Heavyweight Charles Martin, a powerful southpaw with a big personality but unknown to all but the most ardent boxing fan, had been diligently preparing for what he hoped would be something of a national coming out party.
He was training in the mountains in Big Bear Lake, California, getting ready to fight 2012 U.S. Olympian Dominic Breazeale on Dec.12 in San Antonio in a bout that was to be nationally televised in prime time on NBC. Martin was going to get tremendous exposure against an undefeated opponent in a fight most favored him to win.
But just a few days before the fight, Martin was faced with a decision: He could go through with the bout and gamble on winning and not getting injured or he could pull out and accept an offer to face Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov for a vacant world title.
For Martin's handlers, including manager Mike Borao, adviser Al Haymon and promoter Leon Margules of Warriors Boxing, it was a no-brainer to pull out of the fight to take the title shot. But for Martin, it was a tough decision.
"I wanted to do both of the fights," Martin said. "My team is the one that talked me out of it. I was up [in Big Bear Lake] making plans to do both. With the conversation with my coaches, I'm like, 'I can do this fight. I can get this [title shot] another way. Then I'm lined up right here.'
"My manager and everybody else, they're like, 'Hey, this is a world title opportunity. It's the opportunity of a lifetime. You fight for a world title. So we're pulling out. You're going to back to camp and get this belt.' I guess after a while it sunk in and it started to make sense. And I said, 'Hey, you know, whatever. Let's just do it because anything could happen.' You could get cut or something, any kind of crazy stuff that could have pulled me out of this fight.
"But I guarantee I was going to knock Dominic out. That's automatic, you know what I mean? We know each other. I would have knocked him out, for sure."
We'll never know what would have happened between Martin and Breazeale on Dec.12 because the 6-foot-5, 247-pound Martin did withdraw and instead will get the opportunity to realize his dream when he meets the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Glazkov for a vacant belt on Saturday (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, as Showtime kicks off its 30th year of boxing coverage with a heavyweight title doubleheader. In the main event, Deontay Wilder (35-0, 34 KOs), 30, of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, will defend his version of the heavyweight crown for the third time when he takes on 26-year-old Polish contender Artur Szpilka (21-1, 15 KOs).
While card promoter Lou DiBella and Barclays Center officials are marketing the card by playing up the fact that the two bouts will be the first heavyweight title fights in Brooklyn in 115 years -- since May 11, 1900, when James J. Jeffries knocked out James J. Corbett in the 23rd round of their scheduled 25-round fight to retain the world title in Coney Island -- understandably there are many who will view the fights as being for nothing more than paper titles.
That's because Tyson Fury upset long-reigning recognized heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28 to claim the lineal title, as well as three of the major sanctioning body belts. Ten days after the fight one of them was stripped from Fury because he agreed to face Klitschko in an immediate rematch rather than face Glazkov, the mandatory challenger.
That left next leading available contender Martin (22-0-1, 20 KOs), 29, who is from St. Louis but based in Carson, California, to get the shot against Glazkov (21-0-1, 13 KOs), 31, who is from Ukraine but relocated to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, last year.
Martin, of course, does not control who fights for belts and is not worried about the politics of the sport. He's quite happy to get the opportunity to fight for a title and to try to make a name for himself, especially now that the weight class is so wide open since Fury toppled Klitschko and ended his 9½-year title reign.
"It was going to open up eventually," Martin said of the heavyweight division. "Klitschko had a very good run. His whole career was outstanding. He's an awesome fighter. But it's our time now. There are new fighters on the map. We had big plans to knock him out as well. We wanted to knock him out and become superstars overnight. Everybody got the dream.
"It's here now, man. I get to fight for the IBF world title. I can't believe it. Every day I wake up I think I'm freeking blessed. I'm fighting for a world title. This is crazy. Sometimes it doesn't even sound right, but it's real. So I'm going to seize the moment, definitely."
Glazkov is a much more experienced fighter, however. He had a deep amateur career that culminated with a 2008 Olympic bronze medal and as a professional he has faced good opponents, including Steve Cunningham, Tomasz Adamek and Malik Scott.
"He's definitely a step up on paper. His resume reads well," Martin said of Glazkov. "He's a good fighter. He's technical, keeping his hands up and stuff like that, has a pretty nice hook. But I got to give you the ups and the downs. He's a little guy. I'm massive, strong, powerful, elusive. He's definitely going to be in there for the hardest fight of his life that he'll ever have."
Martin, conversely, has not faced a single opponent of note. Instead he has faced the likes of Vicente Sandez, Tom Dallas, Raphael Zumbano Love and others you probably have never heard of.
"Charles is something of an unknown commodity to a lot of people," DiBella said, adding that he was "looking forward to his opportunity and what he thinks is going to be a knockout win against Vyacheslav Glazkov."
"I'm so thankful to be in this position and blessed to get a world title shot, and that's what all boxers dream of," Martin said. "It's finally becoming a reality to me. I'm not going to let anything stand in front of me of receiving this IBF title. So I will be prepared."
After he pulled out of the fight with Breazeale, Martin said he took only a brief time off before returning to camp to get ready for his new assignment against Glazkov.
"I took a week off. I took that week off and then we got back to camp," Martin said. "I started back training when I was in L.A.. I'm in perfect shape. I'm in the best shape I've ever been in my life. I'm ready to fight.
"I'm ready to be that superstar. We train like superstars. If you're going to train mediocre, you'll be mediocre, and that's what I see out of a lot of fighters, heavyweights, especially. But we train to be a superstar and that's what you guys are going to see."