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Kiko Martinez expects 'brutal war' with Leo Santa Cruz

Kiko Martinez knows he's the underdog against Leo Santa Cruz, but aims to prove he's better than people think.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Kiko Martinez didn't expect to get a fight with WBA featherweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz on February 27, but now that he has, the former super bantamweight titleholder is expecting a knock-down, drag-out fight with Santa Cruz, and is calling his shot for the upset.

"I'm thrilled to be fighting Leo Santa Cruz, but getting this fight was a total surprise because I already had a fight scheduled,'' said Martinez. "I had been scheduled to fight for the European title. When this opportunity came up, I decided to give up the European title to come to America.

"I was very happy and very emotional when I heard about this fight. It was one of the best days of my life when I agreed to fight Santa Cruz. Now, more boxing fans will get to see me. I will not take one step back. I will come forward the whole fight."

Martinez, 29, is also ready to prove that he can compete at this level, even though losses to Carl Frampton (twice) and Scott Quigg have many doubting his ability to hang with Santa Cruz.

"I'm thankful to Showtime and I'm excited for the challenge," he said. "It's a huge fight in the United States and a great opportunity. Some people don't think I can fight because I lost to those guys, but they are wrong. I am as determined as ever. I'm going to fight a great fight and come out with a victory.''

Martinez added, "I will surprise many people who don't believe in me. I'm working so hard for this fight. People doubting me has me even more motivated. They will see on Feb. 27 and everyone will change their minds."

Martinez (35-6, 26 KO) is a former European champion at super bantamweight, losing that belt to Frampton in February 2013. But he recovered very well after that, beating Jhonatan Romero to win the IBF super bantamweight title six months later, and made successful defenses against Jeffrey Mathebula and Hozumi Hasegawa. He lost the IBF belt in a rematch with Frampton in September 2014, and was knocked out in two rounds by Scott Quigg last July. He's won three straight since then.

Against Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KO), he expects an all-action fight.

"I'm going to give 100 percent and it's going to be a tremendous fight. I have a ton of respect for Leo Santa Cruz. He's a world champion and a great fighter who's clearly one of the very best featherweights in the world and a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter. I am very conscious of that point," he said.

"Leo and I are true warriors so this will be a brutal war. But I have what it takes. I've been working very hard with my longtime trainer, Gaby Sarmiento, and I will be victorious.''

His two former rivals, Frampton and Quigg, will also meet on February 27, which Showtime will air live in the afternoon. There is some feeling that if Santa Cruz and Frampton both emerge victorious, they could fight one another later in the year, as both are advised by Al Haymon.

Martinez, who hopes to throw a wrench into that plan, is picking Frampton to beat Quigg in their super bantamweight title unification bout in Manchester.

"Frampton will win against Quigg,'' Martinez said. "He's the more complete boxer. He is stronger as well."

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