Adam Kownacki vs Charles Martin: A battle to see which heavyweight can back up their big statements

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The former champion Martin promises fans will see the best version of himself yet—but the undefeated contender from Brooklyn doesn't plan on letting his hometown supporters down.

The last time Charles Martin fought at Barclays Center, he left the arena with the IBF heavyweight title.

The powerful southpaw didn’t win that vacant title exactly the way he would’ve wanted, as Vyacheslav Glazkov couldn’t continue after suffering a devastating knee injury in the third round. His technical-knockout victory over the injured Ukrainian in January 2016 still made Martin a player within the heavyweight division and gave the then-unbeaten title-holder an opportunity to make millions of dollars.

Two-and-a-half years later, Martin will return to the venue in Brooklyn, New York tomorrow night as a besmirched former champion determined to restore his reputation. Undefeated Adam Kownacki, Martin’s opponent in a 10-round bout on a Showtime-televised card (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), will be Martin’s most formidable foe since his poor performance in a second-round knockout loss to Anthony Joshua in April 2016 at O2 Arena in London.

Joshua knocked Martin down twice with right hands. Martin seemed more surprised than hurt, yet took too much time to get up from the second knockdown, which caused referee JeanPierre Van Imschoot to stop the action at 1:32 of the second round.

The mercurial Martin has endured harsh, constant criticism since Joshua beat him. He intends to re-establish himself as a credible contender and sway some of those detractors who’ve excoriated him for not putting up a better fight against England’s Joshua.

“I haven’t put on display what I can really do in this sport,” Martin said. “I’m just here to show people that I’m legit and I’m real. That’s what I’m gonna do September 8th. I’ve gotta prove all the haters wrong. I’ve got some stuff to prove, so that’s what it is.”

Martin took his recently completed training camp very seriously in Big Bear Lake, California.

He sparred there with hard-hitting British prospect Joe Joyce and contender Andy Ruiz. His dubious loss to Joshua motivated Martin to change his approach to preparing for fights.

“I’m more mature,” Martin said. “I’m grown. I’m a grown man, so we’re ready. When I get in the ring, when I go to camp and I’m training, I’m serious about what I do. I’m taking my craft serious. That’s what’s different — I’ve grown.”

Martin (25-1-1, 23 KOs) will end a 13-month layoff when he enters the ring Saturday night. The St. Louis native hasn’t fought since stopping journeyman Mike Marrone in the first round of a July 2017 bout in Alexandria, Louisiana.

I haven’t put on display what I can really do in this sport. I’m just here to show people that I’m legit and I’m real. I’ve gotta prove all the haters wrong. Former Heavyweight World Champ Charles Martin

Against Kownacki, Martin must figure out how to neutralize his opponent’s persistent pressure.

Kownacki’s flabby body gives the appearance that he isn’t in shape, yet he throws a lot of punches, particularly for a heavyweight. The 6-feet-3, 260-pound Pole never stops moving forward, either, and has displayed a granite chin on his way to 17-0, including 14 knockouts.

The 6-feet-5, 250-pound Martin probably will be the strongest opponent of Kownacki’s seven-year pro career, which might make the 29-year-old contender more mindful of defense than usual.

“He’s just a good fighter,” Martin said. “He has heart. I’m preparing for everything he can possibly think of. That’s what we’re working hard for. I’m coming to minimize everything and that’s what we’re working on.”

However he fights Saturday night, Kownacki hasn’t taken Martin lightly just because the 32-year-old ex-champion’s career has taken a downward turn in the 2½ years since he stopped Glazkov (21-1-1, 13 KOs).

“As you all see, Charles Martin is very focused,” Kownacki said. “So I’m prepared for the best Charles Martin that he brings. And if I could beat the best Charles Martin, I think I deserve a title shot, you know? So that’s the focus I’m going in [with]. I’m looking at Charles Martin as if he still has the title, as if he is the champion, so I’m getting ready.

“I’m sparring a lot, running, doing my workouts. I’m looking at him as if he is still a champion, so beating him I think puts me in line for a title shot. What else is there to prove? I beat a contender [Artur Szpilka in July 2017]. Now if I beat a former world champion, getting a shot at a world title would be I think the next step in my career.”

The Brooklyn-based Kownacki, who figures to have a large faction of the crowd on his side Saturday night, has knocked out Georgia’s Iago Kiladze (26-3, 18 KOs) and Poland’s Szpilka (21-3, 15 KOs) in his past two fights. Martin is certain, however, that he’ll halt Kownacki’s march toward a title shot.

“I’m just gonna win, man,” Martin said. “I’m coming to win. I’m coming to make a statement, man, devastation.”

Martin refrained from forecasting how he’ll beat Kownacki.

“No predictions,” Martin said. “You’re gonna see. I like to prove it. I like to show. I’m from the ‘Show Me State.’ No predictions.”

For a closer look at Kownacki vs Martin, check out our fight page.

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