In a battle between two undefeated lightweights, one fighter stood out in what was likely his best performance of his career.
Frank Martin was very impressive on Saturday night, scoring a knockdown in the seventh round en route to a unanimous decision win over Michel Rivera in a WBA lightweight title eliminator bout from The Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. The scorecards read 120-107, 118-109 and 117-110 for Martin (25-0, 14 KOs) who moves one step closer to a world title shot. Rivera falls to 16-1.
Martin controlled the fight from the start with his speed and boxing skill. For a majority of the first half of the fight, Rivera seemed to be overwhelmed by the footwork from the 27-year-old out of Indianapolis in addition to the left hands from the southpaw stance. Rivera had a few moments in the fight where he landed power shots, but nothing significant to shift the fight in his favor. Once the fight got to the midway point Martin was successful with the double jab followed up with a punch to the body. In the seventh, a counter left hand followed by a right hook put Rivera down to the canvas. Rivera got up before referee Kenny Bayless got to the count of eight, but Martin continued to be efficient in his attack for the remainder of the bout.
“This is just what I do,” Martin said. “I felt good tonight. There were some things that I saw in there that I didn’t capitalize on, but we went in there and got the job done.”
“My corner was telling me to stay on the outside, watch out for the right hand and work the game plan. I was using my legs and I could have done it a lot more. It worked for us tonight, but there’s a lot of room for improvement and we’re going to keep working.”
Martin is trained by Derrick James, who is considered one of the best trainers in the sport. He has unified welterweight champion Errol Spence and also undisputed super welterweight champion Jermell Charlo in his camp, and now Martin aspires to have that same success in the lightweight division.
“It’s a blessing to be in the gym with Errol and [undisputed 154-pound champion] Jermell [Charlo] and they keep me going,” said Martin. “I’m always watching Errol when he’s sparring and I’m always asking questions and looking to get better. Seeing champions on top like them, I’m getting nothing but game from them.”
Rivera didn’t have any answer for the speed and activity of Martin, as he was out-landed 174 to 67 in total punches according to CompuBox. The connect percentage was very low for Rivera as he connected only 15% of his punches on Martin.
“I’m pretty fast, but you have to be faster to fight a guy like this,” said Rivera. “I was too slow tonight. I tried to use my jab to keep him off me. He was the better guy today. I won’t take anything away from him.”
The “better guy” looked great in this performance and come 2023 he feels that he is ready for the top fighters in the division.
“I just believe in myself and I believe in our team,” said Martin. “We know what we’re doing and we’re working consistently. We believed in it and believed that we’re ready for any of the top fighters, so let us get them. We’re ready to eat.”
Cover photo by Esther Lin of Showtime