Fernando Martinez would welcome title unification fights against any of the other boxers who hold 115-pound championships.
The undefeated Martinez’s preference, though, is to face Japan’s Kazuto Ioka after making his next IBF junior bantamweight title defense, which could come against the IBF’s number one contender, the Philippines’ Jade Bornea (18-0, 12 KOs). Ioka (29-2, 15 KOs), who owns the WBO junior bantamweight title, likely will need to beat WBA champ Joshua Franco (18-1-2, 8 KOs, 1 NC) in a unification fight December 31 in Tokyo for Martinez to secure that opportunity in 2023 (https://www.boxingscene.com/kazuto-ioka-joshua-franco-title-unification-bout-eyed-new-years-eve-japan--169642).
“That’s what I would like to do, but if my management and my promoters [Marcos Maidana and Legacy Boxing] come up with something different, I’ll do it,” Martinez told BoxingScene.com through a translator.
“My own plan would be Ioka. He has the WBO title and I’d like to fight for that organization’s belt because Brian Castano is my friend, and he held the WBO [junior middleweight] title before. I’d like to do what he did and have the WBO title.”
The 31-year-old Martinez made his first defense of his IBF belt earlier this month, when he decisively defeated the Philippines’ Jerwin Ancajas in their immediate rematch at Dignity Health Sports Park. Martinez (15-0, 8 KOs) beat the left-handed Ancajas (33-3-2, 22 KOs) in another 12-rounder by scores of 119-109, 118-110 and 118-110.
Tokyo’s Ioka, 33, has won six straight fights since Donnie Nietes beat him by split decision in a 12-round fight in December 2018 in Macau, China. Ioka beat the Philippines’ Nietes (43-2-6, 23 KOs) by unanimous decision in his most recent bout, a 12-round rematch July 13 in Tokyo.
Though Ioka is his preference, Martinez also expressed interest in facing Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, who recently vacated the WBC title and intends to drop to 112-pounds - but may return to 115 in the future. San Antonio’s Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs) is expected to return to the ring December 3 against an undetermined opponent on the Juan Francisco Estrada-Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez undercard at Desert Diamond Arena in Glendale, Arizona.
“It’s an excellent fight,” Martinez said of potentially facing Rodriguez. “I’d love this fight. I think winning [Saturday] makes it realistic. It’ll be like a war. So, I think people would like to see this fight.”
Whoever emerges victorious from the Estrada-Gonzalez rubber match for Estrada’s WBC franchise championship is a potential opponent for the 22-year-old Rodriguez, as all three fighters work with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and DAZN. That could leave Martinez to face Rodriguez’s half-brother, Franco, or Ioka if he wants a unification fight in 2023.
“I’d like fighting each of the champions,” Martinez said. “I want to show everybody I’m a big champion, also. I want to make history and make a unification fight against one of these fighters. I’m ready and I have good preparation to do this.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.