Anthony Joshua to fight Charles Martin for heavyweight title

Ready or not, here comes Anthony Joshua.

Joshua, universally considered boxing's most outstanding heavyweight prospect and already an economic force but still very raw, is getting a shot to fight for a world title.

He will square off against newly crowned IBF titleholder Charles Martin on April 9 at the O2 Arena in London in what will be an enormous fight for British boxing.

The deal, in the works for only a couple of weeks, was finalized Sunday and announced by Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who represents Joshua.

"Life is all about taking opportunities, and when the chance to become heavyweight champion of the world presented itself, there was no holding Anthony back," Hearn said. "He wants to give the fans something to get excited about and he wants to become a great, and even though the decision among the team took a week or so, I believe his mind was already made up from the moment I asked him."

The 6-foot-6, 245-pound Joshua (15-0, 15 KOs) was the 2012 British Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist and has been tabbed for superstardom since. But Joshua, who turned pro in late 2013, has boxed only 32 professional rounds, seven of which came in his most recent fight Dec. 12 when he stopped rival Dillian Whyte, who had knocked Joshua down and defeated him in a 2009 amateur fight.

Joshua, 26, who was headlining his first Sky Box Office pay-per-view card in the United Kingdom, was badly hurt in the second round by Whyte but otherwise dominated.

Martin-Joshua will also headline a Sky Box Office pay-per-view card in the U.K. In the United States, the fight likely will air on Showtime, which televised Martin's last fight, when he claimed a title.

Despite so little professional experience, Joshua said he is ready for the challenge.

"Fighting for the heavyweight world title has been a dream of mine since I turned professional," he said. "I feel privileged to have the opportunity to turn that dream into reality. Not only that, [but] having the chance to fight for it in my hometown at the O2 and live on Sky Sports is unbelievably exciting. Charles Martin is a great fighter and a hungry competitor, so I am going to have to produce the performance of my career to claim that belt."

Martin said his goal has always been to fight top opponents.

"I told my team I wanted the best challenger possible for my first defense, and Anthony Joshua's name kept coming up," Martin said. "I'm coming to the U.K. to make a statement that I am the best heavyweight in the world and no one is taking my title.

"I'm [a] world champion, so that doesn't mean just sit back and make easy defenses in the U.S. It means facing the biggest challenges out there. I respect Anthony Joshua and everything he has accomplished, but on April 9 he's getting knocked out."

Said Mike Borao, Martin's manager: "Charles is only interested in fighting the best and being a superstar, not being average. Charles is always ready. He works very hard, and he will surprise a lot of people. We're very excited about this. As a boxing fan, I'm very excited. As Charles' manager, I'm triple-excited because I think this will be his breakout fight."

The 6-5, 245-pound Martin (23-0-1, 21 KOs), 29, a St. Louis native based in Carson, California, is also very untested since turning pro in late 2012. But the southpaw claimed a vacant heavyweight belt Jan. 16 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, when he was credited with a third-round knockout of then-undefeated contender Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov.

Little could be gleaned from that bout because virtually nothing happened. After two feeling-out rounds, Glazkov slipped to the mat in the third and badly injured his right knee. He tore his ACL and meniscus and dislocated the knee. With Glazkov unable to continue, Martin was declared the winner and collected the title belt that had been stripped from Tyson Fury, Joshua's British countryman, 10 days after he scored a massive upset by outpointing longtime unified and lineal world champion Wladimir Klitschko on Nov. 28.

Glazkov was one of Fury's mandatory challengers and the fight was due next, but because Fury was already contractually obligated to face Klitschko in an immediate rematch and could not fight Glazkov, he was stripped of the title. That left Glazkov to fight Martin, the next leading available contender, for the vacant title.

Now Joshua, the British and Commonwealth champion, will get the opportunity, one that comes probably about a year ahead of when he and his team figured he would get a chance to fight for a world title.