It is a bit scary when we preordain fighters as great, but Anderson is looking the part of being the next great American heavyweight. But why?
Well, let’s go through it, but first, let me give you all the details.
Jared Anderson fights this Saturday, December 10th, on ESPN, against a top-15 heavyweight in Jerry Forrest, a known spoiler, who is tricky and known to make people look bad, and many prospects have purposely not taken fights with him. Anderson is a perfect 12-0, with 12 KOs, and is taking a massive step up in competition as a win over Forrest would make him no longer a prospect but a contender. I want you to understand just how special Jared Anderson might be…so let’s go through it.
A Bigger Teofimo Lopez
The recipe that made Teofimo Lopez a superstar was simple. Knocking people out in a highlight-reel fashion that got viral clicks on social media platforms and entertainment. What has always stood out about Anderson is not just his fighting but his creativity. When he fought on Halloween, he dressed up like Chucky, a villain from the movie “Child’s Play”; for another fight, he dressed up as a chef.
In his last fight, he walked to the ring in shackles and state property uniform as though he was incarcerated, in a tribute to a family member who is currently stuck serving in the system. It was a fry-cry from his more zany and humorous walkouts; it was heartfelt and sincere. Sure, Anderson can fight, and that matters the most, but what makes him compelling is that Anderson puts so much thought into some theme or idea for his fight – he reminds me of a musician as each fight seems to be a bit more of his personality, and life as it unfolds.
Not unlike Nas’ “Illmatic” followed by “It Was Written,” Anderson is weaving together his own narrative through his own means, mostly ring walks and other platforms, as his career is arguably one of the most interesting. He feels like a young legend in the making, but we have been hurt as boxing fans before, so we tread on thin ice when making such bold proclamations.
We have not seen a heavyweight who is eager to entertain like Anderson since possibly Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson….and…those are the type of fighters boxing is so desperately missing. So to compare a relatively unproven professional fighter to all-time greats is not the wisest thing to do, but many do Anderson.
Even Anderson’s weigh-ins are entertaining as he creates memes out of his handclap with a smile that he does to pump himself up when weighing in to fight or even at press conferences. Sometimes people just are interested in observing, they have the x-factor, and Anderson is one of those guys.
Close Connection To Coach
Anderson has trained for some time with Darrie Riley. The duo has had a lot of success as Anderson climbed the ranks and got the #1 spot in the U.S.A. Boxing, as Anderson competed at the heavyweight division (cruiserweight), for the pros, but turned pro a year prior to the Olympic Trials.
Anderson’s pro debut was on the night Shakur Stevenson won his first world title against Joet Gonzalez in Reno, Nevada. Anderson had a cup of coffee in his pro debut, stopping Daniel Infante in less than one minute, a typical start to the career of an elite amateur prospect, who is looking to be built into a contender spot, and not be moved quickly. Anderson hurt Infante with a body shot – and the fight was over.
Yet, through observation only, as I haven’t spoken to Anderson nor Riley, it felt like the journey to the pros was long as Anderson’s infectious smile showed how much the pro debut on this stage meant. Riley mirrored his reaction in the corner, subdued like when the Yankees won their first playoff series as they went on to win the 2009 World Series. The goal seemed much bigger, but the characteristic of Riley seemed to show up in Anderson as a fighter.
The most telling image was after the fight. Anderson smiled as his hand was raised, while Riley stood to the side with his arm raised proudly. It seems that Riley has put everything he has into Anderson and that this moment is deeply personal. In my book, which you should buy if you haven’t, Riley seems to have unconditional love for Anderson. I am not sure what the story is between the two, but you can tell just by the body language and demeanor that the two are a team.
In such an individualized sport, Anderson has a leg up on many fighters because he has someone in his corner who views this as more than just a sport or, even worse, a business. Anderson has someone who cares, which is more than many people have in life, let alone boxing.
The Forgotten Success Story Of The Bubble
Three fighters greatly benefited from Top Rank’s bubble series during COVID-19: Jared Anderson, Xander Zayas, and Raymond Muratalla. All went from prospects to viable contenders by staying active and putting on entertaining performances. Anderson seemingly benefited the most as he knocked people out and brought the aforementioned theatrics to a division everyone in the world wants to watch – the heavyweight division. Anderson fought five times in 2020, with each fight building off the last.
He started 2021 by knocking out Kingsley Ibeh, who gave Guido Vianello a hard fight, which the two battled to a draw. Seen as a step-up type bout for Anderson, it honestly looked no different than when Anderson fought another tough regional fighter, known to spoil prospects in Rodney Hernandez. Anderson was so active to start his career that despite only fighting once in 2021, with his Saturday night bout being his second fight of the year, he hasn’t lost any momentum. Already a ten-round fighter, Anderson is now in a weird place.
The heavyweight division is not unlike the welterweight division – it has a log jam. Tyson Fury has a world title, Oleksandr Usyk has three world titles, Joe Joyce has an interim title, and Daniel Dubois has some form of a title, but all of these fighters are looking for the most profitable fight imaginable. Anderson now has to look at the house of cards that is the politics of the sport of boxing, vie for the most profitable and legacy-defining fights, as he looks to be one of the highest risks in the sport of boxing without a world title.
It isn’t a matter of if, more so when, but fighting Jerry Forrest should move Anderson higher in the world rankings, and someone like Daniel Dubois doesn’t seem that out of reach for a future fight. The shame is, the greats of this era, Tyson Fury, Deontay Wilder, Oleksandr Usyk, and Anthony Joshua, will probably all leave the sport before Anderson has a chance to face them, which is when we get those true legacy-defining moments in the sport, the passing of the torch so to speak.
The hidden success of Anderson, besides being an industry-leader promoter and manager, is that Anderson stayed extremely active early in his career to set himself up for finically fruitful fights down the road.
The Big Question
As I play Lukie downer, the one question we have to get through in the heavyweight division is simple. Every fighter can knock the other out, so it will be critical to see how Anderson handles damage over time, as cuts are not a matter of if, more so when and how Anderson progress in terms of physicality at the highest level. I have no question that with a great manager like James Prince, as well as world-class matchmakers like Brad Goodman (recently announced as part of the Boxing Hall of Fame Class of 2023) and Bruce Trampler, Anderson will have the best path possible to reach his full potential.
The thing is – the word world champion is thrown around too liberally. Any good fighter signed to a promotion will get labeled as a future world champion, but someone, and it is really hard to become a world champion. Though Anderson looks the part of a future legend, let’s let him become one before we crown him.
What I like is Anderson seems eager to take those types of fights, as his fight on Saturday is a step in the right division fighting a top-15 heavyweight in Jerry Forrest, a guy who has a draw with Michael Hunter, which some thought he should’ve won. Not many prospects would take this type of fight, and his eagerness to fight a southpaw, spoiler capable of disrupting rhythm shows a mentality I think that has been missing from the sport. It feels like Anderson wants to be great, and I get the feeling that some modern world champions don’t want that as much as Anderson does right now. We just have to see how his story unfolds and how the heavyweight landscape shakes out over the next few years.
In closing, Anderson is one of the most interesting young fighters, and potentially one of the fighters who the sport of boxing being relevant in a mainstream pop-culture sense will rely upon his success to stay in the collective consciousness of the world at large.