Not since the 1990s, when men like Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis prowled the heavyweight scene, has the division been as vibrant as now.
It was Tyson Fury who broke the lock on the big men thanks to his defeat of Wladimir Klitschko last year. A heap of aspirants have since rushed through, among them Deontay Wilder, Luis Ortiz and Joe Parker, but the best of them may be young Briton Anthony Joshua, a chiselled 26-year-old with 15 knockouts in 15 fights.
The Olympic champion has wasted no time in his surge to the upper reaches and this weekend he contests his first world title when he fights IBF title holder Charles Martin in London. Tickets for the event were sold out in 90 seconds.
The tournament, which includes a high-quality undercard, will be broadcast live on SuperSport 7 from 9pm on Saturday.
Joshua has spent much of this week verbally sparring countryman Fury, who clearly doesn’t like the attention his local rival has been getting. “He’s jealous of my beach body,” snarled Joshua, who looks every inch the archetype of the well-muscled bruiser, unlike the awkward, long-limbed Fury.
“Keep praying for my downfall fat boy. I’ll see you soon,” tweeted Joshua.
The IBF’s No 4 contender can be stiff and mechanical in his approach, but there’s no questioning his power. Even his jab is a formidable weapon and he uses it to set up a booming right hand that matches his intent not to hang about.
Martin, unbeaten in 24 fights, has gone largely unnoticed in his ascent to the throne, mainly because he has operated in the shadows of his US rival Wilder. And despite being unbeaten in 24 starts, he hasn’t had a career-defining fight. Opponents like Raphael Zumbano Love and Kertson Manswell are barely known in their own suburbs, much less the boxing community at large.
He’s southpaw and carries a decent dig, but little about him suggests he is a special talent, which is what he’ll need to be to outbox Joshua.
“They put me as the favourite but I’m the underdog,” Joshua said during the official pre-fight conference call. “I’m the challenger that can come in and annihilate the champion, kind of like when Tyson fought Berbick. Just don’t give Charles Martin a chance and outclass him and that’s what I want to show.”
The undercard includes three championship fights. Jamie McDonnell and Fernando Vargas will fight for the WBA bantamweight title and Lee Selby will put his IBF featherweight belt on the line against Eric Hunter.
The main undercard bout, for the WBC International super-middleweight belt, pits George Groves against David Brophy.