SOUTHPAWS are difficult. They’re all the wrong way round. They lead with the wrong hand, the right. The power shot, the cross comes from the left. It’s different. Charles Martin may be the IBF heavyweight champion but his challenger, London’s Anthony Joshua appears the bigger man and the better boxer too. Martin is however a southpaw and Joshua is yet to face an unorthodox opponent as a professional. Charles might just make for a very awkward night’s work at the O2 on Saturday (April 9).
Joshua explained how he’s been preparing for his first pro southpaw. “Sparring is key. Bag work is bag work, padwork is important but sparring is the key. I have been blessed to have three sparring partners over for the last six weeks and I still have one over. My last rounds of sparring [were] on Tuesday. That’s been the key to learning how to deal with southpaws,” Anthony said. “Early on I was getting hit with the backhand a bit. I was thinking ‘this is a bit tricky’, but now I’m defending it, slipping it and counter ‘bang, bang’. That’s what’s helped me develop, having sparring partners over for the whole duration.”
“You just have to switch on to certain shots. They are no different, but you just are unaware to certain shots. Now I am switched on to big hooks coming round,” he continued.
He moved his left hand up, to demonstrate a high guard, to get his jab over the top, what he’s been working on for Martin. “At first, it was aching my arm a lot keeping it there, but my muscles there have developed a lot more. I have to keep it up, counter. I’m happy with the progression over the last eight weeks,” he said, adding, “I had three southpaws over and I was getting a few rounds in with orthodox fighters just steaming forward, going toe-to-toe.”
That’s an indication that Joshua is envisaging a frenetic battle on Saturday. The crowd at the O2 will be loud and ferocious, a wholly new experience for the American. None of us know how Martin will react to it. “Everyone feels the pressure. He will definitely feel a different pressure with that negative energy being chanted down on him,” Anthony reflected. “When you step out it’s totally different. I’ll never get used to it… There’s an edge to fight night.”
That might sway Martin, encouraging him to charge in rather than rely on backfoot counter punching. “The quicker I establish myself the better. He’s not really an explosive fighter, but he might come because he won’t want to be in there long with someone who can knock him out. It’s a dangerous place to be for 12 rounds,” Anthony said. “What I need to do is establish my range. You have got to relax, feint, feint, establish that range, touch him, touch him. Rather than go out straight away. I have to establish myself before I put my presence on him. That’s the key to defeating Martin. I need to box explosively but be very slow and calculating.
“He wants me out of there ASAP. The longer I am in there, the harder the fight. Then it’s a better route to defending his title. He’s got a good hook, but I’m not going to be in range for that, unless I am punching and he will try and swing that over, try and hurt me.
That could play into Joshua’s hands – “Because you meet, you plant, you come forward – bang, bang, bang. It will be dangerous for him.”
The Briton, with 15 knockouts from 15 pro bouts, has never declined the opportunity to attack an opening. But might these considerations prompt Joshua to stay clear of a firefight and box Martin off the backfoot? “Me?” Anthony says with a shake of his head. “Nah.”
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