What a legend Kiko Martinez is. At 35 years of age he has become a two-weight world champion with his shock knockout of Kid Galahad — and even had me thinking of a comeback for a second.
The day after Kiko’s big win, I got off my backside and went for a 5k run and any thought of a return to the ring vanished with how I felt afterwards. I’m happy to sit back and watch Kiko continue to shock the world of boxing.
What I’d love to see happen is Kiko making his first defence in Belfast. After his two fights with me and that big win over Bernard Dunne, he became an adopted Irishman. Promoter Eddie Hearn has said he is coming to Belfast in 2022 with new signing Caoimhin Agyarko and Kiko’s next two fights are with Matchroom. It would make for a great night at the SSE Arena and I would walk Kiko to the ring.
I have so much respect for Kiko. He’s someone who will fight anyone, anywhere. It’s amazing that after so many hard fights against world-class boxers he still has the desire and the ability to be at the very top. He’s respected throughout the sport but for Galahad it’s a huge blow because he’s not that well liked, doesn’t sell tickets and has a drug controversy hanging over his career. I don’t know where he goes from here.
With the IBF featherweight belt around his waist, Kiko will have a big target on his back and whoever he fights next I hope he earns plenty of money for his family. He had lost the first four rounds and it seemed like he was going to be completely out-boxed but then Kiko pulled out a great shot at the end of the fifth and Galahad didn’t fully recover. The finishing punch in the sixth was incredible. He actually dipped low, suggesting he would go to the body, and then knocked him out with a long, looping right hand.
Kiko and I will forever be linked because of our two fights in Belfast and those wins now look even better considering what he has gone on to do in the sport. He also made me a better fighter. After I took the European super-bantamweight title away from him in the SSE Arena, I knew then that I could go all the way and become a world champion. We were both tired but I pulled out the knockout punch. But Kiko left his mark on me. I was peeing blood and he busted my left eardrum. Each fight after that, it went every time.
Leading up to the second fight in 2014 at the purpose-built arena at Titanic, it seemed that everyone in the country expected me to easily take the IBF world super-bantamweight title from him and I have to admit it annoyed me a little because I was thinking, ‘This is much harder than you think it will be’. In that fight I felt I was very disciplined, I dropped him and out-boxed Kiko but he never stopped coming forward the whole night.
We went our separate ways after that and if you had told me then that Kiko would become world featherweight champion seven years later I’d have thought you were mad. But it says everything about the man that he kept going through ups and downs and when his chance came to be a champion again he grabbed it. He has suffered defeats to Leo Santa Cruz, Gary Russell jnr, Josh Warrington and controversially to Zelfa Barrett at super-feather in February and then last weekend turned his career on its head.
I hope he earns as much money as possible now — and I’d love to see him enjoy the love of the Belfast fans with a defence in the SSE Arena.
Stepping up to world level is never easy and the gap between that and European level was seen in the early hours of yesterday morning when Jason Quigley lost to Demetrius Andrade.
Quigley was down in the first and then stopped in the second of the WBO world middleweight title fight after another two knockdowns.
Hopefully Quigley can come again and maybe the European middleweight title is what he should target. Too often it seems fighters just think about world titles when winning the blue EBU title is a special achievement. Not everyone can be a world champion and there’s no shame in that.
Andrade showed he deserves a big night against someone like IBF champion Gennady Golovkin.
I’m very excited about the fight between Chris Eubank jnr and Liam Williams on December 11 — it’s just a shame that it clashes with Conor Benn against Chris Algieri on the same night.
DAZN had announced Benn against former world title challenger Algieri and then Sky came in with Eubank against Williams, so it will be a battle of the viewing figures.
I would expect Sky to come out on top because of the way they can really push a fight and there’s no doubt that Eubank-Williams will bring fireworks. In fact, I would say it could be a fight of the year contender.
Credit to Eubank for going into the lion’s den to face Williams as the fight is set for Cardiff. A bit like his dad, he likes to play the villain. No doubt he’ll get a hot reception and it’s a tough one to call.
Boxing referees and officials have come in for some criticism over the past couple of years so when credit is due it should be given and that’s the case with Mark Lyson.
Terri Harper lost her WBC world super-featherweight title to Alycia Baumgardner last weekend on the undercard of Kiko Martinez’s win over Kid Galahad and Lyson ended the fight at just the right time.
Harper was essentially knocked out on her feet and was an open target for Baumgardner but thankfully Lyson dived in to stop the fight. It was quite possibly a career-saving decision because a further couple of punches could have caused serious damage.
It also highlighted just how hard a job it is to be a boxing referee because you have to make instant decisions that can change a career or even a life.
What a special performance Northern Ireland gave on Monday night against Italy and I think it has set Ian Baraclough’s men up perfectly for the Nations League.
To hold the European champions to a scoreless draw was a great achievement and we probably had the best chances to win the game.
Stuarty Dallas and Conor Washington both had golden chances. I came away from Windsor Park feeling that the belief and buzz that we had under Michael O’Neill had finally returned.
All the lads should be very proud of their performance and there must be real hope of qualifying for the next European Championship Finals.