Jared Anderson must win in and out of the ring to become America’s next heavyweight superstar

The American fights Ryad Merhy in Corpus Christi, Texas this weekend, and aims to mix it with Tyson Fury, Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua in the future

Steve Bunce
Monday 08 April 2024 15:32 BST
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Jared Anderson is an American heavyweight contender that Bob Arum, his promoter, wants you to know, love and support. The American heavyweight business needs him to become a star.

Moses Itauma is a British heavyweight prospect that Frank Warren, his promoter, wants you to know, love and support. The attraction with Itauma is his age – the kid from Kent is just 19.

In the heavyweight world, both are on the edges of recognition, and both are leading their respective packs of contenders. Right now, there are more British heavyweight contenders than there are American heavyweight contenders. However, the Olympic silver medal winner in Tokyo in 2020, Richard Torrez Jr, is outstanding and unbeaten in nine fights, all stoppage wins. The Californian is also a southpaw. In 2017, in the quarter-finals of the National Golden Gloves, Torrez Jr beat Anderson on points.

Anderson, a former sparring partner for Tyson Fury, fights in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Saturday, in his 17th fight. Obviously, he has never lost a fight and has barely surrendered a round; Anderson has stopped or knocked out 15 of the 16 men he has beaten.

Itauma fights on the Tyson Fury and Oleksander Usyk undercard in Saudi Arabia on 18 May. Itauma is unbeaten in eight fights and two men have survived to the final bell. Itauma is about 6ft 4in and weighs about 17st; Anderson is 6ft 4in and weighs just over 17st. In tennis or golf, they would meet a dozen times before they reach their peaks; in boxing, they might never meet. It's an odd sport.

Anderson is needed to lead the American heavyweights out of the shadows; there are just two American heavyweights in my top 20 heavyweights – there are five or six or seven British heavyweights in the same top 20. Rating fighters, especially heavyweights, is not scientific; it is a simple and personal process, a guessing game in many ways. In theory, Deontay Wilder is still the best American heavyweight, but he has won just one of his last four fights since 2019. Wilder is also 19 years older than Itauma.

Jared Anderson celebrates his TKO of George Arias in April 2023 (Photos by Getty)

On Saturday, Anderson fights Ryad Merhy over 10 rounds; it is a perfectly acceptable fight. It will be his first fight since a high-profile incident where he was detained by the police following a car chase in late February. He was taken into custody, paid $10,000 in bail money and was released. He later apologised for his behaviour. “I have to be a better role model,” he said. Anderson is due in court two days after the Merhy fight. He is charged with “third-degree felony fleeing a police officer”. He refused to stop when asked and is accused of leading the police on a six-mile chase.

Jared Anderson swerves a shot from George Arias (Getty Images)

Merhy has lost twice in 34 fights, but in his last fight he travelled to Paris to beat Tony Yoka, the one-time French idol and 2016 Olympic gold medal winner. It was a hard fight, a split decision over 10 rounds; Anderson has never been even close to a hard, 10-round fight, the type of fight that divides the judges at the end. The type of fight that every heavyweight prospect needs before he discovers how hard the business can be.

Last July, Anderson went 10 rounds for the first time when he beat Charles Martin, a former heavyweight world champion. It was not a spectacular performance, but it was professional, and, in the end, it was a shut-out win in Anderson’s favour. Martin had previously been knocked out by Anthony Joshua and the Cuban veteran, Luis Ortiz. On the night, Anderson was expected to get Martin out of there and not have to go the full distance; Martin was expertly selected to make Anderson look good.

Moses Itauma celebrates after winning his fight against Amine Boucetta (Getty Images)

This Saturday, Anderson and Arum, who has been polishing promising boxers for nearly 60 years, will join forces on their respective sides of the ropes to move the fighter a step closer to the heavyweight neon. Anderson will then have to win in court and that might be a bit more difficult.

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