Professional boxing talent scouts are already pursuing Kirtland southpaw Elija Martinez, though he’s only 15 years old. It’s easy to see why.
Saturday at the Albuquerque Convention Center, Martinez coolly outboxed Texan Leonel Cardenas to win the Junior (ages 15-16) Male 138-pound title at the USA Boxing Western Elite and Regional Open Championships.
All five judges scored the fight for the New Mexican. It was the second straight title for Martinez in this tournament, which also was held at the Convention Center last year.
“He’s working, and it’s all paying off,” said Eli Martinez, his son’s co-trainer with his wife, Charmaine. “He’s real smart. He sees, he adjusts and he reacts.”
Being trained by his parents, Elija Martinez said – he’s also being home-schooled – is a key to his success.
“It’s awesome, always having my family around me,” he said.
Martinez started cautiously against Cardenas, though the two boxers had met before. Martinez had defeated Cardenas by split (4-1) decision last summer in Charleston, W.Va. That was a title fight as well.
“I was studying him, figuring out what he was gonna do,” Martinez said after Saturday’s rematch. Gradually, he solved the puzzle.
Martinez appeared to comfortably win a quiet first round. In the second, a Martinez right jab snapped Cardenas’ head back.
“I tried to find some openings here and there,” Martinez said.
In the third round, effectively countering punches from his opponent that mostly missed the target or were blocked, Martinez piled up points with stinging and accurate blows. At the end, there was no doubt as to whose hand would be raised.
With Albuquerque’s Aaron Angel Perez having turned professional, there seems little doubt as well that Martinez is the state’s best male amateur boxer. In addition to his back-to-back titles in the Western Qualfier and his title in Charleston, he was a runner-up at USA Boxing nationals in December.
A pro career awaits, he said, but first things first. Nationals once again are scheduled for December in Salt Lake City.
After that, but before the pros, come the 2020 Olympics. “That’s on my mind, big time,” he said.
In other bouts involving New Mexico boxers:
In the 90-pound Bantam (11-12) title bout, Albuquerque’s Aaron Soriano lost by split decision to Ahmed Almajdi of Arlington, Texas. Albuquerque’s Sharayha-Taina Moreu (Elite Female, 165 pounds) lost by split decision to Morelle McCain of Cleveland.
Gallup’s Richard Archuleta (Youth Male, 108) lost by unanimous decision to Daniel Barrera of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Rio Rancho’s Jocelyn Shalayla Shade (Elite Female, 152) lost by split decision to Jill Stafford of LaMesa, Calif.