On Saturday night, Josh ‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor begins his World Boxing Super Series campaign at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, facing off against hand-picked American opponent, Ryan ‘Blue Chip’ Martin, in the fourth quarter-final of the super lightweight tournament.
The undefeated Taylor (13-0 11 KO’s) is one of the best young boxers to emerge from British shores in recent years and is a fast-rising star in his division.
In contrast, Martin is somewhat of an unknown quantity for British fight fans. Here, we take a close-up look at the American’s boxing background and career and consider how much chance he has, as the betting underdog, of springing an upset on Taylor’s home turf.
Who is Ryan ‘Blue Chip’ Martin?
Martin was born in 1993 in Akron, Ohio, but moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee as a young child and started boxing at the age of 8. Since turning professional in 2013, he has accumulated a record of 22-0 (12 KO’s) and is currently ranked in the top 10 boxers at super lightweight by the WBC and IBF.
Although he now resides in Cleveland in his home state, he trains out of Big Bear, California, under Abel Sanchez, best-known as the trainer of former middleweight monarch, Gennady Golovkin.
What is behind his nickname?
In the world of finance, the term ‘blue chip’ refers to a company with a reputation for quality, reliability and offering a safe investment. Martin was an amateur standout, winning over 200 bouts and numerous national titles.
However, he failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympic Games, losing out to compatriot and future lightweight champion, Robert Easter, for the alternate spot on the American team. Nevertheless, his feats in the unpaid ranks led him to be tipped as a ‘blue chip’ prospect and future star of the sport upon turning professional and the tag, bestowed by his manager Tim VanNewhouse, has remained with him.
Has he lived up to these expectations so far as a professional?
Martin’s ascent up the professional ladder has been steady rather than spectacular, with one or two shaky moments. He spent nearly a year out between May 2015 and April 2016 due to a legal dispute with his then-promoter, the rapper 50 Cent.
In September 2017, Martin survived his first gut-check on the undercard of the first Canelo-Golovkin fight, eking out a split decision over Francisco Rojo, a contest which some observers scored in favour of his unheralded opponent. Anyone familiar with the Mexican boxing scene will tell you that Rojo is tough-as-nails and can fight, but one would still have expected a true blue chip prospect to have handled him.
Martin’s flat performance in the fight precipitated a move up to 140 pounds where he knocked out Colombian journeyman Luis Eduardo Florez and then, in his last fight, soundly outpointed Breidis Prescott who is still eating off his shocking KO upset of Amir Khan a decade ago, but has long since been relegated to gatekeeper status. Prescott represents Martin’s biggest scalp on paper, but he entered that contest with 4 losses in his previous 5 fights, including two by knockout.
What are his strengths and weaknesses?
As you would expect of someone with his amateur pedigree, Martin is a well-schooled and skilful boxer with good movement and footwork. He is a natural athlete with excellent hand-speed and boasts an authoritative jab which he works well off a tall, rangy frame. At nearly 6 feet tall with a 74 inch reach, Martin is huge for his weight division.
Although he is not a knockout artist, he has demonstrated in his last two fights that he hits hard enough at 140 pounds to command opponents’ respect. At long range, when he is firing off the jab in conjunction with crisp combinations on the outside, he can conceivably cause problems for any man in his division.
However, against Rojo, Martin struggled with the much shorter man’s pressure; spending periods on the back foot and allowing himself to get outworked. What leather he did land was not sufficient to stem the relentlessness of Rojo, who is really a natural 126/130 pounder fighting at lightweight. Question marks hang over Martin’s discipline, as he was docked a point in both the Rojo and Prescott fights for repeated low blows, despite warnings from his corner in the former.
It is imperative that he lets his hands go, above the belt of course, on Saturday night. Any close rounds are liable to be judged in favour of Taylor, who will receive raucous home support from thousands of Scots, so Martin has little room for error.
Does he have any chance of upsetting Josh Taylor on Saturday night?
Martin will be taking a quantum leap up in competition on Saturday night. Taylor himself boasts an impressive amateur pedigree, being a 2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth gold medallist. As a professional he has faced far superior opposition to Martin’s in almost half the number of fights which the American has had.
Within his last four fights, he has taken apart hard-punching unbeaten prospect Ohara Davies, stopped durable former lightweight champion Miguel Vázquez for the first time in his career, and outpointed former super lightweight champion Viktor Postol in a terrific, competitive fight. The Postol fight demonstrated without a shadow of doubt that Taylor had arrived as a contender in the 140 pound division.
As the saying goes, styles make fights, and the boxer-puncher style of Taylor is a completely different proposition to the relentless come-forward pressure of the much shorter Rojo which Martin struggled to adjust to. With Martin enjoying height and reach advantages over Taylor, this might even represent a better stylistic match-up for him.
There is however, a world of difference between the calibre of Taylor and that of Rojo, Florez and Prescott. Moreover, Taylor demonstrated against Postol that he has the ability to battle back against adversity and make adjustments against a tough and difficult opponent and no less than a world class 140-pounder.
When this fight was first announced, I could see no other outcome than a resounding Taylor victory. Despite technically being the more experienced man as a professional, Martin is still stuck in prospect mode. In an ideal world he would have taken an intermediate step-up before facing a man like Taylor, but the opportunity to enter the WBSS was simply too good an opportunity to turn down, in which the nature of the Gala Draw meant that this kind of match-up was always a likelihood.
Martin has demonstrated a tendency to fight to the level of his opponents so far in his career; testament to the uninspiring matchmaking on his behalf. But he is fresh, hungry, talented, and blessed with some tremendous physical gifts.
My suspicion is that we have not yet seen the best of him and, considering the magnitude of the opportunity which he has been presented with, I expect the very best version of him to turn up and thus a far more competitive and compelling contest that originally envisaged. Martin will still fall short clearly on the scorecards, but he will come away with more credit for his performance than he has from his previous 22 fights combined.
Article by: Paul Lam
Follow Paul on Twitter at: @PaulTheWallLam