Heavyweight contender Jared Anderson saw the target and didn't hold back.
Round after round, he unloaded an array of body punches that weakened Andriy Rudenko to set up the big finish in the main event of Saturday's Top Rank on ESPN card.
In the fifth round, Anderson overwhelmed the outmatched Rudenko and forced a fifth-round technical knockout at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After spending the bulk of the fight attacking the Ukrainian boxer's midsection, Anderson ripped head shots for an uninterrupted 25-second span that forced referee Gary Ritter to finally stop the bout.
"We just know you gotta start with the body and the head will fall," Anderson said in his postfight interview with ESPN. "That's exactly what we started with. And as you can see, it worked."
According to CompuBox, Anderson landed a career-high 72 body punches. Those shots accounted for 51% of all his punches landed.
On paper, Rudenko (35-7, 21 KOs), 39, was billed as a rugged veteran to challenge Anderson (16-0, 15 KOs), the rising American contender who hails from Toledo, Ohio. While Rudenko has been in the ring with notable heavyweight fighters such as Alexander Povetkin, Lucas Browne and Zhilei Zhang, he hadn't beaten an opponent with more than 10 wins since 2016.
Rudenko told the postfight telecast on ESPN+ that his preparation for Saturday's bout was poor. He attributed that to having to relocate to Montenegro because of Russia's war against Ukraine. It also forced him to be without his Ukrainian trainer and chief sparring partners, he told ESPN.
But Rudenko praised Anderson for his conditioning and approach.
"Anderson is like a really good prospect with a real American boxing style," he told ESPN through an interpreter.
Anderson, who is ranked No. 7 in ESPN's heavyweight ranking, was coming off his toughest fight to date against former heavyweight titleholder Charles Martin in July. Despite scoring a knockdown in the third round of that bout, Anderson was forced to withstand a late Martin rally to win a unanimous decision, his first pro fight that went the distance.
In a statement after Saturday's fight, Top Rank founder Bob Arum said Anderson has "everything it takes to become champion of the world."
However, when Anderson was asked in his postfight interview if he was looking to make a statement to the rest of the division, he immediately pushed back on that notion as he laid out his personal ambitions.
"I was sending a statement to myself," Anderson said. "I'm fighting for myself, and I'm fighting for my family. As much as people want to hate on me for it, I'm a realist."
In the co-main event of Saturday's fight, Efe Ajagba won via disqualification after Zhan Kossobutskiy threw too many low blows. Kossobutskiy (19-1, 18 KOs) had received multiple penalties for low blows before the referee stopped the bout in the fourth round. It was Ajagba's (18-1, 13 KOs) third victory since a 2021 loss to Frank Sanchez.