Joshua plays down hype ahead of heavyweight title fight
LONDON (AP) — Anthony Joshua has the Olympic gold medal, the enviable physique, a growing aura and the perfect professional record.
There's only one thing missing for the Briton to cap his impressive journey to the top of the boxing world: A heavyweight belt.
Joshua gets his chance on April 9 when he fights American boxer Charles Martin for the IBF title in his home city of London.
He may be the inexperienced challenger but Joshua will have to handle lofty expectations, having been talked up in Britain as a likely world champion ever since turning professional after winning the super-heavyweight class at the London Olympics in 2012.
"I have to disconnect myself from (the hype) because I have to keep the underdog mentality," said Joshua, who has won all 15 of his fights with knockouts — 14 of them inside three rounds. "It is Martin vs. Joshua, not Joshua vs. Martin.
"He has got the belt, and you have to respect he is the champion and I am the underdog."
Any attempt to downplay his position as bookmakers' favorite might not wash, though.
It was only two weeks ago that Evander Holyfield, the former world heavyweight champion, described Joshua as the "best fighter you've ever had in this country" in an interview with British newspaper The Daily Mail.
"I want what he's got — the praise, the attention, and the fans," Martin said of Joshua on Friday.
Martin will be defending the IBF belt for the first time since winning it against Vyacheslav Glazkov in January. The title was vacant after being stripped from Tyson Fury, who opted for a rematch against Wladimir Klitschko instead of taking on a mandatory challenger.
Martin, a California-based boxer from St. Louis, is also unbeaten — winning 23 of his 24 fights and drawing the other — but he isn't a major name in the boxing world. Yet.
"I don't take the glamor and all that stuff," Martin said. "I don't soak it in, I just go back to that tough grimy kid from the block, from the boxing gym, trying to make a way. That's what I do in preparation — go back to the roots, the essence."
Martin said this was the first genuine test for both fighters.
"The past is the past," Martin said. "The record, putting him in with guys who were tailor-made for him to lay down ... We've both had those people in our past and that doesn't matter. What matters now is there are two hungry fighters in there wanting to win.
"Whether I'm the favorite to the fans or the people or not, I'm still know what I'm capable of doing and I'm still the favorite in my heart. That's all I need."