Hearn: Fans crucial for AJ

Promoter Eddie Hearn has emphasised the risk in Anthony Joshua’s decision to challenge IBF world champion Charles Martin on April 9.

Less than three years after turning professional, Joshua (15-0-KO15) will fight for a world title when he hosts American Martin (23-0-1-KO21) at The O2, and Hearn expects the London crowd to roar their man on to a historic victory.

He told Sky Sports News HQ: “We can bring Martin to London, to Anthony Joshua’s spiritual home – The O2 in London. The support he’s got from the British public to push him over the line could be the deciding factor in a very tough fight.

“I’ve seen odds fly around of Joshua v David Haye, Joshua v Tyson Fury and Joshua against Martin – everyone believes Joshua’s the favourite in all those fights. The bookies say so. This fight, they make him a big favourite but I see this as a 50-50 fight.

“Martin has boxed twice as many rounds as Joshua, comes in as the world champion, is a 6ft 5in, awkward, southpaw with a big backhand. Joshua has to be disciplined – much more disciplined than the Dillian Whyte performance. I believe on April 9, he’ll become heavyweight champion of the world.

“You’re talking about an Olympic gold medallist, 15-0 with 15 knockouts. A man who’s already, in my opinion, transcended the sport from boxing fans to the casual market as well.

“This is a guy that, if successful, can change the face of sport in Britain and boxing worldwide. He’s got to beat Charles Martin, and that’s the big risk.

“I think fans like the fact that he’s diving in, he’s taking a chance. It’s something we considered very carefully because this is a risk, a big risk.

“It’s probably come three or four fights quicker than we anticipated but heavyweight world title shots don’t grow on trees.”

Eyebrows have been raised at the announcement and predictions as to what will transpire will undoubtedly vary, but for Hearn, there was only one question that mattered.

He added: “Charles Martin called Anthony out, his promoters got in touch and Anthony said: ‘You’ve got to get me that fight.’ My job as a promoter and the jobs of his training team are to take the right fights at the right time.

“I asked the question: ‘Can you beat Charles Martin now? That’s the only thing that I want to know.’ The answer is: ‘Yes, we believe we can.’ In that case, you have to take this shot and try and become heavyweight champion of the world.

“As big as Anthony Joshua is right now, imagine that man as the heavyweight champion of the world. It’s one of the biggest accolades in world sport.”

Joshua was last in action in December when he stopped bitter rival Dillian Whyte in the seventh round of a British heavyweight title classic at The O2.