Monday, July 3, 2023

July 4th Weekend 2023 Thoughts

The July 4th holiday here in the United States is a celebration of the nation's birthday. Along with fireworks shows throughout the country, Major League Baseball games, and family barbecues, there are always many things happening in, around, and on the holiday. One of those things that always seems to precede the holiday in some form or fashion is a healthy dose of Boxing action. This July 4th weekend was no exception though unlike in some previous years, the 2023 edition had a bit of an international flavor with a British and Commonwealth Jr. Welterweight championship fight kicking off the action followed by a fast rising Heavyweight prospect returning to his hometown of Toledo, OH to face what was the first significant test of his career.

What should be referred to as "Boxing Saturday" of the holiday weekend on July 1st did begin with a unification of the British and Commonwealth Jr. Welterweight championships as British champion Dalton Smith faced Commonwealth champion and former world title challenger Sam Maxwell in Sheffield, England. As expected, this was a tactical fight where what stood out early on was the compact, yet explosive offensive spurts from the undefeated Smith, particularly in landing his right hand on Maxwell. What became clear beyond Smith seeming to be the quicker of the two fighters was, he was also the harder hitter of the two. 

The compact way in which Smith set up his attacks in picking his spots is something that also stood out. While this fight was competitive, Maxwell seemed to be a step behind in terms of his timing and attempts to counter Smith, particularly in the midst of exchanges. This created a scenario where there was one consistent theme. Smith dictating the tempo of the combat, picking his spots, executing his offense, and Maxwell gradually becoming hesitant to let his hands go and seemingly on defense, despite periodically being able to land solidly with his punches.

As the fight progressed, I felt as though I was looking at a bout that would ultimately go the twelve round distance. When it comes to two fighters with a similar style as Smith and Maxwell, two boxer/punchers, you can never dismiss the possibility of a knockout, but seeing the tempo in which a fight is being fought, you can just get the feeling that you’re seeing a bout that will go to the scorecards. For several rounds in this bout, I had that feeling. Not so much because of the styles of the two fighters being similar, but because of the tactical and measured pace in which the combat was being fought. 

Despite this observer’s gut feeling based on decades of experience covering and watching the sport, sometimes things do not turn out quite as they appear they might. In round seven, Smith following a suffering a deep cut as a result of an accidental clash of heads in the fifth round over his right eye, would bring the fight to a sudden and dramatic conclusion. A single overhand right to the head ended Maxwell’s night sending him down and out on the canvas. The shot that ended this fight, which came behind a jab, landed on the temple of Maxwell, which in a way reminded me somewhat of Mike Tyson’s first round knockout of Henry Tillman in June 1990. 

In a scenario similar to this in terms of where the knockout punch landed, Tyson connected with a high left hook that landed on the temple of Tillman, the 1984 Olympic Gold mendalist, who had previously defeated Tyson twice prior to the 1984 Olympics in the amateur ranks. Why that fight, over thirty-three years ago came to mind when I saw this knockout Dalton Smith was able to score, I cannot say because, while like Tyson-Tillman, this fight ended on one punch, it was not an identical scenario and unlike Tyson’s knockout of Tillman, Smith’s knockout of Maxwell, was a result of an overhand right. The only thing I can assume as to why my memory was automatically triggered might be that while a knockout as a result of a fighter being struck in the temple is possible and obviously does happen, it does not seem to happen as often as one might think.

Nevertheless, the knockout win for Smith was a statement-making moment that will likely get people talking and taking notice. While this solidifies Smith’s position atop the British Boxing scene in the 140lb. Jr. Welterweight division, this victory over Sam Maxwell will likely result in him testing the waters on the world level of the division moving forward. It remains to be seen how Smith will fare against world rated competition, but with now with his fifteenth win and eleventh knockout behind him, he does have momentum to at least try and test those waters.

One undefeated prospect that found himself testing the waters during July 4th weekend was “Knockout Artist” Jared Anderson. Anderson, who had scored knockouts in all fourteen of his professional fights, found himself testing the waters against a former world champion in a fight that was designed to be a homecoming for him in his hometown of Toledo, OH. Despite taking the fight on eleven days notice, former IBF Heavyweight champion of the world Charles Martin was able to give Anderson the first significant test of his career.

 Before an enthusiastic crowd of supporters, Anderson immediately applied pressure on Martin from the outset. He did this by using his jab and trying to walk Martin down. While this was not something unexpected based both on Anderson’s punching power as well as the fact that Martin had taken the fight on short notice, what was a bit surprising was the tactical approach of Anderson. Even though he was looking to land power shots as all fighters with a reputation of being power punchers do, the thing that stood out was the patience he showed throughout this fight, even though prior to this encounter Anderson had never been beyond six rounds in his career.

Despite being put under pressure from the outset, Martin used his experience to his advantage and seemed to take Anderson’s power shots well. This changed slightly in the third round when Anderson was able to score a knockdown of Martin with a counter right hand. Martin did not appear to be hurt and attempted to contend that the knockdown was caused by the fighters legs being tangled. Video replays at the conclusion of the round however, that Martin's claim was not valid and the call of a knockdown being scored cleanly was in fact the correct call. At this point in the fight, I felt that it was competitive, but the addition of a knockdown to what seemed to be a reluctance by Martin to let his hands go, created a hole in terms of the scoring of the fight that would be difficult for the former world champion to overcome. I also had a sense that perhaps what appeared to be a strictly counter punching approach by Martin was an attempt to extend Anderson as far into the fight as possible while trying to make the young unbeaten prospect exert his energy, which in theory would allow Martin to step up his pace and offensive output in the middle and late rounds.

If that was indeed the strategy Martin was looking to execute, it would be what one would likely expect of a seasoned veteran. In round five, Martin would make his presence known when he stunned Anderson with a counter left hand from the southpaw stance. This proved to be the first time that Anderson would have his ability to take a punch tested as it was the first time he was significantly stunned in a fight.To Anderson's credit, he was able to regroup and maintain control of the fight.

What was impressive beyond the poise and calm that Anderson showed in being able to keep his composure after being hurt for the first time in his career, but he also showed the ability to use defense to his advantage as he was able to make Martin miss with much of his offense both before and after being stunned. Martin would nevertheless periodically land with more solid left hands throughout the remainder of the ten round bout, but it would be Anderson's greater activity in addition to the knockdown he scored in the third round that resulted in him being able to score a wide and convincing ten rounds unanimous decision victory to remain unbeaten.

While this fight marked the end of Anderson's knockout streak of fourteen consecutive knockouts, the decision victory did knock a few questions off the check list that are often asked if unbeaten prospects that have the reputation as a "Knockout Artist." 

Can the fighter go into the middle and late rounds of a fight?✔️

Will the fighter respond well to adversity when challenged?✔️

Will the fighter be able to survive being hurt when an opponent is able to land punches solidly?✔️


Can the fighter continue to perform well when matched against an opponent with more experience?✔️

Jared Anderson was indeed able to at least for this fight answer those questions favorably and check them off the list. It goes without saying however, that the level of competition will only continue to increase from here and this victory over a former world champion should be viewed as a step forward in Anderson's overall development. Where he goes from here, against whom, and how he will use what he learned in this fight with Charles Martin remains to be seen.

"And That's The Boxing Truth.

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