There are star level elite fighters popping up all over boxing. The sport’s young talent – fighters under 25 – are better than they have been in years.
There were particularly high hopes for one of those potentially elite star-level fighters, heavyweight Jared Anderson. The undefeated 23-year-old, who first rose to prominence when he was a training partner in Las Vegas for WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, had the biggest test of his career on Saturday when he met former IBF champion Charles Martin before 7,234 highly partisan fans at the Huntington Center in Anderson’s hometown of Toledo, Ohio.
Anderson did some good things. He won, to begin with. The judges had the fight in 10 rounds 99-90 twice and 98-91 for Anderson. Yahoo Sports had 98-91 for Anderson. He dropped Martin in the third round and he survived a scare in the fifth when Martin caught him with a left hand that left him stumbling to stay upright like a baby giraffe on roller skates.
This, however, was not a dominating performance. This result did not scream future star. Nothing we saw from Anderson on Saturday would suggest he could follow in the footsteps of guys like Fury, unified champion Oleksandr Usyk or former WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
They came and stayed on top for a long time and were all dominant fighters. They each had their moments of struggle on the way up, but all turned into elite fighters as heavyweights.
You don’t get that feeling after watching Anderson send Martin.
Martin is a good guy and a solid veteran. But he won the IBF title on absolute fluke in 2016, losing it in his first defense three months later to Anthony Joshua.
Martin won the IBF belt by knockout in the third round when he stopped Vyacheslav Glazkov. Glazkov suffered a knee injury early in the third round in the fight for the vacant belt which became available when Fury let him down during the period he started contemplating suicide and bloated to over 400 pounds.
Glazkov landed a punch later in the round on Martin and went down, injuring his knee. The ref somehow ruled it was a knockdown, although Martin didn’t land a punch. It turned out that Glazkov had a dislocated knee, a torn meniscus, a completely torn ACL, and a sprained MCL and LCL.
It made Martin a champion, but it wasn’t a championship performance and he was never really a championship-level fighter. It’s a solid mid-heavyweight and nothing more.
Anderson hardly looked good against him, but part of that was because he was clearly matched lightly and Martin was his toughest test by far. But Martin came away impressed.
“He’s really good,” Martin said of Anderson. “He’s a smart boxer. Usually when I catch someone and hurt them, I can finish. I can follow if they are still standing. If they don’t fall and get the eight count, I can usually track them and put them away. He’s like a little middleweight. The guy is cunning as a fucking mother.
Anderson, however, did not look dynamic. He fought like he was uncertain most of the night. He dropped Martin in the final seconds of lap three, but Martin was picked up and Anderson couldn’t finish.
He’s athletic and he’s got size — he’s 6-4, weighed 243.5 on Saturday and has a reach of 78.5 inches — and often that’s enough to go deep in the heavyweight division. And Anderson can still do it.
He was pleased with his efforts in a fight where he admitted he felt a lot of pressure from his hometown fans.
“I think I took his best shots really well,” Anderson said. “I don’t think there was a moment in the fight where I seemed unstable or couldn’t hold on. Do I feel like he got me with a good hit and knocked me out? No. But do I feel like he got me with a good bang and made me realize? Yes, so I had to readjust myself and go back to the game plan.
There are more questions raised about him than answered on Saturday. He showed a strong chin, but Martin was never compared to Mike Tyson or Wilder as a puncher. He maintained his conditioning, which is a positive, despite being buzzed late in the final round.
There are so many great talents in the game now under 24. One of them, 19-year-old Abdullah Mason, fought just before Martin and scored a second-round knockout. He’s years out of the competition, but he’s got star potential. The same goes for another top-ranked lightweight Olympic silver medalist, Keyshawn Davis.
Heading into Saturday’s fight, it made sense to include Anderson, who is known as “The Real Big Baby,” in a lineup with fighters like that.
But his biggest victory raised many questions on Saturday. He has a lot to prove before becoming the next big thing in the heavyweight division.