American David “El Finito” Martinez has a spy in the camp ahead of his clash with Bernard Dunne at the National Stadium on June 3rd. The spy in question is none other than former three weight world champion Johnny “Ma Vida Loca” Tapia.
The legendary Tapia has held no less than 5 world titles during his career but more importantly for Martinez he sparred countless rounds with Dunne during the Dubliner's time at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
In recent weeks, though, it's Martinez who has been clocking up the rounds with Tapia as he bids to ruin Dunne's European title ambitions.
Speaking from his training camp in New Mexico ahead of arriving in Dublin this weekend Martinez said, “I've sparred a lot of rounds with Johnny for this fight and more than held my own with him. I've always looked up to Johnny and sparring with him has given me great confidence. I know from sharing a ring with him that not only can I fight the best but I can beat the best.”
The city of Albuquerque, New Mexico has produced two of the greatest fighters from the lighter weight divisions in recent times in the shape of Tapia and cross-town rival Danny Romero. Martinez says he fully intends on joining both men in the record books.
The ambitious 23-year-old revealed, “I sparred with Danny on a regular basis early in my career and fought on the same cards as him here in Albuquerque. So the experience I've gained sparring with both Danny and Johnny really has been priceless.”
Martinezturned professional in 2002 following a stellar amateur career that saw him win four U.S. titles and a Junior Olympic Gold medal. He had his sights set on a place at the Olympics until a change in personal circumstances saw him turn professional. “I had an amateur record of 90 wins and 10 defeats,” recalled Martinez.
“I was ranked number one in the country and I know I'd have gone to the Olympics because I'd beaten all my nearest rivals here in the States. However my daughter was born at the time and I needed to put food on the table for her so I had to forget about going to the Olympics and turn professional. I loved amateur boxing but you can't feed your family on trophies and that's all you get in the amateur game.”
Despite turning professional at just 18 years of age Martinez quickly marked himself out as one of the brightest prospects in America going on an unbeaten run of 15 fights in his first three years as a pro. In the process he picked up the California State, WBC Youth and WBC Intercontinental titles. However in July of last year he lost his unbeaten record to Tex-Mex hard man Tomas Villa in a bloody battle for the North American super bantamweight title.
His brave bid came to an end on a cut eye defeat in the tenth round of a candidate for fight of the year. Reflecting on that defeat Martinez said, “Everybody has a bad day at the office and that was my day. My mind wasn't on the job and nothing went right for me. It was a good lesson for me but I truly believe everything happens for a reason and the defeat has only made me hungrier because I know I can't afford any more setbacks if I want to realise my potential.”
Since that sole defeat Martinez has bounced back with two impressive wins. Now he's planning on ruining Dunne's perfect record and ending his European title dreams. “I know exactly how Bernard feels because I was unbeaten up until last year,” said Martinez. “There was high hopes for me and there still is high hopes for me but the loss hit me hard because I absolutely hate losing. I detest it, even if I lose a game of checkers it upsets me so losing my unbeaten record was terrible for me. Everyone gets beaten at some stage though, what matters is how you bounce back. That's what makes champions.”
“I've worked so hard for this fight. I've prepared perfectly and I'm flying out to Dublin on Saturday to give me time to acclimatise. I'm not the type to make big predictions or anything but I can promise I'm 100% ready to fight and 100% ready to win.”
The Dunne – Martinez clash headlines another big night of boxing at the National Stadium on June 3rd. On the undercard Dublin's Oisin Fagan will now contest the vacant Irish light welterweight title with Jeff Thomas. Fagan had been due to challenge for Peter McDonagh's lightweight title but McDonagh has withdrawn with a knee injury.
U.S.based Fagan says he's furious at McDonagh's withdrawal but is now focusing on jumping up a weight for his light welterweight title bid instead. The current Oklahoma State lightweight champion fumed, “I'm angry and very disappointed but honestly I just knew something like this would happen. He got scared that's all there is to it! He mouthed off at the press conference declaring that he was going to knock me out. Then I heard he was frantically looking for tapes of some of my fights.”
“He watched one of my fights live in Dublin last year, when I knocked out an American lad in 83 seconds of the first round and then the only other tape he could have watched was when I gave Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. the best fight of his career in Las Vegas. Then, all of a sudden, it looks like he got cold feet. I don't think he's injured at all.”
Now Fagan is focusing his attention on Jeff Thomas. “He actually has a better record than McDonagh anyway and it means I'm having to move up in weight but I really want an Irish title so I think it's a risk worth taking.”
The Fagan and Thomas fight is just one of two Irish title fights on the card with crowd favourite Jim Rock battling Lee Murtagh for the middleweight belt.
The card also features three of the most talented fighters to ever grace the National Stadium as amateurs with appearances from former European champion, Paul Griffin, World bronze medallist James Moore and four time Irish champion Andrew Murray.