By Jake Donovan
Make no mistake, Chris Martin WANTS to win tonight when he squares off against Teon Kennedy in their ESPN2-televised man event in Las Vegas.
At one point a hot prospect, Martin suffered a down year in 2011, looking ordinary in wins before looking lethargic in a shocking points loss against Jose Beranza last October. The lone defeat of his young career came mere months after signing with promotional powerhouse Top Rank.
Tonight represents his second chance at a first win under the Top Rank banner, with the same scenario in place for Kennedy, who dropped a decision to Jorge Diaz in his last fight five months ago.
Win or lose, Martin (23-1-2, 6KO) enters the ring with all of the inspiration he needs – the good fight being presented by those forced to contend with far greater problems than what goes on in the ring.
“I’m dedicating this fight to my friend Melanie Melendez, battling breast cancer,” Martin revealed to Boxingscene.com during a phone interview earlier in the week. “My sister-in-law, Claudia Martin just beat cancer. They serve as my inspiration for (tonight). They help me realize that no matter what I have going on in the ring, there’s so much worse to deal with.”
Realizing the harder battles to be fought helped put Martin’s own career in proper perspective. The past three months haven’t been much fun to reflect on, especially with the last memory seeing his opponent’s arm raised in victory.
But as the time gets closer to the opening bell, Martin finds renewed strength and focus.
“I know what went wrong that night (against Beranza), and fixed it immediately. The same edge wasn’t there for me as when I fought and beat (then-unbeaten Chris) Avalos. But it’s only been three months; Kennedy has been forced to sit on his loss even longer.”
Martin refuses the loss to serve as a setback, more so than a reminder of what goes wrong when he takes his career – and winning – for granted. The goal for tonight is not merely a win, but the continuation of plans towards a title run that he feels shouldn’t be interrupted by one hiccup, even if the sanctioning bodies feel different.
“I’ve wanted to fight for a title for the longest time. There were talks of going to Japan and it never materialized. I feel I’m ready and hopefully I prove that I’m ready. The WBC and the WBO bumped me off, The last one left is IBF.”
The isolation might not be a bad thing. The 122 lb. champion in the last sanctioning body to still rank Martin is Takalani Ndlovu, who will make a mandatory defense in a rematch with top-rated Jeffrey Mathebula in March. Assuming a repeat win occurs, that will open up the top two spots in the ratings.
Both Kennedy (17-1-1, 7KO) and Martin are ranked in the top ten. Even with tonight’s fight serving as a 10-round bout unsanctioned by any alphabet organization, a win still goes a long way towards moving up in the rankings, which doesn’t leave Martin’s theory too far from reality.
The preparation put in for tonight’s fight should provide the push that the San Diegan sought throughout last year. The images of the battles being fought by Claudia Martin and Melanie Melendez lend to the evening that last bit of necessary motivation to persevere.
“They’ve been in a tough fight, tougher than any fight Kennedy and I will be ever be in.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]