“Prince” Charles Martin has spent a sleepless night and is in a bad mood, but insists it wasn’t because of the excessive thought about his return to the ring.
“There isn’t a gray hair on my head,” he laughs.
Once upon a time there was a crown on top of Martin’s flawless dreadlocks, when he stepped into the ring as reigning heavyweight world champion to face challenger Anthony Joshua.
But not anymore.
Five and a half years later on a roller coaster, Martin has left behind the unwanted second-shorter defending champion tag ever. He has quietly recovered and a win over Luis Ortiz on January 1 would be his best ever.
The man who survived a shooting and released a hip-hop album during his three-month stint as an IBF champion insists that age and experience have matured him into a more dangerous proposition.
“People should know my head is fine,” he tells Sky Sports. “I live a healthy lifestyle, man. I take care of my children and my family.
“I come to the training camp with the right weight, the weight with which I will fight. I am active every day, I am happy.
“I train in my garage even when I’m not in the boxing gym. Then when I come to the boxing gym they say to me: ‘Woah!'”
Fast food has always been Martin’s vice.
“My body is so extraordinary and extraordinary that I would eat a ‘Jack in the Box’ and then immediately fire eight shots,” he shakes his head.
“But I can’t do it now. You have to choose your poison, stay logical. I’m getting old.
“I ate the ‘Krispy Kreme’ donuts. After a fight, I ate cheesecake. Now? I don’t touch that stuff. I don’t come close to greasy things.”
While rebuilding Martin from that defeat to Joshua in 2016, he spent time training alongside Andy Ruiz Jr. He saw his friend become the first Mexican heavyweight champion by shocking Joshua.
He then barely saw Ruiz Jr at the gym in the next six months before the titles were granted back.
Martin lives with his own ghosts about the shortness of his time at the top of boxing and has relived the experience through the travails of Ruiz Jr.
Asked if the indiscipline cost Ruiz Jr, Martin says, “Absolutely, it was so obvious. It wasn’t there. We all saw it, everyone saw it. He had too many things to do around him.”
Fascinatingly Martin is now being coached by Manny Robles, the man who sat gloomy after being in Ruiz Jr’s corner for rematch with Joshua. Robles was furious when Ruiz Jr blamed the “party” for his defeat, then later told Sky Sports, “You can’t get someone to want something.”
Perhaps Robles is the perfect fit for a barely energetic Martin who, now at the age of 35, is coming out of the best career knockout of Gerald Washington.
“Some fighters get disciplined too late,” says Martin. “But the window hasn’t closed on me yet.”
He has seen his old nemesis Joshua lose twice, first to Ruiz Jr and also to Oleksandr Usyk.
“Word got around that the guy was hurt,” says Martin of Joshua’s first defeat. “I was hurt [before I fought Joshua].
“What turns around comes around. It’s called karma.
“I looked bad at Joshua when I was already hurt. Then he got caught by Andy when he was already hurt. Karma.
“I’ll never know, and the world will never know, what would have happened against Joshua if I hadn’t been seriously injured 10 days before our fight.
“Andy got a lucky punch. Andy has no pop. He’s fast but he has no power.”
Martin has always claimed that he is not obsessed with that defeat to Joshua, the first time the British heavyweight hero became a world champion, but his voice rises and his language becomes colorful every time he talks about it.
“It will happen,” he says of revenge. “Now he also has two L’s. It’s not for nothing. It’s not for the money.
“Will you get one on me? See you later. I’m from St Louis – if you get one on me, I’ll go back around the block and get one on you!”
“I just want a good shake.”
Was his three months as the IBF heavyweight champion a happy memory?
Martin shrugs: “It was good. But I’m normal. Things don’t turn me on.
“For someone who never had anything, it changed my life. I bought clothes, I bought jewelry, of course.
“I was attached to the wrong people. There are weird people out there. I wasn’t going to do crazy things.
“I was put on a vegan diet! But I was not informed. People thought I was [acting weird] but I wasn’t – I was just following a vegan diet!
“I didn’t do crazy things before they shot me. I won’t have to face those things next time.”
The past two years have reminded Martin what he really wants from life.
“The pandemic was beneficial because I saw life without boxing.
“I’ve always had ups and downs, trials and tribulations, roller coasters. All my career I’ve said, ‘I hate boxing, I don’t want to do it anymore, I want to retire.’
I would threaten my coach and my coaches! It was because I never knew what I wanted to do.
“But having a taste of being out for a year made me realize I don’t want boxing to end just yet.
“I made the decision: ‘Yes, I want to box'”.
Martin is the No. 1 classified by the IBF. Usyk is expected to defend the IBF, WBA and WBO belts in a rematch with Joshua next year, and the prospect of an undisputed title fight against WBC king Tyson Fury still exists, but Martin is suddenly in the thick of it.
“Charles is looking no further than Luis Ortiz,” says his manager Mike Borao. “They are two of the most avoided heavyweights in the world for a reason.
“However, a win for Charles on January 1 – his second IBF elimination bout – makes an IBF world title opportunity likely in 2022.”
Martin is beaming with joy.
“Who wants to get in the ring with this big and dangerous southpaw? I’ll KO them all and then ride into the sunset!”
He already left once at sunset, and it ended badly, Sky Sport reminds him …
“But this time,” Martin gets serious. “I have to do it right.”