Unbeaten commonwealth champion Carl Frampton finally gets the chance to share a ring with Kiko Martinez this Saturday. The pair have been due to meet twice previously only for Martinez to pull out, with the European champion citing injury and personal problems.
It’s been 18 months since they were originally meant to fight and one senses Frampton is in a far better position to beat Martinez now than he was back then. The Belfast banger has been busy, fighting five times, including winning the Commonwealth belt and defending it three times. He’s been noticeably improving with every fight and looks close to being the finished article.
Martinez has only had two fights in the same period, a good knockout victory over the tough Arsen Martirosyan and a routine points victory over Dougie Curran in Northern Ireland last July. The Spaniard knows he’ll be in for a much harder fight on this visit to the Emerald Isle, although you wouldn’t think so judging by his confidence in the build-up to the fight.
During most of the pre-fight press conference and in the interviews Martinez has had in the build-up, he’s made a point of goading Frampton about not being strong enough to stand and trade punches with him and saying that Frampton is going to run all night. There’s no doubting that Martinez is trying to get under Frampton’s skin, hoping that the Irishman will come out brawling and either walk onto a big shot or leave himself open for one.
It’s a sensible tactic. Martinez is a big puncher but is technically average and struggles to adapt in fights where he’s being outboxed. His best chance is a slugging match, he can’t outwit Frampton with skill and hasn’t got the speed to counter him, so he’ll need to fight on the front foot and hope to drag the challenger into the trenches.
Frampton hasn’t seemed too bothered by Martinez’s proclamations, although you can see he’s quietly simmering inside. Whilst the Irishman is more than capable of going toe to toe, he can make the job a lot easier for himself by using lateral movement, speed and timing. Martinez has lost three times, once to Takalani Ndlovu and twice to Rendall Munroe, it was noticeable in both the Ndlovu fight and in the Munroe rematch that Martinez struggles when faced with an opponent using plenty of lateral movement.
A comprehensive victory here will push Frampton closer to a world title fight and maybe a major domestic bout with Scott Quigg. It’s getting to the stage where whenever either Frampton or Quigg is mentioned, the others name is immediately brought up. The last time I can remember a rivalry brewing up like this on the domestic scene was between Ricky Hatton and Junior Witter. Let us hope that this fight does happen, it’s the kind of fight the British fans are desperate for.
As far as I’m aware neither fighter has been dropped in their career, so the fight looks most likely to be a long one. Although it’s fair to say the neither man has been in with a bigger puncher than they will face come Saturday. Martinez’s punch power is well known to British and Irish fans through his knockout victories over Jason Booth and Bernard Dunne, the latter being demolished inside two minutes. Frampton’s power isn’t talked about as much as Martinez but he is similarly heavy-handed, with ten of his fifteen wins coming inside the distance. It’ll be fascinating to see what effect their punches will have on each other.
There should be plenty of action, both men are usually in good bouts and they have the added incentive that a world title shot isn’t far away, with both ranked highly by the WBC and the IBF, although rankings seem to mean very little when it comes to who does or doesn’t get a shot.
Frampton will most likely take a look at Martinez over the opening couple of rounds before choosing whether to box off the back foot or stand his ground more. Martinez can only fight one way and that’s flat-out, he’ll be trying to land bombs from the opening bell to the last and will remain a threat for as long as he’s standing – his power remains as potent late as it does early.
Martinez has only been beaten by top quality opposition, and whilst Frampton has done everything right thus far in his career, he’s not as accomplished as Munroe was in the rematch or as Ndlovu was when they beat Martinez. I can see the fight being similar to Martinez’s first fight with Munroe, with Frampton being in control of a hard fought battle but having to deal with the odd tricky moment. Frampton should win on the cards, somewhere around the 116-112 mark, but a late stoppage isn’t out of the question.