Styles Make Fights: Jared Anderson’s 'Sub-Par' Performance in Historical Perspective


When a highly-touted prospect turns in a performance that is inconsistent with his build-up, certain vociferous folks are quick to claim that he was always over-rated. Jared Anderson’s showing in his homecoming fight with Charles Martin engendered this reaction.

“Prince” Charles Martin briefly held a world heavyweight title, but he won the belt in a quirky fashion – his opponent’s knee gave out – and in subsequent fights was blasted out by Anthony Joshua and out-pointed by artless Adam Kownacki. Anderson, who had won all 14 of his previous bouts by knockout, dispatching all but two of his opponents within the first three rounds, was the younger man by 14 years and Martin, at age 37, took the bout on 11 days’ notice.

Anderson won a lopsided decision, winning nine of the 10 rounds on two of the scorecards and eight rounds on the other, but a common theme in post-fight stories was his defensive shortcomings. Martin hurt him in round five and buzzed him in the waning seconds of the last stanza, suggesting that he, Martin, could have won if he had let his hands go more freely in the early rounds or if the fight had been scheduled for a longer distance.

As several knowledgeable boxing observers noted, those that rushed to judgment, casting aspersions on Jared Anderson, were not well-versed in the history of boxing.

Indeed. Let’s elaborate.

Joe Louis, the immortal Brown Bomber, was extended the distance in three of his first 13 fights including 10-rounders with Adolph Wiater and Patsy Perroni.

Muhammad Ali went the distance in his first two scheduled 10-rounders which were his seventh and eighth pro fights. His opponents were Duke Sabedong and Alonzo Johnson.

The Sabedong fight didn’t erode his stature. Sabedong was “a mastodonic monument to mediocrity” in the words of Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter Jim Seagrave, but the six-foot-six Hawaiian was known for his durability; he could soak up a lot of punishment without getting knocked off his feet. Ali’s bout with former sparring partner Alonzo Johnson, however, unleashed a torrent of abuse. Ali, then known as Cassius Clay, won comfortably but did little to impress in match that didn’t heat up until the final two rounds.

New York Daily Mirror scribe Dan Parker, New York’s most prominent boxing writer and arguably the most influential boxing writer in the country, told his readers that the fight was a hippodrome (i.e, a fake). Perhaps so, but Parker tainted his legacy with this observation: “The superiority of the experienced Johnson over the clumsy, ineffectual Clay was glaringly obvious to anyone with the slightest knowledge of boxing.”

Brickbats in far greater abundance rained down on the brash young fighter from Louisville following his eighteenth pro fight wherein he won an unpopular 10-round decision over Doug Jones before an SRO crowd at Madison Square Garden. “The fight exposed Clay as little more than a rank amateur whose mouth was far mightier than his muscles,” said a reporter from Memphis who was in town for a college basketball tournament and had wangled a press pass. It was a popular opinion. “Ali is a bum,” said more than one disgruntled fan as he left the arena.

George Foreman was extended the distance three times in his first 16 pro fights including 10-rounders with limited Levi Forte, a Miami Beach bellman, and with reputable Argentine campaigner Gregorio Peralta. Reporters were kind to him, however, reluctant to criticize the former gold medalist whose behavior at the Mexico City Olympiad stamped him as a true American patriot, the anti-Ali.

Lennox Lewis was far more advanced than Foreman when he went the distance for the first time in a 10-round fight. Lewis was 18-0 with 17 knockouts when he opposed journeyman Levi Billups at Caesars Palace on Feb. 1, 1992.

This bout was similar in many ways to Jared Anderson’s fight with Charles Martin. Billups buzzed Lewis in the final round with a three-punch combination, but when both were still standing at the final bell it was plain that the “A side” fighter would win the decision.

The hard-to-please British writers were left with the impression that Lennox Lewis would need quite a few more fights under his belt before he was ready to successfully tackle one of the title-holders. Looking back, he needed only three before locking up his first title at the expense of Tony Tucker.

There’s an old saying in boxing that styles make fights. Depending on his agenda, a matchmaker strives to match up fighters who will provide good entertainment or make the house fighter look good, ideally both as these aren’t mutually exclusive. But it’s an inexact science that becomes more of a puzzle when a fight falls out and a fill-in is needed on short notice.

Did Charles Martin expose shortcomings in Jared Anderson? Of course, but Jared is still a near-novice and if history is any guide, his sub-par showing this past Saturday didn’t veer him off the right path. He doesn’t need to take a step back before he takes another step forward.

In boxing, mused the noted trainer and boxing writer Stephen “Breadman” Edwards, the “other guy” is allowed to show up. “Prospects are supposed to have rough nights at the office during their development,” tweeted boxing writer and podcaster Michael Montero….”Everyone relax.”


Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

Arne K. Lang’s third boxing book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” rolled off the press in September of last year. Published by McFarland, the book can be ordered directly from the publisher or via Amazon.