Martínez claims title in thrilling battle
Mexico's David Martínez became the IBA International Welterweight Champion with a majority decision win over Portuguese Fábio Costa at the Fairmont Southampton on Saturday night.
Both boxers had promised an “all-our war” during the build-up to the fight and proved as good as their word, treating the disappointingly sparse crowd inside the Poinciana Ballroom to ten rounds of breathless action.
It was a thrilling fight between two men already well-known to the local boxing fraternity, having both fought Nikki Bascome, who won the IBA strap via a unanimous points victory over Martínez 12 months ago.
The Bermudian, who suffered his only professional defeat to Costa, a fourth-round knockout two years ago, vacated the belt soon after to pursue fights at super lightweight.
It was the more experienced Martínez who dominated the early rounds, his crisp left jab controlling the distance and frustrating Costa, who swallowed an eye-catching three-punch combination towards the end of the round.
The Portuguese came out the second round all guns blazing, just as he had in his fight against Bascome, careering towards Martínez and forcing him onto the ropes.
However, the Mexican dealt with the attack far better than the Bermudian was able to, quickly re-establishing his jab and refusing to engage at close quarters.
By the end of the third, Costa, who was conceding height and reach, had made the necessary adjustments by adopting a more crouched stance, allowing him to duck under the Mexican's jab and close the distance.
Martínez, who admitted after the fight that his “Mexican spirit” got the better of him during the middle rounds by allowing Costa to drag him into a brawl, felt the full force of his opponent's power after being caught with a heavy right hand before shaking his head to dismiss any notion that he had been hurt.
By now the fight had descended into a battle of wills, the machine-like Costa stalking Martínez and applying constant pressure, although the Mexican was also dishing out punishment of his own during their closely fought exchanges.
Costa looked to be enjoying the tear-up, turning to his vocal supporters before the start of the seventh, grinning menacingly before re-entering the furnace, and arguably edged the next two rounds with his relentless pressure and explosive punches, which appeared to carry more sting than a visibly tired Martínez.
The Mexican reasserted himself in the eighth, however, forcing Costa to retreat onto the ropes and bloodied his nose after landing a series of stiff blows.
Both fighters traded furious punches for the remainder of their hellacious battle, which the judges awarded in Martínez s favour 96-94, 97-93, 95-95, much to the disappointment of the island's Portuguese community, who had willed their fighter on with chants of “Fábio, Fábio” throughout the pulsating encounter.
Martínez, wearing a black sombrero borrowed from Bermudian amateur Andre Lambe, celebrated in the ring long after the final bell.
He said he hopes to have an opportunity to return to Bermuda to defend his belt.
“[Winning the title] means everything because I put in a huge effort to get this win,” said Martínez, whose coach Manuel Garrido acted as his translator.
“The strategy was to box behind the jab for the first five rounds, but in the third round my Mexican spirit came out and I was willing to brawl.
“It was difficult to brawl for ten rounds against a tough guy like Fábio, but I came here for just one reason and also showed that I had guts.”
Martínez, who improves his record to 14 wins from 19 bouts, said he always felt confident that he was winning the contest.
“Whenever I got hit by [Costa], I went back and hit him twice or three times more,” said the 26-year-old.
“That's why I was stealing the rounds. When the fight was over, the face of Costa and his team showed that he had lost.”
Costa, who suffered the first defeat of his eight-fight professional career, declined to comment.