By Thomas Gerbasi
Whether it’s Ohio or Tennessee, the two states Ryan Martin has called home over the course of his 24 years on this Earth, the lightweight prospect doesn’t subscribe to the notion that where you come from dictates where you end up. Sure, tough times have put a little something extra in his chest, but he believes that no matter what the zip code is, there are no limits to chasing after a dream.
“People who come from certain areas do have something extra in their chest, but I firmly believe you can become whatever you want to be, no matter where you come from,” he said. “If you really want to be a world champion and be successful at what you do, go out there and get it. You gotta grind and be disciplined, and don’t let anything stop you, no matter where you come from. Yeah, I was born in and grew up in some rough places, but I never used that as an excuse for anything. I always knew what I wanted since the seventh and eighth grade. I knew I wanted to be a boxer and I never lost sight of that.”
Now he’s closing in on something that may have seemed far-fetched back in grade school. Owner of a perfect 18-0 (11 KOs) pro record, the former amateur standout returns to the ring on Friday for an ESPN2-televised bout in Indio, California against veteran Marcos Jimenez. It’s his first appearance since a star-making turn on the pay-per-view portion of March’s Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs card in Madison Square Garden where he halted 17-1 Bryant Cruz in the eighth round.
It wasn’t just that Martin won the bout in impressive fashion, but in the lead-up to the fight, he was seemingly everywhere as he soaked in the media attention and got a dose of what life in the spotlight looks like.
“The atmosphere of that venue and the magnitude of that fight gave me a taste of what it’s gonna be like to be on that stage,” he said. “As for the fans and the people that were watching, I feel like I’m still growing as a fighter and there’s a lot more that I can bring to the table that they haven’t seen yet. So I’m looking forward to showing that to the world.”
When Martin talks of showing the world some new tricks in the coming fights, it’s an exciting prospect simply because he’s displayed plenty thus far. That kind of talent makes fans want to see him in a big fight sooner rather than later, but “Blue Chip” is willing to let his team make that call for him.
“I have a great team around me,” Martin said. “My manager Tim (Van Newhouse) has a good relationship with (K2 Promotions) Tom Loeffler. There’s my coach, Joe Delguyd, and my trainer Cam (Russell). Everybody keeps my head on straight and I know boxing is not a sprint; it’s a marathon, and champions aren’t born overnight. It takes time to get there and I plan on being in this sport and on top for a while. So I’m not going to rush anything. If I keep working hard and keep improving, good things are gonna come.”
That patience was tested when his previous promoter, 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions, filed for bankruptcy, leaving Martin’s career in limbo. The two parties settled in March of 2016, and he has since made up for the lost time, going 5-0 with three knockouts. He will be the favorite against Jimenez, and it is a nice showcase on ESPN2, but the Cruz fight already proved that he’s ready for bigger game.
“I think any fighter won’t back down from any competition, but coming off a performance like that, yes, I do think I’m ready for the next step, and I would like to fight someone in the top 20 or top 15 in my weight class,” he said. “It’s time to start proving myself to the world and the networks that I am a real deal fighter, and the only way to do that is to step up the competition.”
Once he reaches that next level, his ambitions are, well, ambitious, and it’s exactly what you want to hear from a rising star with the talent and determination to take his career as far as it can go.
“The vision for me right now is for me and my team to get championships at 135 and then 140 and 147,” he said. “And it’s just about staying focused and improving in every fight and taking it one fight at a time. You can’t look too far ahead because you have to get through this fight to get to the next one. But I want to keep improving and keep the crowd on the edge when I fight. I don’t want to be a boring fighter. I want to be a fighter people want to see.”
He already is, and it’s clear that his hard work has been paying off. That’s a nice place to be in at 24 years old, but living a life most want didn’t come without already living a life most can’t.
“Boxing is one of the most demanding sports there is,” Martin said. “The sacrifices you have to make are not hanging with your friends, watching the food that you eat, living a clean lifestyle, going off to camps for a month or two months at a time to a secluded place. It’s the most demanding sport because it’s all of you. You can’t go into a workout or a fight half-assed. It’s not gonna cut it and it’s not gonna get you to where you want to be.”