WBO interim cruiserweight champion Ola Afolabi (14-1-3, 6 KOs) stands between co-manager Victor Martinez (left) and trainer Juan Carlos “El Panda” Martinez (right) prior to a recent workout at the famed Freddie Roach Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, California. Afolabi is in training for his upcoming showdown with WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck (26-1, 20 KOs) on December 5 in Ludwigsburg, Germany.
Trainer Martinez, best known in boxing circles as “Panda,” is pretty much a right hand man to well renowned trainer Freddie Roach. Panda stood in for Roach in Afolabi’s upset and title winning effort over Enzo Maccarinelli in March of this year. In an ironic scenario Panda will be the head man for the Huck fight also as Roach will be working the corner for WBA lightweight champion Amir Khan’s title defense against Dimitry Salita. Roach was working the corner for Khan the same night Afolabi upset Maccarinelli.
Martinez who co-manages Afolabi with successful Los Angeles businessman Pedro Rosado is also a nice story for boxing in itself. The duo has been with Afolabi since his arrival to the U.S. and stood by him when he simply could not get a fight for nearly two and half years. Afolabi’s career took off in April 2008 when he upset then unbeaten and hightly touted prospect Eric Fields for the vacant WBO NABO cruiserweight title. This was followed by a tuneup win and the Maccarinelli upset.
Sadly however Afolabi was not able to immediately celebrate his victory in the U.S. as he was stuck in England due to visa issues. Managers Martinez and Rosado worked tirelessly until a visa was secured allowing Afolabi to legally return to the U.S.
“Ola is like family to Pedro and I and he knows he can count on us whether its in boxing or just in life in general. Ola is suprising a lot of people right now with his recent upsets but not us. We always knew how good he was. He just needed the opportunity. He’s not going to Germany expecting to win a decision but instead he’s looking take matters into his own hands to defeat Huck,” said Martinez.