By Keith Idec
The last time Chris Martin came to Las Vegas for a fight, the then-unbeaten super bantamweight didn’t exactly treat it like a business trip.
“The San Diego Kid” spent more time sightseeing than he did preparing for his fight against Mexican journeyman Jose Angel Beranza. Martin was overconfident, underprepared and unaware that his promising career was about to take a terrible turn.
Beranza beat Martin by split decision in their 10-rounder Oct. 1 at MGM Grand’s Marquee Ballroom. That dubious defeat could’ve cost Martin his new contract with Top Rank Inc., but matchmakers for Bob Arum’s promotional company instead presented Martin with an opportunity to thrust himself right back near the position he occupied prior to the Beranza debacle.
The 25-year-old Martin (23-1-2, 6 KOs) will face Philadelphia’s Teon Kennedy (17-1-1, 7 KOs) in a 10-round, 122-pound fight Friday that ESPN2 will air as the main event of a “Friday Night Fights” broadcast from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
“It’ll put me back in the spot where I was,” Martin, 25, said. “I pay attention to the rankings and stuff. After the loss, everyone, except for the IBF, I’m not even in the top 10 anymore. That kind of hurt. I just want to get back up there and I want better fights. I know this is a big fight, and I’m not looking past it at all. But I also want to fight the big guys at 122.”
The Beranza bout taught Martin to never underestimate an opponent, not that he ever would’ve done that against the skilled Kennedy, who beat Beranza by unanimous decision in a 10-round fight in May 2010.
“The main thing was that I looked way past Beranza,” Martin said. “He wasn’t even a thought in my mind. The day of the weigh-in, I saw a little clip of him on YouTube. And that’s it. I had no regard for this guy, which I should have because he’s a really tough guy. My mindset wasn’t there. It wasn’t like I came to fight. Everything was just wrong. But for this one I’m focused.”
Kennedy didn’t help his cause in his last fight, either. After an impressive victory over previously undefeated New Jersey prospect Jorge Diaz (16-1, 10 KOs), Mexico’s Alejandro Lopez defeated Kennedy by unanimous decision Aug. 13 in Atlantic City.
Martin sparred against Lopez last week in Tijuana, where Lopez (22-2, 7 KOs) gave Martin some valuable advice about boxing Kennedy following their seven-round session.
“[Lopez] doesn’t have the same style [as Kennedy], so I had to pressure him, something I probably won’t do in the fight,” Martin said. “But I saw what [Lopez] does, and it’s similar to what I do, which is he boxes. But I’m not going to be on my bike the whole fight. I’m not going to run from Kennedy, the way [Lopez] did. I will box and I will move a little bit, but I will stand there with him. That’s something that Lopez doesn’t do.”
Martin respects Kennedy, who’s also 25, but he expects to win what he considers “a crossroads fight” for both boxers.
“He’s a good boxer,” Martin said. “He’s good technically. In my opinion, he’s a little flat-footed. He tries to load up a little bit too much on his shots. It’s still going to be a hard fight. But my movement is going to be hard for him. Once I get him with the movement, eventually I’ll stand there with him and kind of pick him off, little by little. But I know it’s going to go 10 rounds. I have no doubt about that.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.