Anthony Joshua v Charles Martin: Briton aims to unify heavyweight division

By Ben DirsBBC Sport at the O2 Arena
Anthony Joshua set to 'go to war' with Charles Martin
Charles Martin v Anthony Joshua
Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: 9 April
Coverage: Live BBC Radio 5 live commentary (from approx 22:30 BST); live text commentary on BBC Sport website

Anthony Joshua has vowed to unify the heavyweight division as he prepares to fight IBF champion Charles Martin at London's O2 Arena on Saturday.

Joshua, 26, is bidding to become Britain's sixth heavyweight world champion in only his 16th fight.

American Martin, 29, is making the first defence of the titleexternal-link he won in January.

"[Beating Martin] is only the first step. There would still be a few more belts to get my hands on," said Joshua.

"I love all the hype and attention but it brings a lot of pressure and gets the blood boiling. I've got to keep a lid on it.

"But on Saturday you will see what you always see: 'AJ' coming to war. If I'm not ready after 12 weeks in training, there's nobody to blame but myself."

Martin, who turned professional at 23 after quitting his job as a construction worker, predicted he would knock the challenger out early.

Charles Martin and Anthony Joshua

"I can whack. And when I see the opportunity, I'll whack him," said Martin, who won the vacant title when Vyacheslav Glazkov retired from their fight with a knee injury.

The champion, who has 23 wins (21 KOs) and one draw from 24 professional fights, scaled 17st 7lb at Friday's weigh-in. Joshua, who has 15 wins (15 KOs) from 15 fights, was a pound lighter.

British champion Joshua is bidding to become only the third man to win a professional heavyweight world title while still a reigning Olympic champion.

Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, won light-heavyweight gold in 1960 before dethroning Sonny Liston in 1964; Leon Spinks won light-heavyweight gold in 1976 before dethroning Ali in 1978, in only his eighth paid fight.

While nobody has won a world heavyweight title faster than Spinks, Joshua stands to beat Ali (20 fights), Lennox Lewis (22) and Mike Tyson (28).

The Londoner is a big favourite with the bookmakers, but some observers, including WBA and WBO champion Tyson Fury, believe Martin's southpaw stance could cause Joshua problems.

Joshua has not faced a southpaw since joining the paid ranks in 2013, while Dillian Whyte landed with plenty of left hooks when they met last December.

"I was getting hit with the backhand a bit but not I'm defending it, slipping it and countering," said Joshua, who is aiming to become Britain's 12th reigning world champion.

"I've had three southpaws over [for sparring] and now I'm more switched on."

Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte
Joshua's stance has come under criticism from people such as Tyson Fury - Dillian Whyte is pictured here in December dealing a blow to the IBF challenger

Meanwhile, Joshua's promoter Eddie Hearn admitted he was apprehensive about his chances.

"Josh is not the finished article by any means and if he'd fought for a world title in six fights' time, I wouldn't have been as nervous," said Hearn.

"But Charles Martin isn't that experienced either. So I expect them to go toe to toe.

"That's great news for fight fans, but bad news for anyone close to Josh. I expect they will be watching the fight through their fingers.

"But there will be 25-year-olds down the pub watching this, as well as 85-year-old grandmothers knitting jumpers. Josh transcends the sport of boxing."

The IBF belt was stripped from Fury when the Manchester boxer opted for a rematch with Wladimir Klitschko rather than a mandatory defence.

Should Joshua beat Martin and Fury beat Klitschko in their rematch on 9 July, a blockbuster meeting between the two Britons would be inevitable.

Conor Benn
Conor Benn, son of British boxer Nigel, is on the undercard for the Martin-Joshua fight

There are two other world title fights on the undercard of Martin-Joshua, with Wales' Lee Selby defending his IBF featherweight title against American Eric Hunter and Doncaster's Jamie McDonnell defending his WBC bantamweight title against Mexico's Fernando Vargas.

Also on the bill, three-time super-middleweight world title challenger George Groves takes on David Brophy, and former world title challengers Matt Macklin and Brian Rose meet in a make-or-break middleweight contest.

Conor Benn, son of British boxing legend Nigel, makes his pro debut.

Britain's heavyweight world champions
*Herbie Hide and Henry Akinwande won the WBO belt at a time when it was lightly regarded

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