There are elite, star-level fighters popping up all over the place in boxing. The young talent in the sport — fighters under 25 — is better than it’s been in years.
There were particularly high hopes for one of those potentially elite, star-level fighters, heavyweight Jared Anderson. The unbeaten 23-year-old, who first came into prominence when he was serving as a sparring partner in Las Vegas for WBC heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, had the biggest test of his career Saturday when he met ex-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, for starters. Judges had the 10-round fight 99-90 twice and 98-91 for Anderson. Yahoo Sports had it 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 up like a baby giraffe on roller skates.
This, though, was no dominant performance. This result did not scream future star. Nothing we saw from Anderson on Saturday would make one believe he’ll be able to follow in the footsteps of guys like Fury, unified champion Oleksandr Usyk or ex-WBC champion Deontay Wilder.
They got to, and stayed at the top, for a long time and have all been dominant fighters. They each had their moments of struggle on the way up, but all turned into elite fighters as heavyweights.
One doesn’t get that feeling after watching Anderson outbox Martin.
Martin is a good guy and a solid veteran. But he won the IBF title on an absolute fluke in 2016, lost it in his first defense three months later to Anthony Joshua.
Martin won the IBF belt by third-round KO when he stopped Vyacheslav Glazkov. Glazkov injured his knee early in the third round during the bout for the vacant belt that became available when Fury dropped it during the period when he began to consider suicide and ballooned to 400-plus pounds.
Glazkov landed a punch later in the round on Martin and went down, injuring his knee. The referee somehow ruled that a knockdown, though Martin didn’t land a punch. It turned out that Glazkov suffered a dislocated knee, a torn meniscus, a completely torn ACL and sprained his MCL and LCL.
That made Martin a champion, but it wasn’t a championship performance and he’s never really been a championship-level fighter. He’s a solid, middle-of-the-road heavyweight and nothing more.
Anderson hardly looked good against him, but part of that has been because he’s clearly been matched lightly and Martin was by far his toughest test. But Martin came away impressed.
“He’s really good,” Martin said of Anderson. “He’s a crafty boxer. Usually, when I catch somebody and hurt them, I can finish up. I can follow up if they’re still standing. If they don’t fall and get the eight-count, usually I can follow up in there and put them away. He is like a little middleweight. The dude is crafty as a mother f***er.”
Anderson, though, didn’t look dynamic. He fought as if he was uncertain much of the night. He dropped Martin in the waning seconds of the third round, but Martin was recovered and Anderson couldn’t get the finish.
He’s athletic and he’s got size — he’s 6-4, weighed 243.5 Saturday and has a 78.5-inch reach — and often, that’s enough to go a long way in the heavyweight division. And Anderson may still do that.
He was pleased with his effort in a fight where he conceded he felt heavy pressure competing in front of his hometown fans.
“I think I took his best shots very well,” Anderson said. “I don’t think there was a time in the fight where I looked unsteady or where I couldn’t hold my own. Did I feel like he got me with a good shot and stunned me? No. But do I feel like he got me with a good shot and made me aware? Yes, so I had to readjust and get back to the game plan.”
There are more questions raised about him than were answered Saturday. He showed a solid chin, but Martin has never been compared to Mike Tyson or Wilder as a puncher. He maintained his conditioning, which is a positive, though he was buzzed late in the final round.
There are so many terrific talents in the game now under 24. One of them, 19-year-old Abdullah Mason, fought immediately before Martin and scored a second-round knockout. He’s years away from contending, but he oozes star potential. So does another Top Rank lightweight, Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis.
Before the fight Saturday, it made sense to include Anderson, who is known as “The Real Big Baby,” in a group with fighters like that.
But his biggest win raised plenty of questions on Saturday. He’s got a lot to prove before he’s anointed the heavyweight division’s next big thing.
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