Respect is forged in the heat of the ring and this Saturday night, 6,000 miles apart, Carl Frampton and Kiko Martinez will be backing each other for victory, writes David Kelly
The two men engaged in a brace of Belfast battles that will never be forgotten by the Northern Ireland boxing fraternity, Frampton taking the Spaniard's European super-bantamweight title in 2013 by knockout and then his IBF World title belt in September of last year on that atmospheric night at Titanic Quarter over 12 bruising rounds.
Both men felt the pain of battle long after the final bell which signalled the start of Frampton's reign as world champion. They had given their all and while the Jackal tried to enjoy the moment of victory, he still had to engage with Martinez one more time, in the vanquished warrior's dressing room.
"We exchanged a few words, his head was all swollen - he had taken some punishment, he's a true warrior and I had to go down to his dressing room to wish him well," said Frampton, who defends his IBF title against Alejandro Gonzalez jr here in El Paso, Texas, while, around the same time in Manchester, Martinez faces undefeated Scott Quigg - Frampton's long-time British rival.
The two men have remained in touch since that epic night and as Martinez prepares to enter the lion's den at the Manchester Arena, Frampton hopes that he triumphs - even though such a result would seriously reduce the market value of Frampton-Quigg.
"I find it a hard one to pick, one minute I think Quigg, the next Kiko. It's tough to call and should be a good fight but I hope Kiko wins because he's a good guy and if that means the Quigg fight doesn't happen, so be it," added Frampton.
"Kiko and I communicate through Twitter on and off, there's respect between us. He proved himself to be a real warrior because he took some shots in our second fight. He never stopped coming at me and he has the power to hurt Quigg."
Martinez is just as forthcoming when it comes to praise for Frampton, believing the 28-year-old can go on to become a boxing legend, adding a featherweight world title to his 122lb crown.
"Carl is an amazing fighter. I'm sure that in the future he can beat anybody in the higher weight divisions and I believe he will beat Gonzalez by knockout, no doubt about it. He is much better than Gonzalez, there's a very big difference," said Martinez, speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph from his training camp in Spain.
"Carl is a super champion, he is really great, I think the hardest fight I have ever had was the first fight when he stopped me.
"I love to fight with high quality opponents because they make me grow as a boxer. I'm very sure that the fights against Carl made me better and the experience will be very important to help me win against Scott.
"In my opinion Frampton is better than Quigg and I think that he would win by KO.
"I hope that this fight will take place someday, but after Scott has lost this fight against me.
"I believe that I will beat Quigg... I will not go crazy, we have a fight plan for 12 rounds and I will follow it. If I win by knockout it will be better, but the goal is the belt.
"I had been waiting to fight the WBA bantamweight champion Juan Carlos Payano but when my team told me about fighting Scott I had no doubts. All these months I have been training so hard and I feel great, I'm in a perfect physical condition."
As for Frampton's future, Martinez has no doubt that it will be paved with gold as he seeks to take on the best at super-bantamweight and featherweight with the familiar names of Leo Santa Cruz and Guillermo Rigondeaux at the top of the hit list.
Martinez added: "I think that Carl is better than Rigondeaux and Santa Cruz, he would win both those fights I am sure.
"And if I beat Quigg, maybe a third fight with Frampton is on the cards. I am always ready to fight against Frampton.
"I am a competitor and always believe in myself. I am ready to face other champions as well like Rigo or Leo among others. First I have to beat Quigg."
The bullish Spaniard enters as a slight underdog against Quigg, while Frampton is favourite to retain his title but if both should come out on top on Saturday night, there will no doubt be a few more respectful direct messages winging their way through cyberspace.
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