Ahead of their IBF Super Bantamweight World Title fight on Saturday in Belfast’s historic Titanic Slipway, Kiko Martinez and Carl Frampton renewed a rivalry very much the talk of international boxing.
Before speaking at the newly built Titanic Centre, the challenger was introduced to a healthy local reception and looked every inch a champion elect. Frampton took his place at the packed Cyclone Promotions table with a measured confidence, befitting his talent. Defending champion Kiko Martinez concerned himself with making a more low key entrance, complete with black sunglasses that hid his eye from both media glare and the man responsible for the only knockdown of his career.
Martinez remained noticeably quiet when questions were directed his way, so to trainer Gabi Sarmiento who refused to give much away about his fighters preparations for the contest. Frampton wasted little time in chastising his opponent for the threats and rigmarole that was the main feature of their pre-fight conversation last time around.
There was no head to head photo opportunity on this occasion but ‘The Jackal’ was quick to pounce on the past one finger across the neck gesture from Martinez : as a sign of the Spaniard letting emotions get in the way of professionalism.
“He probably underestimated me and said a few things that he shouldn’t have. I dealt with him and that’s the reason why he’s a bit more respectful this time around. He doesn’t want to be embarrassed and knocked out again.”
Much was made of Frampton’s eight month hiatus after the original fight, but any speculation that his career had been sidetracked due to suffering heavy punches, during that period, was ended in a typically confident burst. “Kiko takes a lot out of the fact that he perforated my ear but that has absolutely nothing to do with his power. When I went to get the ear drum fixed by a specialist, he said that this can happen from a Mother slapping a child on the ear.”
This was not a Kiko Martinez with the candour of a champion. Reluctant to speak, more humble certainly than 18 months ago, but he has gone full circle from the provocative and outspoken to the mumbling below his breath type. If it’s an act to deflect attention from himself and put pressure on to a hometown hero it may well turn effective in the coming days: but for now Frampton’s steely eye won’t weep for the surprisingly sorry looking La Sensacion.
Setting aside a lack of bite and chat for the moment, Martinez is in exception condition and whatever the outcome will be lauded for his ‘come out fighting’ approach. Guile and a plan B have never been his style but he does hold a dangerous one dimension aggression enough to beat Frampton. He has to prove that to himself and a boxing public more inclined to doubt him than back him.
“I have no doubt this will be one of the best fights Ireland has ever seen,” said the champion. “The last fight was a learning experience. Sometimes God takes something out of you to give you something better. I will keep my world title.”
In his way are a rare set of circumstances beyond the 29 year old’s control – an undefeated opponent, fresh from adding 200 rounds of sparring to his 18 – 0 record and a crowd never before privy to this, the most anticipated boxing match up Northern Ireland has witnessed in recent memory.
Tim Martin is covering Martinez v Frampton 2 fight week for WBN. You can follow Tim on Twitter @Tim_Martin4
Martinez v Frampton 2 is live on BoxNation this Saturday night from 7pm in the UK. To Subscribe click BoxNation