Kiko Martinez desperate to win back title for partner and baby
Kiko Martinez has no option but to play the role of villain tonight – 16,000 Jackalites would have it no other way at Titanic Quarter.
Carl Frampton's passionate supporters will make sure the little Spanish bull knows he is back in Belfast and here to be ultimately put to the sword by their swashbuckling matador.
But behind the waspish comments he has directed towards Frampton since the night he suffered his only knockout defeat, to the Belfast man in the Odyssey Arena 18 months ago, is someone simply desperate to provide for his girlfriend and 19-month old daughter Adrianna.
Growing up in the streets of Alicante with his brothers, Martinez had to learn to fight his corner, while school came to an abrupt end at 14 for Francisco Martinez Sanchez.
"We moved from Granada to Alicante when I was six months old with my five brothers. It was tough growing up, my parents were always working, so we were always around the streets," said Martinez.
"There were older people in the streets and they were always picking on us and I was fighting on the street. That's where I learned how to fight when I was about nine or 10.
"I never really took an interest in school and left when I was 14 to get working so I could play my part in bringing some money into the family."
Despite showing some promise as a footballer – just like rival Frampton in midfield – the teenage Martinez was drawn to boxing. He could see that it offered the best way for him to make the kind of living that could transform his life.
Not that the rewards were to come quickly on the back of a three-year amateur career spanning just 45 contests.
"When I was 17 I wanted to go pro but had to wait until I was 18 because of the Spanish federation. I wanted to make a living, I had my first fight and got 400 euro – that was a lot for me – but I got more as an amateur because of the funding ...
"Some of it went into my pocket but I helped my parents as well."
After 16 straight victories, he rocketed into the consciousness of the Irish boxing fraternity with a 91-second blitz of Dubliner Bernard Dunne, to win the European super-bantamweight title for the first time in August, 2007.
"I was very confident of doing that job, I had suffered a lot in training and I was ready for that, mentally I was convinced I would win. My team had a good bet on me and made good money ... I didn't get any extra but they did well but I was happy any way.
"Then I lost the title to Rendall Munroe. I hadn't prepared properly, I was ill and didn't want to take it, then the second time I fought him there was just no strategy, no game plan.
"Munroe should never have beaten me. Six months before the fight I had stomach operation, I was being sick a lot ... "
Martinez would eventually regain the title before losing to Frampton but just when it seemed his career was on a downward spiral, Maravilla Boxing took him under their wing and secured a shot at IBF World champion Jhonatan Romero.
"I hurt him early on, I didn't think I'd hurt him so fast in the first round and then when I stopped him it was a feeling I cannot explain," said Martinez.
"I thought it could have been my last fight, if I had lost I would have walked away from boxing.
"But instead, my career started all over again.
"My team had given me more confidence, they had belief in me and now I have confidence going into the Frampton fight.
"Ever since I won the title I have wanted Frampton, he has been in my mind, I want to make it right ..."
Tonight, Martinez has that opportunity but whether or not he returns home with his title intact remains to be seen.