By Keith Idec
Denis Douglin doesn’t think unbeaten Steven Martinez’s handlers would’ve picked him as Martinez’s opponent Friday night if Douglin didn’t get stopped by a journeyman 10½ months ago.
“They feel they’re taking less of a chance because I have a loss, and maybe because they feel I do have a suspect chin and stuff like that,” Douglin said. “I feel like that’s the only thing they’re living off of, the loss, the fact that, ‘Well, he’s been down before, so maybe we can get him down again.’ They say Steven Martinez hits hard, so I think they’re a little bit more confident in this fight because of [my loss]. I think that’s why they took it. I don’t think they would’ve taken it if I was 14-0 right now.”
The 23-year-old Douglin doesn’t mind being underestimated. All the talented southpaw wanted was an opportunity to prove his third-round technical knockout defeat to Doel Carrasquillo on Feb. 18 was more about what “Da Mama’s Boy” didn’t do than what Carrasquillo accomplished.
The 2008 national Golden Gloves champion from Marlboro, N.J., will get precisely that chance in an eight-round, nationally televised fight against Martinez, who also won a national Golden Gloves crown in 2008 (Martinez won at 152 pounds; Douglin won at 165). Their junior middleweight match will mark the start of the “Friday Night Fights” season on ESPN2 (9 p.m. ET/PT) from Mallory Square in Key West, Fla.
“Steven Martinez has an extensive amateur background,” said Douglin, who is trained by his mother, Saphya. “I’ve seen him fight a bunch of times. We went to the nationals together. I know I’ve got a tough fight on my hands, but I think I’m definitely going to be able to beat him and it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities for me. I’m going to be on national TV, fighting somebody undefeated, someone as good as he is. A win is definitely going to skyrocket my career.”
Martinez, who’s co-managed by Giants running back Brandon Jacobs and Pat Lynch, is 11-0 and has scored nine knockouts. But the Bronx, N.Y., native has been matched mostly against pedestrian opposition, certainly not against someone with Douglin’s amateur resume or punching power.
The 21-year-old Martinez also will encounter a much more focused Douglin than the overconfident fighter who admits he took Carrasquillo lightly, despite having ample time to train for what was supposed to be a keep-busy bout early last year. Douglin dropped Carrasquillo (16-18-1, 14 KOs), of Lancaster, Pa., with a body shot in the first round of their scheduled eight-rounder, but abandoned his game plan once Carrasquillo got up and tried too hard to score a knockout. Carrasquillo caught Douglin with a hard right hand in the third round, though, and Douglin learned an invaluable lesson about how to properly prepare for fights.
“I’ve just trained 20 times as hard,” said Douglin, who’s advised by power-broker Al Haymon. “I take every fight as serious as possible now. I make it seem like everybody’s a world championship fight. I don’t take any opponents for granted now. I’m always doing my roadwork.
“Even if I don’t have a fight scheduled, I’m always running. I’m running four or five miles a day when I’m not training for a fight. When I train for a fight, I pick it up. So we always want to make sure we’re in tip-top shape. I already know that, skill-wise, I think I’m one of the best at 154. I think I’m one of the harder-hitting fighters at 154. I just have to make sure I’m in shape.”
Douglin (13-1, 8 KOs) bounced back to win his only fight since the Carrasquillo upset. He defeated Philadelphia’s Philip McCants (9-3-1, 3 KOs) by unanimous decision in a six-rounder July 9 in Atlantic City.
“I really didn’t need that as far as confidence,” Douglin said. “I was always confident in myself. The fight with Carrasquillo didn’t take any confidence away from me. Of course a loss sucks, but I looked at it as just you slack in training, and that’s what happens. I didn’t look at it like, ‘Oh, well maybe I’m not world championship material, like I thought I was.’
“I know what I did wrong for the fight. I didn’t train for the fight, so when you don’t train hard for a fight and you lose, it just tells you to train harder. It just woke me up and let me know that I have to get on my job.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.