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Roman "Rocky" Martinez


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One of the best super featherweights of this century so far, Martinez won the WBO title 3 times in his career. His best and most unexpected perhaps victory was over Orlando Salido in 2015, when he became the champion for the third and last time. Martinez was an aggressive fighter and a good, accurate puncher who could also box and was tall for the division at 5'8, and he only lost to the best. He retired in 2016, after suffering a bad knockout loss at the hands of Vasyli Lomachenko and came back in 2019, but after another bad ko loss against Yuriorkis Gamboa, he retired for good that year.


Born 31 January 1983 in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, Martinez started fighting as a pro while still 18, in December 2001. Some of his early fights were fought at 135. After 7 straight wins, he had a draw against then-undefeated Jose Leonardo Cruz, in a 6-rounder in Miami. Cruz was taken a point away for a low blow, otherwise Rocky would have lost by a split decision. In October 2005 he decisioned Jose Luis Soto Karass, brother of Jesus, by UD10. In November 2006, he won the vacant WBO Latino super feather title with a technical decision in 10 over Baudel Cardenas. In his next fight in February 2007, he also won the WBO Intercontinental title by SD12 against Francisco Lorenzo. He defended the title by knocking out Daniel Jimenez in 12 in August and thus also winning the WBO NABO title. In August 2008, he stopped the contender Santos Benavides by a TKO6 in a defense of the WBO NABO title. He was then finally given a chance to win the main WBO title against Nicky Cook of England, who had decisioned Alex Arthur for it previously. Rocky came to MEN Arena (now called Manchester Arena) in Manchester to fight Cook on the evening of 14 March 2009. Cook managed to knock him off balance with a left hook in round 2 but Rocky remained composed and in round 4 he put Cook down with a combination. As Cook got up in time, Martinez then finished him off with a big left hook that put Cook down and almost out cold. Cook only had one previous loss, when he was stopped in 11 rounds by Steven Luevano. Rocky first defended his title by stopping Feider Viloria, a fringe contender, by a TKO9 at home in Puerto Rico and then in his second defense easily beat the overmatched Gonzalo Munguia by a KO4, also at home. He however had to go to Glasgow in Scotland for the third defence, to fight Ricky Burns, who was the new hot contender from UK. It was on 4 September 2010 at Kelvin Hall and Rocky started off well by dropping the even-taller Burns in the first round with a straight right. Burns survived the round and then came back to land many shots, using his superior reach but also used some unconventional tactics to keep Martinez at bay by leaning against him whenever he came close. It was a close and competitive fight, but Burns got the verdict in the end, despite the knockdown, 115-113 and 115-112 twice.


Rocky took a year off before returning on 1 November next year and beating Daniel Attah, former Acelino Freitas-opponent who went the distance against him, by a TKO6. He then signed for a fight for the vacant WBO title, which Burns had vacated to compete at 135. He took on Miguel Beltran jr, a Mexican, at MGM Grand in Vegas, 15 September 2012. Beltran was deducted a point for rabbit punching in round 11, which helped Rocky get a split decision, after a hard and close fight. One judge had Beltran ahead by as much as 116-111, but that was not strange in Vegas, where Mexican fighters enjoyed privileged treatment. The other two scored it 114-113 for Rocky, so he became a champ for the second time. He made his first defense of the second reign on 19 January 2013, at Madison Square Garden, against Juan Carlos Burgos; after 12 rounds were completed, one judge had it for Martinez by 116-112, the other for Burgos by 117-111 and the third had it even, 114-114. He then went to Macao to defend against 23-0 Diego Magdaleno and after putting Magdaleno down in round 4, he retained the title with a split decision. He then signed to fight Mikey Garcia, who was coming up from featherweight and they fought on 9 November, at American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. Rocky surprised everyone by dropping the favorite Garcia with a counter right in round 2, but Garcia weathered the storm and came back to stop him with a left hook to the body which put him down and unable to beat the count in round 8. He had lost, but had given a good account of himself against the guy who was destroying everyone back then. He came back and scored his last great victory when he fought Orlando Salido for the same title he held before, which Salido had won against Terdsak Jandaeng. They fought in San Juan, PR, 11 April 2015 and Salido started off well and was more aggressive in the first 2 rounds, before Rocky put him down in round 3 and then again in round 5. He took control of the fight for the next few rounds as well and hit Salido with some good punches, before Salido came back into the fight, but was unable to really hurt Rocky. In the end, Martinez was the victor by the scores of 116-109, 114-111 and 115-110. Salido also lost a point for a low blow in round 11. JuanMa Lopez was in the audience, cheering his countryman on, who became the first Puerto Rican to defeat Salido. They had a rematch on 12 September, this time at MGM Grand, and Salido was more dominant this time, altho the fight was definitely close. In the end, despite Salido apparently outlanding Martinez, the fight was judged to be a draw as two judges had each fighter winning and the third had it even.


That fight would be the end of Rocky's prime. He made his second defense on 11 June next year against the new star, Vasyli Lomachenko, who had already faced Salido previously and lost to him under controversial circumstances. Rocky had no answer for the superb speed and reflexes and the ring generalship of the Ukrainian and was knocked out with a big left uppercut-right hook combo in round 5. Lomachenko had won every round on all scorecards up til then. It was obvious that Martinez at 33 and after 14 years of fighting was not his old self anymore and he was never the same after that devastating loss, the first time he was really knocked out and cold. He was supposed to fight Gervonta Davis in July 2017, but could not make the weight in time and was dropped. He came back in March 2019 however and beat William Gonzalez by TKO8 and then fought Yuriorkis Gamboa, both at 135. The Gamboa fight happened on 27 July that year and Martinez was easily destroyed by the Cuban in 2 rounds. That was his last fight and his record stands at 30 wins, 18 by ko, 4 losses and 3 draws. It is uncertain wether he will ever return to the ring, but given his age and those two knockout losses, it is unlikely and unwise. At his best, he was a true warrior who came to fight, was a good offensive fighter/puncher and was seldom or never in a boring fight. I hope you enjoyed this presentation.

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