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Hanzel Martinez: I am going back to who I am

By Felipe Leon
Photos: Leonso Nunez

After suffering the his first and only professional defeat, you find a more grounded and mature Hanzel “Rude Boy” Martinez despite his only 22 years of age. Becoming a father for the first time a couple of months ago also surely helped. At a little over twelve months removed from that devastating loss by second round knock out at the fists of up and coming prospect Alejandro “Cobrita” Gonzalez Jr and eight months since his last one, a TKO win over Cesar De La Mora, Martinez (20-1, 16KOs) of Tijuana is ready to jump back into another meaningful fight this Saturday when he goes back to Phoenix, Arizona, to take on local Alexis Santiago (15-3-1, 7KOs) for the vacant WBC USNBC bantamweight title in the main event of Iron Boy Promotions’ fight card scheduled for the historic Celebrity Theater. The bout will be streamed live at Iron-Boy.com

Offering no excuses, Martinez realizes that perhaps he should have never agreed to step into the ring with Gonzalez Jr on that crisp February 2013 night. “It was at a higher weight class and I was dehydrated, I only had six weeks to train. It was my error. He hit me with a good punch, I had been on the canvas before but not like that.”

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Despite going down from a devastating shot, Martinez still beat the count but after one look in his glassy eyes, referee Jose Cobian waived off the bout. Martinez began to protest but then pulled back.

“I got at about six or seven and put my hands to tell the ref I was ready to continue,” Martinez explained. “I was uncoordinated and I think that is what I did it. At first I didn’t feel that stoppage was right because he didn’t get to the mandatory eight count but once Margarito told me it was a good stoppage, I had to accept it.”

Martinez just happens to be the ex-brother in law of the famed former welterweight champion Antonio Margarito who for the majority of his career stood in his corner.

One of the noted differences Martinez has made for this fight is give himself the time to train and more importantly make the weight comfortably. “For the Gonzalez fight I had five weeks and right after the holiday season. I’ve been training for this fight for two and a half months. There is no comparison. That is a big difference. I have taken nutrition courses and now I follow a proper diet. Against Gonzalez I made weight but I was very dehydrated but this time, it is going to be very different.”

The Tijuana fighter knows whom he will be facing on Saturday and is ready for what Santiago might bring.

“He is fast, a good boxer with a traditional American style, ” Martinez said. “He throws a lot of punches and looks to have good conditioning.”

Hanzel is known as a tough brawler with also a high output level. It is no secret what he will go to do come fight night and that is pressure. To accomplish that Martinez knew that his conditioning would not only need to equal Santiago’s but also surpass it. For that, Martinez incorporated runs up the highest point in Tijuana, Red Hill or Cerro Colorado. Martinez has made it a point to run up the 1,800-foot elevation at least once a week for the last two months.

The twenty-year old Santiago is on a hot streak, winning his last four since his last loss. Santiago dropped a unanimous decision to Roman Morales in the summer of 2012. His first loss came at the hands of Randy Caballero while his second to unheralded Evaristo Primero. Some observers have noted that Santiago fails when going up in competition but Martinez wouldn’t go as far as to say he is at a higher level.

“I don’t think its my place, it would be easy for me to believe that I am a better fighter but I think it’s the fans and critics to declare that I am better,” Martinez stated modestly. “He has faced some good fighters like Randy Caballero but it wouldn’t be my place to say I am at that level. I know who I am.”

The promotion hasn’t been with out its hiccups. Iron Boy Promotions hired an outside company to develop a reality YouTube series to bring attention to the event but the filmmakers visited Martinez in Tijuana to follow him in his preparation, the tough city’s reputation preceded it to the point that the crew felt uncomfortable traveling to certain parts of town. Needless to say, the Hanzel’s portion of the show did not materialize. The promotion has used to the incident to allude to the fact that maybe Martinez has second thoughts of traveling to the desert city on Saturday night.

“I know that they are a small and new promotion but I don’t think they should be saying these things,” Martinez said. “Imagine Showtime’s All Access stating that Mayweather hid in a bathroom because he didn’t want to face ‘Canelo’ or HBO’s 24/7 saying that Pacquiao is scared of somebody. I’m not scared of anybody and they are going to see that Saturday night.”

Pitched as a “Phoenix vs. Tijuana” rivalry, it is difficult for Martinez to describe what it means to represent his hometown. “This is where Antonio Margarito grew up. Tijuana has produced great fighters like Jackie Nava, Erik Morales, ‘Jibaro’ Perez, Antonio DeMarco, I am going to represent Tijuana, it’s a great honor but its not like I am going to a foreign land, I have fought in that area before and people know me.”

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Hanzel has fought in Arizona four times.

Martinez knows with an impressive win in Phoenix, a major promoter might be interested in his services in the near future. As far as he is concerned, there are new things to show Saturday night. One important one is to step out of the shadow of his famous ex-brother in law. The first step towards that is to change his nickname from “Tornadito” to “Rude Boy”.

“Margarito and I are still close but I felt that by going by ‘Tornadito’, obviously a play on his moniker of the ‘Tijuana Tornado’, I had to fight like him,” Martinez explained. “There is nothing wrong with that but that is not my style. I like to move, use my waist, and throw different combinations. My idol has always been ‘Maromero’ Paez and I feel that my style is closer to him. In this fight I am going to go back to who I am.”

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