Puma Martínez came out of the darkest corner and wants to give himself a world title
There is a future that indicates a date; a place marked as a travel destination; a name as a goal to beat. There is a present that cradles an illusion and a smile that betrays a dream. At 30 years old, Fernando Martinez he has the itinerary to glory drawn on his face. And is not for less: On February 5, he will face the Filipino Jerwin Arcanjas, world super flyweight champion of the International Boxing Federation, in United States. A tough opportunity, but palpable. “Faith is what is left over to return with the crown”, says the ‘Puma’ to THE NATION, sitting on the ring of the Dock Sud Renunciation Club gym, while experiencing the overwhelming sensation of being faced with the great chance of his sporting life.
Trained and managed in the old way by Professor Rodrigo Calabrese, ‘Puma’ Martínez is one of the jewels of Argentine boxing destined for greatness. The expectations that he carries from the very day that, at the age of 14, he debuted as an amateur in the traditional Unidos de Pompeya gym and began to accumulate triumphs, do not weigh him down every time he steps into the ring.
He is hungry for glory and conditions. With an undefeated record of 13 wins (8 KO), the former Olympian in Rio 2016 will face the first World Cup opportunity against a rival who has been champion for seven years and several prominent names among his losers.
–What does this fight with Arcanjas mean to you?
This is one of the dreams of my life. I have been waiting for this opportunity for a long time and I am very focused not to miss it. Ever since I started boxing at the age of 11, I always aspired to be a world champion. All my emotions come together, because the chance came. but my old man is not here to see me. That’s why I’m going to drop everything to achieve it.
–Did you start to analyze the good and the bad that this chance reaches you at 30 years old?
-Perhaps the opportunity was made to wait too long, but that no longer depended on me. Waiting helped me mature and make better decisions about my life. Today I feel that I am at the right personal and boxing moment to face a world championship fight.
– How do you handle previous anxiety?
-I trust a lot in my conditions and the preparation that we do with the ‘Profe’. I am self-demanding and I try to keep myself busy analyzing the rival with my coach and training. I like to suffer in the gym to be calm in the ring. Although it is not easy to stop imagining or thinking about what could happen on the day of the fight.
At 30 years old and with a record of 33 wins (22KO), one loss and two draws, Jerwin Arcanjas is a typical Filipino fighter. It has no elegance or outstanding technique. Neither the leg speed of Manny Pacquiao nor the power of Nonito Donaire. But he is a tenacious, permanent seeker of his adversary, generally trying the surprise for the straight or the left cross, his best shot. Stringy physique. Height for weight: 1.70 meters. He handles himself with great freedom and fierceness in the ring. It works a lot to the soft zone. In addition, he has the advantage of being the champion and a signed agreement to unify the crown with Kazuto Ioka, the WBA champion. The business revolves around his name. “It will be because they don’t know me. What do I know…”, says Martínez, who will be the first Argentine to fight for a world crown in 2022.
-Do you like this point?
– Yes, it is where I feel most comfortable. That condition forces me and mentalizes me to give one hundred percent above the ring. I already experienced it in South Africa (against Athenkosi Dumezweni), where I went head first and ended up winning very well. I got used to being underestimated because of my physique since I was a kid. The Filipino had everything arranged to unify, but he chose to make the mandatory fight with me. Maybe he thinks he beats me easy…
– What do you have to take care of, Arcanjas?
–He has a dangerous left, which shoots it very well both down and up. I’m going to have to be very attentive and not make mistakes in the first few rounds. He relied a lot on my experience and my boxing to hit the ground running.
The slanted and mischievous eyes of Fernando Martínez are transformed when talking about dreams. They radiate the genuine brilliance of the kid from the neighborhood of La Boca with childhood remnants and messy hair. His boxing present is far beyond the successful passage through the Argentine team and the difficult challenge that appears on his horizon. He is the son of Silvia and Abel, who died a few years ago and misses him terribly, he is the seventh of 12 siblings who grew up in a tenement house on Olavarría street, he is the fanatical fan of Boca, he is the vulnerable and dreamy young man who found meaning in life boxing.
– Is it true that you were about to leave boxing?
-Yes, I was wrong, I spoiled everything when my old man died. I got into alcohol and started surrounding myself with the wrong people. I was lost for several months, I didn’t want to have anything to do with boxing. My mom and Rodrigo did the impossible to get me out of that environment. And little by little everything fell into place. In 2015 I returned to the national team, I won the Olympic Qualifiers and I went to Rio 2016. Today I am as he always wanted.
–What was the click to exit?
-Realizing one day the suffering of my old lady, how bad she had it seeing me in that state. With Rodrigo they came to talk to me every day to get me out of that. She was desperate, she did everything possible to make him understand that he was wrong and that my old man didn’t want that for me.
Did you seek any professional help?
“No, I left of my own free will. But I would have liked the word of a specialist, I want to talk to a psychologist. Above all, because now new things come to me, that one does not know how to handle.
When Fernando, the tough kid with a lethal punch on the ring, talks about his past and remembers his father in the talk, he succumbs to tears. He cannot hide the emptiness that his departure left him and the pain that his absence causes him. It is that Abel, a car painter by profession, was the one who instilled in ‘Puma’ the passion for boxing. “He walked me around the neighborhood saying he was going to be world champion. We are 12 brothers and we grew up with many needs, but my old man always went out of his way so that I did not lack anything. They had mate cooked with bread for breakfast and I bought a yogurt to complement the diet; they had a stew for dinner and they gave me the best cut of meat. “You have to take care of him, he’s going to be world champion,” he said. I miss him a lot,” she admits, sobbing.
-Aren’t you afraid that bad past will come back at some point?
– I think I have overcome it, I never thought about what could happen in the future. I am to fulfill what I propose. One day I set my mind to be stronger, to concentrate on my career and on the commitments that arose to forget about the problems.
-What are you afraid of?
I am one to go forward in everything. But when I get into the ring I’m afraid of letting my people down, of not living up to what they’re expecting of me.
Do you feel mentally prepared to be world champion?
-I feel ready, but I don’t know how it will really be when it’s my turn. Thank God, because of the bad things I experienced, I know where I don’t want to be again. I learned a lot from those bad things and I hope not to repeat them the day I have to be world champion.
Today, far from that moment of darkness, Martínez lives a present full of optimism. Your belly is fuller and the mint is cleaner. He is dedicated one hundred percent to boxing. He lives as a couple with Micaela Torta, an amateur boxer, she managed to buy her little car and helps her mother Silvia. And Rodrigo Calabrese, his trainer and adviser, had a lot to do with it. The relationship exceeds the technical; it is like a father, who rescued him from the bad life. He has been in charge of negotiating the offers of fights and taking care of him in the sun and shadow for seven years. “Before his father died, he told me to take care of him and make him world champion,” says the coach. What Amílcar Brusa was to Monzón, Rodrigo is to Fernando. “He’s always on top of me advising me to do things right”, confesses the ‘Puma’.
-Did you always want to be a boxer?
-Yes, when I was little. When I was six years old I told my dad that I wanted to be like Tyson. All the little friends in the neighborhood wanted to be Superman and I dreamed of being Tyson, because I watched the fights with my old man.
What would have happened to you if you weren’t a boxer?
-I never thought about it. But surely everything in my life would have been more difficult. Thanks to boxing I grew as a person, I traveled the world, I represented Argentina in an Olympic Game and I can project a future with my girlfriend. Boxing taught me to fight for my dreams and manage myself correctly in life. It got me out of addictions. I hope I can be world champion to help my family.