Why Mahmoud Charr vs Christopher Lovejoy is the heavyweight title fight that boxing forgot: 'I'm the real champion!'

"I kept the focus on being the champion," says Mahmoud Charr who hasn't boxed in four years; his WBA belt is at stake in a forgotten fight but could a genuine threat emerge from the wreckage?

Mahmoud Charr
Image: Mahmoud Charr is finally set to return to this ring this weekend

The challenger arrived in the champion's home country for the strangest, most unlikely heavyweight title fight in modern times alone and anonymous, like his entire career has been.

Christopher Lovejoy has not brought a trainer, a cut-man or anybody at all with him to Cologne, Germany, for a fight on Saturday with Mahmoud Charr that is so bizarre it barely feels real.

The WBA 'regular' championship is at stake between one man whose 19-0 record is as mysterious as it is suspicious, and another who has held the belt for four years uncontested without stepping into a ring.

"I'm here to shock the world," Lovejoy, the American enigma, tells Sky Sports.

"This has never been done before. I've travelled into No Man's Land, this guy's back yard, by myself!"

Lovejoy is an unexplained anomaly in the heavyweight division - of his 19 knockout wins, 17 were in the first round. It is a fearsome statistic but every fight was in Tijuana, Mexico, against unknown opposition and almost no footage of these fights exists.

His boasts have previously felt like hot air but venturing to Germany to face Charr, once a respected contender who has been inactive since 2017, suggests his desire to step out of the shadows is gathering pace.

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His attempt to box in the UK last year ended in farce when a scheduled fight with Dave Allen fell through at the 11th hour amid a legal dispute with Don King, the legendary promoter.

Lovejoy says he has filed for bankruptcy and is no longer affiliated to the man who once promoted Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

"It's to my advantage," Lovejoy says about the absence of evidence that his career actually exists. "They can't strategize to any weaknesses or flaws that I might have."

Charr is relying on rumour and tells Sky Sports: "I know him since he did sparring with Tyson Fury. He did that very well. He is a strong opponent."

The oddity to this fight is the WBA's sanctioning of it as a title bout. Anthony Joshua may hold the IBF, WBA and WBO titles but Charr, four years ago, won the WBA 'regular' belt.

His absence since then means he is now recognised as the 'champion in recess' while Trevor Bryan is now the 'regular' champion.

"I don't know how two people can be the champion," says Lovejoy who isn't particularly interested in this fight's official prize. "It's too complicated. But I'll be back in the rankings."

Yet Charr takes his unusual reign as champion very seriously despite not defending it since 2017: "I was always inspired. I was always in shape. I never stopped training. I never lost the focus to get back into the ring.

"Because after I won the world championship, I proved that I'm the real heavyweight champion. And that means to never give up. I never allowed frustration. I kept the focus on being the champion and to fight the best."

Charr has beaten Britain's Danny Williams
Image: Charr has beaten Britain's Danny Williams

So here we are, a seriously strange footnote to a thriving scene where Joshua and Tyson Fury are set to confirm their undisputed championship clash.

Where to position Lovejoy or Charr after a winner emerges? They each have startling lofty ambitions.

"Once I beat him, that catapults me onto the next level with the top guys," says Lovejoy.

"The top two guys, Joshua and Fury, won't be available. After that there is Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Alexander Povetkin and Andy Ruiz Jr.

"Preferably the fights I want? Joe Joyce or Jarrell 'Big Baby' Miller. I saw flaws in those guys a long time ago.

"Maybe Filip Hrgovic, he needs a fight too. Immediately after this fight I will say: 'who's next?'"

Charr says: "I hope the time to fight Joshua or Fury will come soon. That's my next goal."

Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury 0:40
Promoter Eddie Hearn says Anthony Joshua's world heavyweight title fight against Tyson Fury will take place in August in Saudi Arabia.

Charr left Lebanon for Germany after his Syrian father was killed in the civil war.

He won 21 fights in a row, including against Danny Williams, but then lost to Vitali Klitschko and Alexander Povetkin. A fight with David Haye fell through.

Charr has had a double hip replacement and was shot four times outside a kebab shop in 2015.

A 2017 points win over Aleksandr Ustinov was the most recent time he was in a ring - he won the WBA 'regular' belt and has kept it, a small piece of forgotten treasure, ever since.

"Mahmoud has not boxed for a long time," his promoter Erol Ceylan tells Sky Sports. "It is important now that he fights and wins against Lovejoy. After that, I have big plans for him. If he wins this fight, he could face the winner from Joshua-Fury in the next fight."

Charr lost his unbeaten record to Vitali Klitschko
Image: Charr lost his unbeaten record to Vitali Klitschko

Lovejoy refused a hand-shake during their first fiery face-off. He says it was an attempt to unsettle Charr: "That was my intention. He's humble. But I'm not here to be humble.

"He was nervous, I don't know what from. Me? The cameras? It being his first fight in a long time? He was sweating and had to wipe himself down. He was going through something that wasn't normal so I used it against him.

"I don't rate him highly. I don't see anything special. He doesn't have a nice jab. He does know how to catch punches, how to carry himself through the rounds. But he has no real power or skill.

"[His inactivity] is a disadvantage to him, it can weigh on you. This is a winnable fight."

As the entire boxing world looks towards Joshua vs Fury, a generation-defining heavyweight fight that can be a major part of the sport's history, Lovejoy and Charr will collide in a neglected corner of the division.

"If you believe in yourself, if you believe in your strengths, if you love yourself then you can be the undisputed champion," Charr says with confidence that belies his absence from the ring.

"Why not? Believe in yourself, believe in your dreams, train hard and give everything you can. Believe in your dreams and they will come true. Never lose that focus. That is exactly what I am doing! Yes, I can become the undisputed champion."

Perhaps for Lovejoy, whose day in the sun has still never come, the stakes are higher. He has no trainer, no support, no corner-team but plenty of hope.

"They say I haven't fought anybody worth mentioning? So when I pull this off, what will they say?"

Watch Joshua Buatsi vs Daniel Blenda Dos Santos on Saturday, live on Sky Sports.

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