Xavier Martinez was always meant to fight, even before he took up the boxing gloves and embraced the sweet science.
Long before he first met trainer Ray Woods, long before he got signed by Floyd Mayweather and long before his fight against Claudio Marrero on October 24 gets televised on Showtime, Martinez proved he was ready to fight.
Back when he was in elementary school, he had to prepare to defend himself, to avoid having anyone, as he put it, “walk over me.”
That even resulted in Martinez one time hitting another kid with a lunch tray.
“When I was little, they thought they could walk over me and I never let that happen,” the 22 year old fighter from Sacramento, CA said. “So as soon as someone tried to walk over me, I stopped it right there. I think it was first or second grade. A kid made me mad so I cleared my lunch tray of all my food and I went up to him and I smacked him.”
Soon afterwards, he saw himself training at Woods’ boxing gym in Sacramento.
Martinez, now sporting a 15-0 record, was working with his father’s co-worker. But after a while, Martinez linked up with Woods, forming a bond between trainer and fighter that is still going strong today, almost 20 years after their first encounter. In Martinez’s eyes, Woods isn’t just a trainer, he calls him a second father.
During his teenage years, Martinez started to realize boxing would be his life. Woods, who trained former world champion Diego Corrales, his step-son, saw something in the young Martinez. Woods has even said Martinez and Corrales share some similarities.
“After my third fight is when I switched trainers,” said Martinez, who will fight on the Sergey Lipinets-Custio Clayton welterweight main event undercard in Connecticut. “Ray and I have had that bond and connection. I’d have to say that when I was 13 is when I realized I could do this for a living. Being so young, you don’t really think about it, being a kid and all. Once I started getting older, I realized I wanted to do this for a living and I think I’m doing a good job at it.”
Foe Marrero (24-4; age 31) has shared the ring with the likes of Jesus Cuellar and Eduardo Ramirez. With the fight airing on Showtime and the Dominican boxer Marrero being ranked in the top five at super featherweight by the WBA, Martinez could position himself to potentially challenge for a world title down the road with a victory.
But the left-hander Marrero isn’t an easy fight by any means and even though Martinez has won 11 of his 15 pro bouts by knockout, he doesn’t believe an opening for a knockout punch will come easily. Martinez' plan, he told NYF, is to simply keep attacking until the final bell is rung.
“To be honest, I’m not going to look for the knockout,” Martinez said. “He’s a veteran, so I don’t expect him just to fall. I’m just going to do what I know to do and like my coach says, ‘Keep hitting him until he falls, the ref stops it or it goes into a decision.”
Of course, the WBA super featherweight title picture is an interesting one. While Rene Alvarado holds the organization’s “World” title, Leo Santa Cruz holds the WBA “Super” title at that weight. Santa Cruz is facing Gervonta Davis, who holds the WBA “World” lightweight title and has sparred with Martinez during this training camp, in a Halloween showdown on October 31, with both titles at stake.
With the future of the WBA super featherweight title uncertain past October 31, Martinez is paying close attention to Davis vs. Santa Cruz. It's not just because Gervonta is Martinez’ stablemate at Mayweather Promotions, but also because Martinez could one day fight for the same title at that lower-weight title up for grabs on Halloween.
Martinez says he isn’t looking past Marrero. He understands Marrero is a tough challenge and he can’t think about the future until he takes care of business on October 24.
“I have to take it day-by-day, fight-by-fight and take whatever my team has for me,” Martinez shared with NY Fights. “Leonard Ellerbe and I stay in contact to discuss everything, but as far as [fighting for a world title], we’re not worried about that yet. We’re focused on this fight. When this fight is done with, I’m sure we’ll talk about it more. Of course, I’m going to pay attention to [Davis vs. Santa Cruz]. Gervonta is my stablemate and I even sparred with him in this camp so I’m paying attention to it. Whatever the outcome is, we’ll play it by the ear. It doesn’t matter who the champion is, I’ll go out there and take what is mine.”
A win over Marrero would mean the world to Martinez. It not only would be the biggest win of the young fighter’s career, which kicked off in 2015, but it would legitimize him as a true contender at super featherweight and put him on the path towards a world title fight.
“This fight is a step up for me to get to that next level and get closer to a world title,” Martinez said. “It would be huge, one of those things that would put me one step closer towards reaching my dreams and goals and that is to win a world title. I’ve trained my whole life to get to that goal. To get one step closer to that goal, it gets me more excited.”