Boxing: Martinez confident he is not the Underdog • Latino Sports


Boxing: Martinez confident he is not the Underdog


New York, NY – Felix Verdejo will be a headliner at the theatre at Madison Square Garden Saturday night on the HBO televised card of boxing. It is also the traditional boxing card promoted by Top Rank on the eve of the National Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City.

Verdejo has been in that spotlight, so has Miguel Cotto when he was with Top Rank.

But the anticipated fight of the night involves another champion from Puerto Rico. Roman “Rocky” Martinez, the WBO junior lightweight title holder from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico is the underdog opposing the Ukranian Olympian, Vasyl Lomachenko. The significance is Lomachenko trying to become a two-division champion in his seventh bout as a professional and moving up from featherweight.

So, one would gather that Martinez is the heavy favorite. And fighting on the stage in New York, with rabid fans of Puerto Rican descent, should give Martinez, 29-2-3 17 KO’s the edge? The 33-year old is defending his title for a second time and is quick. But the power of the younger Lomachenko could be a determining factor.

Either, way, and despite Top Rank now looking to promote Verdejo as their new Cotto draw for the Garden, Martinez is in the spotlight. The champion says being an underdog is no factor and he is honored to be fighting on the eve of a significant day for Puerto Rican pride.

“We share the same thing,” Martinez said Friday afternoon as he made weight at 129.8 pounds. The same thing as wanting to have a title for national pride, and Martinez is not about to give up his title that quick.  He trained hard for this fight, as he always does, and realizes that his opponent with that limited pro experience has achieved much in a short time span as a pro.

Martinez added via a translator, “I will put everything on the reach and do it for my country.” The fight will be part of the HBO main event that also includes Verdejo, 21-0, 14 KO’s of San Juan ,defending his WBO Latino Lightweight title against NO. 2 world ranked Juan Jose Martinez.

Of course the Garden crowd will also pay homage to the late heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali who was laid to rest Friday afternoon in Louisville Kentucky. Martinez is aware that he is also fighting in New York and at the Garden where Ali had fame from that “Fight of the Century” against Joe Frazier in 1971.

He said, “I have seen the footage and I am honored to be fighting where Ali made history.” Arum, the promoter who staged most of Ali’s fights, will be at ringside after attending the funeral in Louisville.

“I am the man to beat in this fight,” Martinez said when asked about his underdog status. “I am going to box and pressure him (Lomachenko). “I am the stronger guy and have the experience.” But to do that, Martinez has to overcome the good defense of Lomachenko who is looking to make boxing history with another win.

Martinez did his thing in New York this week. He worked hard on the pads at the Mendez boxing Gym during media sessions, and quietly was very confident about not listening about this underdog status that was given when this fight was made.

“It is the fight that will get me to the next level,” he said.  Now the spotlight is here, at Madison Square Garden and on the eve of an important day in New York City.

About Rich Mancuso

Established sports journalist and educator. Contact Rich at [email protected]

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