his first shot at a world title against International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Charles Martin. The fight will be held at the o2 Arena in London on April 9.
— Anthony Joshua (@anthonyfjoshua) February 14, 2016
The date was already stacked overall as welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley will face off for the third time in Las Vegas on HBO Pay-Per-View in what can be Pacquiao’s last fight. Logistically the events won’t interfere with each other as there is a seven-hour time difference between the two cities.
Joshua, who is ranked second by the World Boxing Council, second by the World Boxing Organization, 12th by the World Boxing Association, and fourth by the IBF, has been seen not only as Lewis’ heir in Britain but the overall heir to the division following Wladimir Klitschko. That changed slightly when Klitschko lost the WBA, WBO, and IBF belts to fellow Brit Tyson Fury last November 28. The IBF stripped Fury of their title mere days after winning it since he chose to have a rematch with Klitschko over facing his then mandatory Vyacheslav Glazkov. That led to Glazkov and Martin fighting for the vacant IBF belt on January 16, which Martin won after Glazkov suffered multiple injuries to his right knee in the second and third round.
This is Joshua’s easiest path to a world title since Martin is seen by all accounts as being undeserving of the title he holds. Even though Joshua and his promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing were initially discussing a tile eliminator bout with Carlos Takam to become Martin’s mandatory challenger, this was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It is also a somewhat surprising move by Joshua as he himself has stated he may not ready for a world title shot after he defeated domestic rival Dillian Whyte last December 12.
For Martin this is likely his biggest payday in what is expected to be a shot title reign. It may also indicate that the war chest of power broker Al Haymon, who is technically Martin’s manager, in indeed running dry. This is the third fight in which a member of Haymon’s stable has had to go outside of the Premier Boxing Champions bubble for a good payday. The first two being middleweight Dominic Wade who will face IBF champion Gennady Golovkin on April 23 and welterweight Amir Khan who will jump two weight classes to face WBC middleweight champion Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on May 7. The fights will be on HBO and HBO PPV. Joshua-Martin will likely be picked up in the U.S. by Showtime under its Showtime Boxing International series.
Hearn is likely eyeing a unification bout between Joshua and Fury, should he get past Klitschko again, at London’s Wembley Stadium in what will the biggest fight in Britain for the next few years. However, the path to that fight is not smooth.
First Fury has to overcome Klitschko again, something that is not guaranteed as Klitschko literally did nothing in their first fight and just has to do more than that to win the rematch. The winner of that fight is mandated by the WBA to likely face Cuban puncher and interim champion Luis Ortiz. Facing Ortiz, who has an outstanding amateur background on top of having punching power, may be too risky for either Fury or Klitschko to face and either man may choose to drop the WBA title. The only exception the WBA is allowing either man is a title unification bout with WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
Wilder for his part is likely to face mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin next and has stated that he wants to completely unify the division by the end of the year. Should he defeat Povetkin, Wilder is likely to go after the IBF champion and then the winner of Fury-Klitschko II. In American shores a Wilder-Fury fight is highly anticipated after the two had an impromptu face-off following Wilder’s knockout win over Artur Szpilka on the same night Martin was given the IBF belt.