Claudio Marrero feels fresher for his fight versus Xavier Martinez than he has in quite some time.
The Dominican veteran moved up from featherweight to junior lightweight to meet Martinez in a 12-round, 130-pound WBA eliminator Saturday night at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The former WBA interim featherweight champion has fought at or near that division’s 126-pound maximum throughout his 10-year pro career, but the 31-year-old contender believes he can get his career back on track after moving up four pounds.
“To make 126, I would have to lose almost 30 pounds,” Marrero told BoxingScene.com. “Even though I have moved up just [four] pounds, it makes a huge difference for me. Physically, I feel a lot better.”
Marrero (24-4, 17 KOs) is just 2-3 in his five fights since he knocked out previously unbeaten Peruvian Carlos Zambrano (26-1, 11 KOs) in the first round to win a vacant version of the WBA featherweight crown in April 2017 in Las Vegas. He declined to continue after the eighth round of his last fight, a 12-rounder against Kid Galahad (27-1, 16 KOs) on February 8 in Sheffield, England, Galahad’s hometown.
The 22-year-old Martinez (15-0, 11 KOs), of Sacramento, California, has produced back-to-back impressive knockouts of Filipino veterans John Vincent Moralde (23-4, 13 KOs) and Jessie Cris Rosales (22-4-1, 10 KOs) as part of Showtime’s “ShoBox: The New Generation” series. Martinez admits Marrero represents a significant step up in competition for him.
“I respect him,” Marrero said. “I’ve been in the game a long time. I’m a former world champion, so I have a lot of respect and admiration for Xavier taking on this fight this Saturday.”
The Martinez-Marrero winner will move closer to a shot at the winner of the Leo Santa Cruz-Gervonta Davis fight October 31 at Alamodome in San Antonio. Santa Cruz (37-1-1, 19 KOs), of Rosemead, California, will make his first defense of the WBA “super” 130-pound championship when he battles Baltimore’s Davis (23-0, 22 KOs) in their Showtime Pay-Per-View main event.
Marrero somehow is ranked fourth among the WBA’s 130-pound contenders, even though he lost his last bout by technical knockout. Martinez is ranked seventh by the WBA.
“I haven’t seen too much of him,” Marrero said. “I just know he’s a young lion, trying to come up. But other than that, he’s just another fighter in the way.
“A win against him, it’s a good victory. But he’s really just another fighter in the way. He’s not a world champion or anything like that, so I don’t know how much it will do for me.”
The Martinez-Marrero match will be the second of three bouts broadcast by Showtime.
The telecast will open at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT with a 10-round junior welterweight bout that’ll match Baltimore’s Malik Hawkins (18-0, 11 KOs) against Puerto Rico’s Subriel Matias (15-1, 15 KOs). In the 12-round main event, Kazakhstan’s Sergey Lipinets (16-1, 12 KOs) and Canada’s Custio Clayton (18-0, 12 KOs) will fight for the vacant IBF interim welterweight title.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.