Opinion: Jared Anderson developing into top contender, not overhyped

What does Jared Anderson’s most recent performance say about him?

The 23-year-old heavyweight contender defeated veteran Charles Martin by a near-shutout decision this past July to retain his perfect record. However, Anderson (15-0, 14 KOs) went the distance for the first time and had to endure some harrowing moments, leading some to suggest that he isn’t ready for prime time.

That might be true but it makes no sense to dismiss him as overhyped as he prepares to face veteran Andriy Rudenko on Saturday in Tulsa, Oklahoma (ESPN+).

Every young fighter experiences growing pangs, which can serve to hone his or her skills. The talent is there. Said Martin, who had a short reign as a titleholder and has faced a number of top heavyweights: “The dude is crafty as a m—–f—–.”

Television analyst and Hall of Famer Tim Bradley was among those who suggested that Anderson has a lot of room to grow 15 fights into his professional career.

Bradley was asked by ESPN whether Anderson is ready for the top heavyweights.

“No, not yet,” he said. “After seeing his performance and seeing the punches that he was getting hit with as he was pulling straight back, he’s not ready.”

Anderson’s handlers appear to agree with Bradley given the choice of opponent for Saturday night. Rudenko (35-6, 21 KOs) is a significant step down from Martin in terms of the threat he poses to Anderson.

The 39-year-old Ukrainian is durable, as he demonstrated by going the distance with Alexander Povetkin, Agit Kabayel and Zhilei Zhang. However, he lost one-sided decisions in those and other fights and was stopped for the first time against unbeaten countryman Vladyslav Sirenko two bouts ago.

In other words, he has almost no chance to win on Saturday, which is probably how those in Anderson’s corner want it after what has been perceived as a tough test against Martin.

But how difficult was it?

Anderson took the fight to Martin and outworked him from the opening bell, including a knockdown in Round 3. His trial by fire came in Round 5, when Martin rocked him with a straight left halfway through the round and  followed with more hard lefts as Anderson shifted into survival mode.

Anderson was in serious trouble but, demonstrating impressive resilience, he remained on his feet, survived the most harrowing moment of his career and went back to dominating the fight.

According to CompuBox, he outlanded Martin in all but the fifth round and 157-85 overall. He also connected on 53% of his power punches.

“Even when I rocked him he was able to maneuver to get out of the way,” Martin said. “He’s going to be a champion, definitely going to be a champion.”

Was it a great performance? No. But it was convincing. And, more important, it was a valuable experience that will make Anderson a better fighter going forward.

After all, he had only 29 professional rounds under his belt going into the fight.

“I just wanted to make sure I could go the distance, that I had it in me,” he said. “Especially I wanted to be able to withstand power for the whole 10 rounds. He had power until the last round.

“I was just happy to get the rounds in.”

Story originally appeared on Boxing Junkie