Ryan Martin to face Josh Taylor in first round of World Boxing Super Series
The pro boxing career of Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin hasn’t always had the ideal structure but, by entering the World Boxing Super Series junior welterweight tournament, the framework has been put in place for the 25-year-old to make a name for himself.
“Big wins in the tournament will definitely be like, ‘Wow, where did this kid come from? Who is this Ryan Martin kid?'” Martin mused last week at a media scrum in Hollywood, California. “I’m very grateful to be on this platform.”
A month ago in Moscow, Russia, the World Boxing Super Series held its Draft Gala, in which the first round match-ups of the eight-man tournament were announced. Half of them were already predetermined by sanctioning bodies and that left Martin in the middle of the only drama from the event, as the top seed had the honor of choosing his first opponent.
“Being there in Moscow was amazing,” Martin remembered. “You could feel the tension in there with all the fighters. It’s definitely going to be fireworks through the whole tournament.”
Regis Prograis, the only other American in the tournament, had the honor of being the No.1 seed, and he chose the former lightweight titleholder from England, Terry Flanagan, as his first opponent instead of Martin.
“I had a feeling,” Martin said when asked if he knew beforehand whom Prograis would choose, “but, at the end of the day, when he makes the decision, it’s still surprising.”
The WBSS Draft Gala:
Martin, 22-0 (12), will face Scotland’s Josh Taylor in the first round of the WBSS and while some would say he got one of the tougher draws, Martin would disagree.
“I know Josh Taylor is a good fighter but I don’t feel like I got the toughest fight,” Martin answered. “We’re all top fighters and we just have to fight it out. We’re in here; we have to step in the ring and we have to fight.”
Taylor, 13-0 (11), just enjoyed his biggest victory last June when he outpointed Viktor Postol in an exciting affair. It was a fight that not only earned him the second highest seed in the WBSS but turned the 27-year-old into a full-fledged contender. It was also a fight in which Martin and his team saw things they believe they can exploit.
“I took a lot from that fight,” Martin said. “Postol fought from long range and had success. He was fighting in spurts. It was a good fight and both had their moments.”
Abel Sanchez, famed trainer of WBA/WBC middleweight champion and Martin’s coach for the past few years, was also there for the event and sounded his take on Taylor.
“I don’t think Josh Taylor has the skills to beat Ryan Martin,” Sanchez proclaimed. “He’s a big puncher but, as you saw in the Postol fight, he was confused. It’s just a matter of us getting ready and making sure that everything is correct.”
Martin admitted that he would’ve liked to have been seeded higher but understood his situation as a fighter relatively new to the 140-pound class. He was once ranked high at lightweight and, according to his manager Tim VanNewhouse, he even signed his side of an offer to face Jorge Linares before now-WBA champion Vasiliy Lomachenko eventually got that fight. Standing nearly six feet, it was a wonder how Martin could squeeze into 135 pounds and, while it made him an intriguing figure in the division, it was only a matter of time until his body grew out of it. After a close split decision win over Francisco Rojo a year ago, his last bout at lightweight, Martin has had two fights at 140 pounds, both of which took place in 2018.
“His physicality,” Sanchez answered when asked what improvement he’s seen. “At 135, in some of the fights, he just couldn’t get it to the next level. At 140, he’s having an easy time with the weight, an easy time with the guys we put in front of him, but I think, because he’s not struggling, in his mind, it makes him so much better.”
“Being at 140, I feel more powerful,” said Martin, who impressively knocked out Luis Florez and easily outpointed Breidis Prescott this year. “I feel like I can think more clearly in the ring and, all around, I have more fun in there. I definitely feel like I’m getting more into the 140-pound division, as my body matures more into it. It feels good and I’m looking forward to the next challenge of my career.”
Rounding out the tournament, Kiryl Relikh – the WBA junior welterweight titleholder from Belarus – will take on Russia’s Eduard Troyanovsky, a former beltholder in the division and the WBA’s No.1 contender. The other match-up will be for the vacant IBF title, as Ivan “The Beast” Baranchyk, also from Belarus, will take on Sweden’s Anthony Yigit, who both sit atop the IBF’s 140-pound rankings. Dates and venues of all first-round match-ups have yet to be determined.
With that line-up set, the winner of this tournament will be the unified IBF/WBA junior welterweight champion and the winner of the WBSS’ Muhammad Ali Trophy.
Martin is originally from Chattanooga, Tennessee, but has since moved to Cleveland, Ohio, when not training in Sanchez’s gym in Big Bear, California. When he first turned pro, in 2013, Martin was one of the first signees of SMS Promotions, the now-defunct company owned by 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson. In terms of activity, Martin’s career wasn’t drastically effected when SMS went under in 2015 and he even got decent exposure under the banner, by fighting on television as a young prospect. What was missing was a sense of structure and, starting in 2016, Tom Loeffler started to regularly put him on Gennady Golovkin’s undercards, once Martin became a promotional free agent. Their relationship has worked ever since and, regardless of how things have gone in the past, Martin enters a construct in whcih the future rests in his own hands.
“To have a plan already set out for you, and you only have to keep winning, is definitely some sort of relief,” Martin said about the design of this event. “Proving everyone wrong and going against the odds is definitely a good challenge and one that I’m up to.”