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Kiko Martinez wants unification with Emanuel Navarrete: “We would put on a hell of a fight”

Kiko Martinez is just over a week past a shocking upset win, and he’s looking for even bigger chances going forward.

Kiko Martinez would love to unify against Emanuel Navarrete in 2022
Kiko Martinez would love to unify against Emanuel Navarrete in 2022
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing

Boxing is as unique as it is fickle. Whether anyone outside of Kiko Martinez and his tight circle truly believed he would dethrone Kid Galahad and win the IBF featherweight title on Nov. 13 in Sheffield is up for debate.

The contest was labelled a “welcome home defence” for Galahad after the Yorkshire fighter had claimed the strap just three months prior. Instead, it was Martinez who spat in the face of his 8/1 (+800) odds, winning his first fight on away soil since 2014.

This version of Kiko Martinez is the antithesis of one I spoke to on the eve of the contest. Now, at home in Alicante, Martinez’s shoulders sink into his chair; his eyes brighter; his smile more infectious than ever.

Behind Kiko is a collection of boxing trinkets. Ranging from national titles from his youth to European, and world belts, it’s a collection that is awaiting the latest IBF addition.

So how did Kiko celebrate one of the knockouts of 2021? “I went to McDonald’s and got a cheeseburger meal and a McFlurry,” he explained, with the help of Oscar Zardain.

“When I arrived home it was so special,” he continued. “I was greeted at the airport by my family, and then I was escorted to the town square by two police cars. There, I was met by 1,000 or so people and the town’s mayor. Incredible.”

A sixth-round stoppage saw the fallen champion laid out, flat on his back in front of a shocked crowd. But Martinez (43-10-2, 30 KO) assures me it wasn’t a surprise to him.

“It wasn’t a shock to me. I never considered losing this fight once — it’s not how I’ve ever thought. Sure, I thought it might be a little later in the fight that I got the knockout, but I was always confident I could stop him.

“People know about my right hook and how dangerous that is. The right hook is my favourite and strongest punch, and it’s won me another fight.”

No sooner after waving off the contest, referee Steve Gray had his hands full with Martinez hugging him in jubilation. We laugh as I ask him his thought process at this time.

“I was just screaming, ‘Thank you, thank you,’ to Steve. I have known him a long time as he has refereed a few of my fights before. I guess the moment took me away and he was the closest person to me!”

Despite the conclusive nature of the stoppage, the Spaniard admits to struggling in the opening rounds against the talented Briton.

“Galahad started very well. He hurt me in the opening round. He’s a very good fighter. But I knew that the right hand was always going to be an option when he is fighting southpaw.”

“I would love to defend my title at least twice in 2022,” he continued. “Emanuel Navarette would be my choice of champions if I got the chance to unify — I love that Mexican style of his and we would put on a hell of a fight. For me, that’s the biggest fight in the division.

“But now I need to rest before the new year. I am still running, but I won’t be doing any boxing work until after Christmas. My family need me. I have been training for almost two years straight.”

I ask Kiko if this was the Upset of the Year in 2021. He can see how that could be considered by the boxing world, but for him, it wasn’t an upset.

“I hope it’s an example to everyone that if you try, try, try again, you can make your dreams come true,” he concludes.

Now a two-time, two-weight world champion, the 35-year-old can start looking forward again, instead of back.

Lewis Watson is a sports writer from London, UK, and a member of the BWAA. Follow or contact him on Twitter @lewroyscribbles