Raul “La Cobrita” Martinez (28-1, 16 KOs) isn’t a household name. You won’t find many casual boxing fans posting on forums about his upcoming IBF super flyweight title fight with Rodrigo Guerrero. He isn’t a top priority to his promotional team, and his chances at the big time have been few and far between. What the 29-year old native of San Antonio has in his favor is determination and a yeoman-like work ethic that has seen him take the long, hard road back from a crushing loss to be faced with another shot at a world title.
Martinez’s anonymous rise to title contention was bolstered by the fact that his first shot came against burgeoning star Nonito Donaire in 2009. He was an unknown commodity outside of the hardcore San Antonio scene. With a win over former flyweight titlist Isidro Garcia under his belt, Martinez was ready to take the next step. Undefeated and looking to play spoiler to the logical successor to Manny Pacquiao’s place upon the Filipino boxing throne, Martinez entered the bout a respectable 24-0, with 15 wins coming by way of knockout.
Martinez was brutalized by the naturally bigger and faster Donaire over four rounds in front of a rabid crowd in Manila. He hit the canvas four times; twice in the first and once in the second before a right hand-left uppercut combination finished him off in the fourth.
As quick as Martinez’s time on the big stage ended he was back in the shadows.
He returned to Texas to retool against veteran fringe contenders Jonathan Perez and John A. Molina before taking on long-time friend and fellow San Antonio native, Gabriel Elizondo. Martinez dominated his friend and former Olympic hopeful over seven long rounds, dropping him once in each of the last three before the fight was stopped in the seventh round. The win moved him up to the number 3 spot in the IBF’s super flyweight rankings, and another step closer to a title shot.
When number 11-ranked Rodrigo Guerrero defeated Federico Catubay he rose all the way to the number 2 spot to set up a title eliminator to decide the mandatory challenger to Alberto Rosas, the IBF super flyweight titleholder at the time.
Martinez and Guerrero, who raised a few eyebrows when he battled toe-to-toe with hard-hitting Vic Darchinyan en route to a unanimous decision loss, slugged it out for 12 rounds last November. When the scores were read Martinez was declared the winner by a close split decision.
Raul Martinez had his title shot. Or so he thought.
Alberto Rosas dropped the title to Christian Mijares a month later. And when the cuts sustained in his fight with Guerrero did not heal properly, Martinez was unable to take his February date with new champion Christian Mijares. Mijares successfully defended his title against little-known Carlos Rueda in May. Mijares-Martinez was rescheduled later in the year before Mijares pulled out of the fight and dropped the title in favor of a move up to the loaded bantamweight division.
After the IBF ordered the title to be put up for grabs in a rematch between Martinez and Guerrero (15-3-1, 10 KOs), the date was set for September 24 on the undercard of Jorge Arce’s super bantamweight title defense against Simphiwe Nongqayi.
A last-minute programming change prompted Martinez and Guerrero to be moved off the Arce-Nongqayi card and to the top of their own October 8 Fox Deportes card at the Auditorio Municipal in Tijuana, Mexico. Inactivity won’t be a concern for Martinez and his team, as he has remained active in the gym throughout a period of nearly one year without a fight. By the time Raul Martinez steps in the ring with Rodrigo Guerrero this Saturday night, he will have been out of action six weeks shy of one year. His long, obscure journey, filled with cuts, bruises, blood, setbacks, and detours will be complete.
For many fighters, a second chance never comes. Their first loss in the big leagues leaves them to toil away their most productive years in club fights and to serve as stepping stones for tomorrow’s bright young stars. For the hard-nosed, blue collar fighter out of San Antonio, Texas, he knows he must make the most of his second chance.
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