Gamble pays off for Hearn on night of firsts

Mark Butcher
10/04/2016 2:33pm

New IBF heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua’s violent dethroning of ‘Prince’ Charles Martin marked a night of firsts at the O2 Arena on Saturday evening.

The Londoner became the quickest heavyweight champion in history in terms of rounds boxed (34) and also the first fighter promoter Eddie Hearn has steered directly from pro debut to a world title.

This whirlwind journey has taken place in just two-and-a-half-years as Joshua has ripped through the heavyweight division with 16 KOs in as many contests and transcended the sport to appeal to ‘casual’ boxing fans.

In the early hours of Sunday morning at the post-fight press conference, a delighted Hearn reflected on the milestone and mapped out the short-term future for his new champion with a first defence pencilled in for 9 July in London. 

“That’s a criticism I have had in the past [not creating a world champion from scratch], but I’ve not really had a fighter for that many fights. I’ve had Callum Smith for 19 fights but it’s unusual they would be even fighting for world titles [after so few contests],” Hearn told Boxing Monthly.

“Callum now, I think he will go and win a world title. Kal Yafai, he is another one. Luke Campbell, I still think can win a world title. No, it’s great – it shows that we can do it right.

“Tonight was a gamble. It was an aggressive move that we made paying for the heavyweight champion to come here and it paid off.”

The IBF’s rated heavyweights are not exactly a murderers’ row giving the talented but still developing Joshua the appropriate time to almost learn on the job as a champion.

“They are only the guys we were going to fight anyway and that’s why we took the Charles Martin fight,” continued Hearn. “We were looking at Bermane Stiverne, Bryant Jennings, these kind of guys and I was like…Charles Martin is about that level so why don’t we fight him? Are we ready for this? Yes, because when we win we are only going to be fighting the guys we were going to fight on 9 April anyway.

“First round I expected [Joshua] to come out like a nutcase. But he didn’t. First round I thought he was sensational, but he hit Martin with a few shots and Martin didn’t really look that bothered so I thought this could be a bit of a long night!” Hearn told BM.

“I felt he would have to land that slick right hand as Martin was coming on to him. The first shot was the one that split his eye and he went down heavily. I didn’t think he would make the count – I thought he got up at 11. When he got up, I thought he looked okay. AJ is such a good finisher but I thought, 'please, don’t just walk on to one'. But it was the same shot – straight down the pipe and Martin went down again. I think it just broke his heart and he thought, ‘I don’t want to get up here’. He was half dazed, half not willing to carry on."

Another American could be next on the new champion’s horizon with Malik Scott (38-2-1, 13 KOs) tweeting that he had a signed contract in his possession immediately after Joshua’s two-round blitz.

“We were going to fight Malik Scott. He signed a contract, but we didn’t sign a contract!” Hearn told BM. “He could be a guy for us. He’s a good talker. Tricky customer, skillful. I know he had the controversial loss to Dereck Chisora [LTKO6] where he didn’t beat the count. He was disappointing against Deontay Wilder [LTKO1]. If we are looking for a quick turnaround, a guy like that, Jennings, these kind of people. They could be on the agenda.

“They loved him in America. You only had to see how Showtime were selling the fight over there and it was all Anthony Joshua.”

Photo: Lawrence Lustig.