By Frank Warren
Now that the tidal wave of hype that has engulfed Anthony Joshua’s acquisition of the IBF world heavyweight championship in four and a half minutes flat is beginning to subside we can poke our heads above it and provide a few home truths.
First, brilliant as it is for British boxing, Joshua is not the world heavyweight champion but a world heavyweight champion, third in line as claimant to the genuine status behind Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder.
As I say, what he has done is fantastic for a sport in which Britain is literally on top of the world, with our global champions back to numbering the round dozen. But let’s keep things in perspective.
This was a tawdry title plucked from the dustbin where Fury had thrown it disdainfully after being summarily and unfairly stripped by the IBF and, on the evidence of new recipient Prince Charles Martin’s pathetic abdication at the O2, that is where it still belongs.
The jaunty Californian, who aped Muhammad Ali by wearing a crown in the ring – and that was the closest resemblance he had to the great man by a million miles – had won it virtually by default and you have to ask if there has ever been a worse holder of a world heavyweight title. I can’t think of one. He was an embarrassment.
Even dear old Audley Harrison, recruited as one of the ringside pundits, would have become world champion had he fought the man who may have called himself ‘Prince Charles’ but turned out to a Proper Charlie.
What sort of heavyweight champion makes his first defence overseas? And what sort of champion barely throws a punch in its defence?
Martin was slugged by two good shots and the cameras caught him giving a wry smile as he sat on his backside after the second looking up at the referee. He timed not beating the count to perfection – the sort of fighter we in the business call a ‘niner’.
Inevitably there was the token protest but he didn’t look that bothered as he strolled back to his corner. I honestly think it was a bottle job.
OK, if this had been a ten rounder on the O2 undercard it might have been acceptable. But a world championship? Do me a favour.
Had this been at York Hall, where the fans know their stuff, Martin would have been booed out of the ring.
It was significant that neither Martin’s esteemed promoter Al Haymon, nor his manager, bothered to make the trip. Perhaps they realised just how poor he really was.
Certainly not poor in the pocket now, though. Martin was well paid – the talk is of a couple of million quid – and in my view he simply came to cash in his chips.