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Old foe Kiko Martinez in Carl Frampton's corner

By David Kelly

Published 22/02/2016

Big blow: Kiko Martinez lost his IBF World crown against Carl Frampton in Belfast in 2014
Big blow: Kiko Martinez lost his IBF World crown against Carl Frampton in Belfast in 2014
Floored: Kiko Martinez hits the canvas after being blown away by Scott Quigg during their clash last July

One boxing veteran once acerbically told me that if there was a shop selling hearts a queue would form for miles.

In such a circumstance you can be sure that Kiko Martinez would be the donor of one with a defiantly relentless beat.

The little Spanish bull will forever be synonymous with the boxing journey of Carl Frampton, having lost twice to the Jackal in two absorbing Belfast battles.

Since then he has suffered a devastating loss to Scott Quigg but three wins later is back on the World scene this Saturday night when challenging Leo Santa Cruz for the WBC featherweight title.

Frampton and Martinez have remained in touch ever since that atmospheric night at Titanic in 2014 when the Jackal ripped the IBF title from his grasp and when the Belfast man has completed his World super-bantamweight championship unification clash with Quigg at the Manchester Arena, his old foe says he wants to set up the possibility of completing a trilogy.

Even the concussive defeat to Quigg has not darkened the belief of Martinez. "I don't like to give excuses for the defeat to Quigg.

He fought his fight and he was smarter than me," he said.

"Leo Santa Cruz's fight style is better for me.

"Both of us are warriors and I have a much better chance of victory with this kind of fighter.

"I have been boxing since I was 14-years-old, I am a warrior… boxing is everything for me, it gives me everything.

"Some people don't think I can fight because I lost to Frampton and Quigg but they are wrong. I am as determined as ever. I'm going to fight a great fight and come out with a victory.

"Then if I can have a third fight with Carl back in Belfast, I would be delighted."

Three-weight champion Santa Cruz, along with Cuban Guillermo Rigondeaux, have long been talked about as possible opponents for Frampton, who Martinez feels will have the edge over bitter rival Quigg.

"I think this is going to be a very good fight and hard for both of them," said Martinez, who is quietly confident about the 29-year-old Belfast man's chances against Rigondeaux - still seen by many as the number one at super-bantam.

"Frampton is a better boxer than Quigg and he is stronger so I think that he will win the fight on the scorecards."

Martinez added: "Frampton against Rigondeaux is a difficult one to call.

"Rigondeaux is a very, very smart and skilled fighter but I am with Frampton on this one.

"Frampton is more aggressive than the Cuban and I think that he can hurt Rigo.

"I will get to see Frampton and Quigg after I have fought Santa Cruz.

"I have to just focus on Santa Cruz. I will surprise many people who don't believe in me.

"I'm working so hard for this fight.

"People doubting me has made me even more motivated.

"Leo and I are true warriors so this will be a brutal war, but I have what it takes. I've been back working very hard with my long-time trainer Gaby Sarmiento, and I will be victorious.

"Leo is not a natural featherweight, he started his career in the bantamweights.

"He is a great fighter, but I don't think that the step up in weight will be a decisive factor."

Another upset win - akin to when he won the IBF title on the back of losing to Frampton in their 2013 European championship bout at the Odyssey - and Martinez will once again have Belfast on his mind.

Belfast Telegraph

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