By Keith Idec
A year after Anthony Joshua knocked him out, Charles Martin made a successful return to the ring Tuesday night.
The former IBF heavyweight champion stopped journeyman Byron Polley in the second round of their non-televised fight at Fitzgeralds Casino & Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi. Martin (24-1-1, 22 KOs) dropped Polley (30-21-1, 13 KOs, 3 NC) twice before their scheduled 10-rounder was stopped at 51 seconds of the second round.
The 31-year-old Martin, of Carson, California, hadn’t fought since England’s Joshua (18-0, 18 KOs) floored him twice and knocked out Martin in the second round to capture the IBF belt last April 9 at O2 Arena in London.
Highlights of Martin’s comeback victory were televised as part of a Premier Boxing Champions “Toe-To-Toe Tuesdays” telecast on FS1.
“I’m just back to finish what I started,” Martin told FS1’s Brian Custer during a post-fight interview at ringside. “It was a long journey [to win the title]. I didn’t want it to end like that, but it did. Now I’m back and I’m ready to be undisputed, like my plans were originally, undisputed champ.”
The powerful southpaw also fought for the first time Tuesday since he was shot in the right forearm during an unsolved August 2 incident in downtown Los Angeles. According to published reports, an unknown assailant shot Martin, who was a passenger in a car, and fled the scene.
Martin underwent emergency surgery to treat his wound. Before Tuesday night, he hadn’t discussed that incident, nor a series of alarming social media posts last year.
“They’re behind me,” Martin said regarding those problems. “I was in a dark place for a moment, you know, and I’m just happy to have come up out of it. I’m in good shape now. I’m in a good place right now, so we’re gonna keep it like that.”
Martin also said an injury prevented him from facing Joshua at his best.
“I wasn’t 100 percent,” Martin said.” I got hurt prior to the fight, so I couldn’t perform. My head wasn’t in the game. I couldn’t perform. I was hurt.”
The former champion didn’t divulge the nature of that injury. When reached by BoxingScene.com later Tuesday night, Martin declined to elaborate on what he had said about being injured during the broadcast.
Meanwhile, Martin expects to take a brief break after Tuesday’s victory before returning to the Kronk Gym in Detroit, where he’s now trained by Javan Hill.
“I’m putting in the work, the dedication,” said Martin, who expects Joshua to beat Wladimir Klitschko on Saturday in London. “I’m fully focused on just boxing. It’s all about boxing now.”
Hill, a nephew of late legend Emanuel Steward, also trains WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson (28-1, 23 KOs) and former WBC super middleweight champion Anthony Dirrell (30-1-1, 24 KOs).
“He’s a good dude,” Martin said of Hill. “That’s a good man. He’s got a good heart. He knows the game. He knows the basics and that’s what I needed – the basics.”
Martin hopes Hill can help him regain the form that enabled him to win the IBF championship. Martin won the then-unclaimed title by technical knockout in January 2016, when Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Glazkov (21-1-1, 13 KOs) suffered a serious knee injury in the third round of their title fight and couldn’t continue at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
Martin won the IBF title Tyson Fury gave up after the embattled Brit upset Klitschko by unanimous decision in November 2015 in Dusseldorf, Germany.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.