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Blood match: Boxer knows his next opponent has extra motivation

Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal

Antonio Martinez knows just how much blood means, especially among fighters.

So he has no doubts that despite the record of his opponent for Saturday’s Cold War 4 card at the Buffalo Thunder Casino & Resort, Gene Perez will be looking for some payback.

Martinez, a 2004 Española Valley High School graduate, knocked out Perez’s brother, Derek, a year ago.

“Almost to the day,” Martinez said of that last fight. “I really feel that he’s going to bring his very best. He’s always in the fights. I plan on him coming for revenge for brother so I’m not taking the fight lightly.”

In the co-main event at 140 pounds, Perez comes in with just a 2-10 record while Martinez is 8-3.

But Martinez is coming off a disappointing loss by decision in September to Gabriel Gutierrez after taking an elbow to the eye in the first round.

“It was ruled accidental, but I had a cut from my left eye to under my nose,” Martinez said. “By the second round, my eye was swollen shut. I fought most of the fight with one eye. So I need to try and bounce back from that loss.”

To do so, however, he knows he’s going to face a pretty determined opponent.

“They matched me against Gene, because he’s said he’s been wanting to fight me,” Martinez said. “… He’s a tough opponent. It’s a good fight for me to come back after a loss, to get a win. That’s not looking past him. I believe he’s an opponent that’s going to go in there and have to do some work.”

Doing work, however, is nothing new to Martinez, who is a correctional officer at the state penitentiary south of Santa Fe.

“It’s rough,” he said of juggling training and working full time. “Some mornings, I get up at 2 a.m. and I work until 6 p.m. I do 15-hour shifts, then get out of work and go train for two hours. I drive almost an hour home and get ready for bed and wake up three or four hours later and do it again.”

His fellow employees certainly appreciate the effort, as they have joined his rapidly growing following.

“I’m very blessed,” Martinez said. “I have a huge following from Española. I have all the correctional officers, 40-plus officers supporting me, and a bunch of other fans I’ve gained along the way. I’m very blessed to have the huge following. I appreciate them so much.”

Of course, his biggest fan is his wife, Claudia Martinez, although he had to prove himself to her.

“She was a skeptic (that I would) even fight the first time,” he said with a chuckle. “She didn’t believe I was going to stick it out. But I told her I wanted to fight once as an amateur to see what it was like and I just fell in love with the sport. Right after that first fight, I told her I wanted to fight once as a professional. She laughed and didn’t believe in that, either.”

Still, she’s come to appreciate what Martinez does.

“She’s always been supportive,” he said. “She’s there giving me water, filming my sparring, anyway she can throw her hand in, she will.”

As for how far he can go in the boxing biz, Martinez said he’s not sure. He’s just enjoying it as long as he can.

“I don’t have that amateur pedigree that takes you to the elite level of boxing,” he said. “I know that I’m pushing it as far as I can. If I can get a state title or a chance at a belt of some sort, I’m going to push forward and ride it out as far as I can. But I’m OK with loving the sport right now. Just the passion of it.”

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