Fernando Martinez aims for a dominant title defense against Jade Bornea
Junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Martinez is done trying to prove himself to others.
The 31-year-old Argentine titlist has gone through enough to know for a fact that he’s ready for the big time, and he aims to show the world he is already one of the top fighters in the world in a talent-laden division when he takes on Jade Bornea this Saturday at The Armory in Minneapolis, Minn.
“I believe I am up there already. I am in my best possible moment,” said Martinez (15-0, 8 knockouts), ahead of what will be his second defense of the title he lifted from Jerwin Ancajas in February of last year and defended in a rematch eight months later. “I am ready for the big fights, I am ready for the champions in the division, and to unify. But of course I have to take care of this fight with Bornea first. We’re going for the big win.”
The Martinez-Bornea 12-round bout will be part of the Showtime Championship Boxing card headlined by Carlos Adames vs. Julian Williams. Martinez hopes it will also be an opportunity to showcase a progress that he claims puts him among the top men in a division that is probably in one of its all-time best eras, with names such as Juan Francisco Estrada, Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez and many others still out there looking for challenges.
It may sound cocky, but Martinez, who is currently handled by former champ Marcos Maidana’s Chino Promotions, claims that his highlight reel is more than enough to back up his comments.
“The experience I gained in fighting a great champ like Ancajas gave me a lot of confidence. Both fights were wars and I learned a lot,” he says about the two bouts in which he dominated the seasoned champ even though Martinez was a prohibitive underdog. “I am going to demonstrate that I am at an even higher level now. I think my experience will shine in this fight.”
His respect for Bornea, however limited, is there. But there’s also a sense that Martinez (who grew up in poverty as part of a large family in the slums of La Boca, one of Buenos Aires’ toughest neighborhoods) is already looking past him, as he aims for the bigger paydays that will lift his family out of the situation they faced throughout their lives.
“Bornea is No. 1 in the rankings, he is a Filipino who comes to fight, but we are ready for any challenge. We are ready for the champions, the challengers and more. We want them to see that Argentina has a great champion,” said Martinez, who openly complained about the small purse he will be receiving for this title defense after the bout went to a purse bid that allocated a very low sum of money in his favor. “We’re here to make history. First we have this mandatory fight against his guy who is really good, and after that I will focus on the champions. I am at a stage in my life where I am up for anything.”
His trainer Rodrigo Calabrese is more cautious, but claims to have reasons to be hopeful too.
“Lefties are better for us. Fernando likes them even more (than right-handed guys). But every opponent at this level is dangerous,” said Calabrese. “(Bornea) has some weaknesses we are going to exploit but he has strengths as well. But I believe that we will make the fight very complicated for him. (Bornea) is wide open most of the time and takes long breaks in his attack, and that plays in our favor.”
The caveat for him is that Martinez’s lack of popularity eliminates the idea of any additional advantages that he could have as “house fighter” anywhere in the world.
“This is the top level, and there’s no A or B side here. No one is the favorite at this level. That’s how these fights are. You need to go out there trying to win at any cost,” quipped Calabrese, speaking from experience after having to produce an authentic demolition job on Ancajas just to lift the belt from him.
The 28-year-old Bornea (18-0, 12 KOs) will be Martinez’s second Filipino foe ever, but he may not be the last one, especially if Martinez manages to get the payday he craves against a legendary fighter.
“Nonito (Donaire) said he wanted to fight me,” said Martinez, when asked to list a few of the names in his bucket list during an open training on the outskirts of Buenos Aires ahead of his trip to Miami to finish his preparation for Bornea. “He said he had a lot of respect for me but he wanted to face me, and I have a lot of respect for him but I want to take on anyone out there. If he wants to fight at bantamweight, we are ready for him.”
Martinez will have to defeat Bornea first, of course, but he’s aiming for an even more destructive performance in order to entice the big names in the division to finally face him.
“Get ready,” said Calabrese in a message to Bornea. “There’s a tank waiting to run over you.”
Diego M. Morilla writes for The Ring since 2013. He has also written for HBO.com, ESPN.com and many other magazines, websites, newspapers and outlets since 1993. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He has won two first-place awards in the BWAA’s annual writing contest, and he is the moderator of The Ring’s Women’s Ratings Panel. He served as copy editor for the second era of The Ring en Español (2018-2020) and is currently a writer and editor for RingTV.com.