Four years ago, television producer Michael King launched a project known as “All-American Heavyweights,” hoping to spawn a new American heavyweight champion from a workout facility in Carson.
Charles Martin is fulfilling the vision.
A hard-hitting, good-talking, brave athlete willing to accept the stiff challenges his predecessors and countrymen paved, North Hollywood’s Martin (23-0-1, 21 knockouts) won the vacant International Boxing Federation heavyweight belt in Brooklyn, N.Y., in January, when Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Glazkov suffered a fight-ending knee injury in the third round.
So when 2012 Olympic champion Anthony Joshua of Great Britain emerged as his top challenger, Martin accepted the date and agreed to fight the unbeaten Joshua (15-0, 15 KOs) at London’s O2 Arena on April 9 on Showtime.
“The belt makes you work harder,” Martin told the Los Angeles Times from his training camp in Big Bear, where 1984 U.S. Olympic heavyweight champion Henry Tillman serves as his co-trainer. “You’ve got to live up to that label.
“I’m the world champion. I go into this fight with that mentality: ‘You can’t defeat me.’ It’s my belt, and I’m going back home with it.
“I look at all those [past greats] and think, ‘That’s me.’ They were great because they reigned as champion, so I’m grinding in this camp. ... I’ve transformed my body.”
In England, the public expectation is that Joshua will join countryman Tyson Fury with a heavyweight belt.
Accepting the fight seems like an odd choice given that Martin works for protective manager Al Haymon, who has made a reputation by keeping talent such as Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Leo Santa Cruz away from underdog battles.
But Martin says he was a willing participant to make the journey and cash in on the fervor for a young fighter in his own den.
“They’re just casual fans. When I knock Joshua out, they’ll be my fans,” said Martin, whose nickname is, coincidentally, “Prince.”
“He’s green right now. I have way more fights, [nine], and rounds , than him. I’m taking advantage of the time. Time is of the essence. I know he’s not ready for someone like me.
“This was my call. This wasn’t no Al Haymon. This was me.”
Martin said he’ll continue that push, going up against the winners of Fury-Wladimir Klitschko and fellow American champion Deontay Wilder should he, as expected, defeat Alexander Povetkin in May.
“I’m a man on a mission,” Martin said. “I want people to remember me when they think of great fighters. I want to be included with Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson.”
While the Glazkov title victory was tainted by the Ukrainian’s knee injury, Martin said he was confident of victory anyway and feels he sufficiently earned the belt.
“I’m the reason that [injury] happened,” Martin said. “He didn’t just break his knee. He was walking the Earth for more than 30 years and that hadn’t happened, right?
“He never just slipped and fell on his own. I did that. Whether it was because his head was cloudy because I hit him with a straight left hand ... [or] when I rushed in and he stumbled back, I hit him with that hook and he limped off.
“I did that.”
Martin leaves for England on Sunday, and he can’t help but think of the impact that King’s long-shot experiment has accomplished. King, who died last year, was best known for producing “Wheel of Fortune” and “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
“I made M.K.’s dream come true. He wanted to grow a world champion and I am a world champion who did it for him,” Martin said. “Everybody thought he was crazy, trying to revitalize the heavyweight division in America. He’s smiling now. Not only does he have a world champion, this champion is the real deal.”