Thursday, September 21, 2023  |



Jared Anderson says he’s hyped for his homecoming, Charles Martin says he’s ready to spoil it

Jared Anderson and Charles Martin. Photo by Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images
Fighters Network

TOLEDO, Ohio – Homecoming fights are usually promoted as celebratory events, but that does not mean that they always go quite according to plan. In fact, they can go in one of many ways. 

At one end of the spectrum, fighters like Shakur Stevenson and Terrence Crawford seem to shine brightest at home. Both elite boxers have put on spectacular winning performances in front of hometown supporters in Newark, New Jersey and in Omaha, Nebraska, respectively.

Somewhere in the middle are lackluster performances in hometown fights like the one Josh Taylor put forth against Jack Catterall or more recently, the bout between Regis Prograis and Danielito Zorilla earlier this month in New Orleans. Following that fight, both Prograis now 29-1, 24 KOs, and his promoter, Eddie Hearn of Matchroom, spoke frankly about the challenges and pressures of fighting in front of local supporters.

Finally, there are the homecoming fights that feature the “road warrior,” a fighter who can totally ruin the night for a hometown hero. Unified Ring Magazine heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk (20-0-0 13 KOs) has seemed to relish derailing the careers of fighters on enemy soil. Usyk did just that to the likes of, then-unified heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and former cruiserweight world titleholders Krzysztof Glowacki, Mairis Briedis, Murat Gassiev, and Tony Bellew. 

On Saturday, young and highly regarded heavyweight up-and-comer Jared “Big Baby” Anderson (14-0, 14 KOs) takes on former titleholder “Prince” Charles Martin. The veteran is seeking to spoil Anderson’s party in his hometown.

Getting to Toledo is not easy or straightforward. The city is not served by a major airport and Amtrak service runs through the city during twilight hours. Getting from Toledo to where Anderson is currently positioned in the sport is by no means easy either. The city has produced one Olympic champion, Wilbert McClure, who took gold in the light middleweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, and one major world titleholder, Robert Easter Jr, who held the IBF lightweight belt from 2016 to 2018. Anderson is the biggest name in boxing to come out of Toledo in a while and might be the only heralded fighter from here for some time to come.

Known as the “Glass City,” Anderson’s hometown is a midwestern working-class town located between Cleveland and Detroit. Once famous for being an important center of glass manufacturing, Saturday’s card is the first major fight night in a place where the biggest sporting events are usually minor league baseball and hockey. “Big Baby” is likely the biggest thing in or around northwest Ohio right now, and he returns to Toledo with the hopes of entertaining his home crowd by extending his unbeaten record and his perfect streak of knockout victories.

Anderson is widely considered the best U.S. heavyweight prospect, and potentially the next big star in the division. Saturday’s fight is Anderson’s first pro fight in Toledo. It is also his first main event, in primetime and on ESPN no less. The midwesterner, known for both his skills inside the ring, as well as for his charismatic ring entrances, is anticipating entertaining a capacity crowd at the Huntington Center, the 8,000-seat arena that is hosting the fight.

Martin is also a midwesterner and decided to take on the role of spoiler on just 10-days notice when undefeated Kazakh Zhan Kossobutskiy (19-0, 18 KOs) was unable to secure a visa to enter the U.S. in time for the fight. Martin, who is originally from St. Louis, Missouri, and is now fighting out of Carson, California is a former IBF heavyweight beltholder who has experienced fighting in his opponent’s hometown. Martin lost his first title defense against Anthony Joshua at London’s 02 Arena and still longs for another shot at a major belt.

Since the loss, Martin’s had his ups and downs, losing a decision to Adam Kownacki, and beating Gerald Washington before getting stopped in the sixth by Luis Ortiz. Martin enters Saturday’s fight coming off a comeback fourth-round stoppage win against Devin Vargas. Despite wanting to get back into title contention, it is Martin who arguably has less pressure on his shoulders. This week Top Rank, Anderson’s promoter, released a video through its YouTube channel of an emotional Anderson speaking candidly to hall-of-famer Roy Jones Jr. about the challenge of handling all the pressure being placed on his 23-year old shoulders by his family, his promoters, and by the sport that he’s participated in since the age of eight.

At Thursday’s final press conference before the fight, both fighters sat in front of the media at the Huntington Center to speak about the fight. On this occasion, Anderson was visibly happy to be home and explained the significance of his first fight in Toledo.

“Ah man, it’s super special, you know, I’m super excited. I’m the talk of the town, you know what I’m saying? So it’s new. It’s a new feeling. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to embrace it.”

The heavyweight contender brimmed when speaking about being around Toledo’s kids at an event organized by his handlers.

“I’m happy to be an inspiration to the kids. That’s all I did yesterday. You know, talk to kids, take pictures with kids. Y’all might not have seen it, but even when I left [the media] I went to my dad’s house and got bum-rushed by another group of kids!”

“I’m just super excited and overwhelmed [by] it.

As for his preparation, Anderson believes he’s ready despite the change of opponent.

“I come prepared for anything and everything. Luckily, he is still a southpaw. I think that was the biggest reason that we chose him after the change. He’s also a bigger name. He is a former world champion. He has fought a few world titleholders as well,” Anderson continued.

“I’m prepared for everything. It didn’t throw a monkey wrench in the plan, but it definitely made us go back to the drawing board, look at the tapes, and come back with a plan.”

A calm and relaxed Martin spoke about his decision to take the fight on short notice and of being happy to be offered the opportunity to fight Anderson.

“I was just happy man, you know I’ve been putting in a lot of work so I’m just happy that the hard work finally paid off.”

The former beltholder also spoke about his experience in Toledo and his success against one of the city’s other fighters, the aforementioned Devin Vargas.

“Well surprisingly, I won my national championship here in Toledo, Ohio before I turned professional so I am kind of just coming back and reliving the experience I had when I was here, you know, it’s a good thing.”

In terms of the fight itself, Martin is matter-of-factual and confident. If there is any pressure on anyone he believes it’s all on Anderson.

“I’m up for the challenge. He’s a big, strong, young lion. And I’m here,” continued Martin.

“I know he’s dealing with a lot of the pressures and stuff of fighting in his hometown and stuff like that. That, you know, all the people bombarding you, that’s a lot of work, you know, and can be exhausting.”

Despite his previous statement to Jones Jr. during his camp in preparation for this fight, Anderson seems to be relishing being back in Toledo. Martin just seems to be content with getting the opportunity to launch one more run at a heavyweight title. The location of this fight and the festive atmosphere adds an interesting element that may or may not impact the young fighter and that may or may not affect the elder opponent who seeks to crash and derail the party.

Anderson-Martin is supported by a heavyweight co-feature between undefeated Montreal-based Russian Arslanbek Makhmudov (16-0, 15 KOs) and former two-sport collegiate athlete Miami-based Nigerian Raphael Akpejiori (15-0, 14 KOs). The main card will be aired live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. EST this Saturday. Preliminary bouts will be televised on ESPN+ beginning at 6:15 EST.