DON’T shout it too loudly, but the cat’s out the bag and the champ’s out the cage: ‘Prince’ Charles Martin is gunning for another world title shot in 2020.

The American southpaw, best known for surrendering to Anthony Joshua in a couple of rounds back in 2016, is a former IBF heavyweight champion whose reign lasted the exact length of his fight with Joshua in London.

Since then, however, he has won four of five fights, losing only to top contender Adam Kownacki, and proven himself a decent fringe contender.

Though it still shocks some that Martin was ever world heavyweight champion, the 33-year-old from Missouri is determined to this year show that he is more than just a one-hit wonder.

“2020 is the year that Charles makes another title run,” his manager Mike Borao told Sky Sports. “The idea is two bouts against top 15 [ranked opponents] by late summer followed by a shot at a likely fragmented world title by the year’s end.

“We are looking at top 15 names in all organisations. Hopefully we will have sorted it out within the next week or two.

“The date is most likely in March, but we are working that out now.”

Martin is currently training out of Legendz Gym in California, home of 2019 ‘Underdog of the Year’ Andy Ruiz Jr, and if it’s inspiration he needs ahead of this latest run at a title, he won’t have to look far. (Providing, of course, Ruiz has returned to the gym.)

anthony joshua vs charles martin fight time
Martin with his old IBF belt (Action Images/Peter Cziborra)

We have seen a spate of former boxers and mixed martial artists make the move to the controversial world of bare knuckle fighting in recent years and it’s rare the names of the defectors come as any great surprise.

Most are retired or on the slide. All are seemingly dissatisfied by a life without fighting. All want to get paid.

Yesterday, however, came an announcement of another boxer making the jump and this one, unlike most, caught the eye. The name was Nico Hernandez, yes, that Nico Hernandez, the 24-year-old Nico Hernandez from Kansas who claimed a bronze medal at the 2016 Olympic Games.

Hernandez, inactive since February 2019, has signed for the Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and will compete at 122 pounds, some 10 pounds above his boxing weight, on March 14. “This is as real as it gets, and now I get to punch someone in the face without gloves,” Hernandez said.

Now, it’s one thing seeing a retired fighter end up removing the gloves to make money with their bare fists, but it’s another thing entirely for a top prospect, someone active, to take that same risk. Maybe, for Hernandez, it’s somehow liberating. Maybe he is merely quenching his thirst. But, whatever his reasons, Nico Hernandez, 7-0 (4) as a pro, will hopefully prove the exception rather than the rule.

Rio 2016
Nico Hernandez representing USA at the Rio Olympics (Action Images/Peter Cziborra)