Undefeated Super Featherweight Xavier Martinez overcame a two-knockdown eighth round to earn a unanimous decision to win WBA eliminator over savvy Claudio Marrero
Uncasville, CONN (October 24, 2020) — Hot Super Featherweight prospect Xavier Martinez’s recent success landed him in a WBA eliminator bout against veteran Claudio Marrero. The undefeated 23-year old from Sacramento, California hadn’t gone the distance in a fight since an 8-round unanimous decision in June 2017.
The fight strategy for the 31-year old Dominican was undoubtedly to extend the fight deep into the second half, increasing the likelihood of success for his foray into the 130-pound division. At times the fight appeared more likely to end in the first half as opposed to reaching the championship rounds.
A lot of guys wouldn’t have fought Claudio. He was tough. But I rose to the occasion and I proved something to myself. – Xavier Martinez
Martinez fought composed and looked dominant through the first several rounds. He boxed sharply and the Dominican appeared to be outgunned – the damage mounted quickly. With several rounds likely in the bank, the fight’s narrative started to turn to whether the Californian would extend his streak of seven straight KOs.
The second half of the fight didn’t get off to the start Marrero believed was possible. After the round he praised Martinez for his beautiful work. This foreshadowed the fact that he’d have to work to create the change in Martinez he was interested in seeing.
Marerro dropped Martinez just seconds into the eighth round – a sharp right hook over Martinez’ lead hand. He was down a second time before the end of the first minute. The prospect badly needed to find a way to steady himself and salvage a fight in which he’d more than held own for seven rounds.
Marrero punched himself out and Martinez started returning fire in the final minute.
The ringside doctor evaluated Martinez and his bruised right eye before the start of the ninth round. Marrero was on his toes at times, he threw some right hands to the body, but his attack was measured. Martinez regrouped and fought to avoid any costly mistakes.
Marrero continued to press Martinez in the tenth round, but Martinez made him pay for getting out of position once or twice. Marerro finished the round with the better energy, and the fight still hanging in the balance.
Martinez’ offense started to return to its earlier form. Marrero’s right eye showed the signs of Martinez’ earlier effectiveness. The two exchanged punches fairly evenly, but none of the contact overshadowed Martinez’ recovery of his focus.
Martinez opened the 12th and final round looking to fully erase the pair of knockdowns in the eighth. Marrero waited too much at times despite appearing to be the livelier of the two fighters. Martinez boxed while backing away over the final minute-plus seemingly satisfied with his chances of pulling out a decision.
Once the bell rang Marrero walked around the ring displaying his confidence in a decision. However, the younger Martinez, and his effectiveness over the fight’s first half, received the nod from the judges unanimously with scores of 115-111 and 114-112 on two cards.
The victory, No. 16, took a scary unexpected twist for Martinez, and after the fight he acknowledged the challenge of overcoming major adversity for the first time.
“To be honest, it was weird when I got knocked down. I just said, ‘Let’s get back up.’ Losing wasn’t on my mind. I just thought I have to get up. I’m not happy I went down but it’s all an experience. A lot of guys wouldn’t have fought Claudio. He was tough. But I rose to the occasion and I proved something to myself.
“Not every win is going to be pretty and a knockout, but if you can pull yourself out of tough situations it proves what type of fighter you are.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake walk. I told [trainer] Ray [Woods] I might hit this guy a couple of times and he might not drop. It’s all part of the experience.”
Marrero’s post-fight comments alluded to his reason for appearing to pullback in the championship rounds where Martinez reasserted himself.
“I feel like it was a bad decision. I don’t think the judges took into account all the hard work I did in the ring. I wouldn’t do anything different if I fought him again. I would fight the same way. I fought smart and I put pressure on him.
“He hits hard, but I recovered quickly. I felt like I won the fight.”
All photos by Amanda Westcott/Showtime Boxing