Michel Rivera views Frank Martin as the opponent who will lead him to a title shot.
The Dominican Republic’s Rivera is ranked in the top 15 by the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO, but the undefeated contender hasn’t received a shot at Gervonta Davis’ WBA world lightweight title or undisputed, undefeated 135-pound champion Devin Haney. That’ll change, according to Rivera, once he beats Martin in their 12-round WBA elimination match, the main event of Showtime’s tripleheader December 17 from The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
“It’s my opportunity right now,” Rivera told BoxingScene.com. “I know that he’s a prospect. I’m a contender. I have 24 fights. I’ve already won an eliminator. But he has a lot of skills. It’ll give me an opportunity to fight for a world title. This fight is a main event. It’s good promotion for me, too. He’s a good boxer, but I’m better and I believe I can show that I’m the better guy.”
The 27-year-old Martin (16-0, 12 KOs) is the second undefeated fighter Rivera (24-0, 14 KOs) has agreed to box in his past three bouts, but the skillful, strong southpaw seemingly is the most talented opponent of Rivera’s six-year pro career. The Indianapolis native knocked down another Dominican contender, Jackson Marinez, once apiece in the ninth and 10th rounds before his fight with Marinez (20-3, 8 KOs) was stopped with 30 seconds to go in their 10-rounder July 9 at Alamodome in San Antonio.
“After I beat him,” Rivera said, “then everybody will know that they can’t give me no more excuses for not giving me a title fight. This is the right fight for me because I know that everybody’s talking about him, too. He’s in my way right now. I have to beat him. I know that after this fight something good is coming, but I’m only focused on this fight right now.”
The 24-year-old Rivera, who resides and trains in Miami, is ranked second by the WBA, sixth by the IBF, 10th by the WBO and 12th by the WBC. Martin, who is represented by Errol Spence Jr.’s promotional company, is ranked 10th by the WBA, but not in the top 15 by the IBF, WBC or WBO.
A resilient Rivera got off the canvas in the sixth round to knock out Spanish contender Jon Fernandez (23-2, 20 KOs) in the eighth round of their July 2021 bout at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California. Rivera has since scored unanimous points victories over Argentina’s Jose Matias Romero (then 24-1) and Americans Joseph Adorno (then 14-0-2) and Jerry Perez (then 14-1), yet those wins haven’t helped him secure a title shot.
“It’s really hard, but that’s boxing,” Rivera said. “Some of these things happen and I have to be strong. I just keep working hard in the gym because I know one day the opportunity’s coming. I don’t get frustrated. I know that if it’s not today, it’s tomorrow. If it’s not tomorrow, it’s the next day. But one day it’s coming.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.