By Jake Donovan
Ryan Martin is free at last.
Sidelined for the past nine months while held virtually captive by 50 Cent’s bankrupted promotional company, the unbeaten lightweight prospect was finally released from a dead-end contract that had stalled his career. The timing of the news couldn’t be better for the Chattanooga-bred, Cleveland-based boxer who turns 23 on Friday.
“After nine months of continuous litigation, we are pleased to announce that Ryan and 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions have verbally agreed on an amicable separation,” Tim VanNewhouse, Martin’s manager informed BoxingScene.com on Tuesday.
Martin (13-0, 8KOs) was part of a stable of boxers – which included super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell, super welterweight James Kirkland and former champs Yuriorkis Gamboa and Billy Dib – whose careers were left to suffer after 50 Cent - real name Curtis Jackson - filed for both business and personal bankruptcy at separate points in 2015.
Dirrell and Dib were eventually able to escape contract, but the majority of the remaining SMS boxers saw its action limited to court battles. Chief among them was Martin, who has been out of the ring against his will since a 1st round knockout of Ivan Zavala last May at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas.
The show was headlined by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvaez’ thrilling – albeit one-sided – 3rd round knockout of Kirkland, which aired live on HBO. Normally placement on such a show would be considered a reward. However, Martin’s bout was buried on an 11-fight non-televised undercard, occurring well before the majority of fans and media were in attendance.
For those who were able to catch a glimpse, it was the last anyone has seen of Martin.
There was hope for a contractual release last October, when Martin joined Gamboa and Kirkland in such efforts to flee SMS’ crumbling company. Gamboa eventually renewed his deal with SMS, his first fight back under the promotional banner coming last December as part of an HBO Latino-tape delayed tripleheader beneath an HBO telecast with Golden Boy as the lead promoter.
As for Martin, his request for release was met with resistance by Jackson, who met the court-imposed deadline to respond and continue the battle in court.
With Tuesday’s news, Martin can take comfort in knowing his next fight will take place in the ring rather than a courtroom. It’s a major sigh of relief for the former amateur standout who is believed by his handlers – those who are actually interested in advancing his career – to go on to great things in the sport.
“In my lifelong experiences with the sport, I believe Ryan has the talent to win world titles in multiple divisions - 135 through147,” insists noted matchmaker Sean Gibbons, who has been involved in Martin’s career since the beginning. “He improves after each fight and is in the gym continuously. It's been unfortunate to see a kid’s career like this be on hold.”
Those days now appear to finally be over.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox