Ryan Martin (Blue) chips his way toward huge opportunities
Tomorrow night is a big one for lightweight fringe contender Ryan “Blue Chip” Martin but he’s already been here before.
“Us fighters, we have to please the fans,” Martin told UCNLive over the phone this past Sunday afternoon. “That’s what gets fighters on TV and more people interested. You have to give people something to look at, keep them on the edge of their seat. That’s definitely on my mind – I don’t want to be a boring fighter to where nobody wants to see you. I want to have people on the edge of their seat every time I fight.”
Martin, 18-0 (11), will fight in the co-feature of a card televised on ESPN2 Friday night (10:00 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT), ending a three-year absence from regular television and hoping to make noise in the 135-pound division, now that he’s cracked the IBF’s and WBO’s Top 15 rankings (at Nos. 11 and 15, respectively). Why he hasn’t been on TV lately is a bit complicated, to say the least. A standout amateur, Martin signed with SMS Promotions before his first professional fight in 2013 and, with the company being defunct for a few years now, options and access have been limited.
“Things have been so busy lately with all the big fights coming,” said Martin on if he’s had time to reflect on that situation with this fight approaching. “I’m just trying to stay busy and move forward. If I had to think back on it, I’m glad I went through that situation ’cause it set me up to where I’m at now. All I can do is capitalize what’s in front of me and what’s ahead.”
Wisdom like that can often come from being in a serene place, where a man can focus at the task at hand. Big Bear, California, was that place for Martin while his promotional status was in limbo. There, under the direction of trainer Abel Sanchez, Martin has seen himself grow as fighter because of the atmosphere surrounding him.
“I think I’ve been there for my past three fights and just the solitude and being more focused,” said Martin. “There’s nothing up there but boxing – you breathe, eat, sleep, boxing everyday – so I definitely feel like I’m better as a fighter, more confident. I look forward to future camps there. Everybody is pushing each other to the limit. Getting the final rounds in with (IBF No. 1 lightweight title contender) Denis Shafikov and helping him get ready for his title fight. He’s a very tough guy. I learned a lot sparring with him the past few weeks in Big Bear. It’s always a good camp because everybody works hard and Abel pushes everybody.”
Coincidentally, Shafikov challenges the IBF lightweight titleholder Robert Easter Jr. on tomorrow night in Toledo, Ohio. Martin, who lives in Cleveland when not in camp, is familiar with Easter, as well, and the happenstance of both these fights taking place on the same evening, and on television, creates an opportunity for Martin to be mentioned among the top lightweights.
“I’ve been in camp with Robert and I actually fought him in the amateurs – he beat me,” admitted Martin. “Robert is a very, very fast, tough, smart fighter. I have nothing but respect for him. I think Robert would be a tough fight for anybody at the lightweight division, and at 140. Denis is just as tough. He’s been in wars and been in two title fights already, so, Friday night, I hope I’ll be able to watch the fight but, if not, I’ll catch it on tape. It’s an exciting night for the lightweight division and great night for boxing overall.”
One inch shy of standing six feet tall, Martin, 24, has physical traits similar to Easter and there really couldn’t have been a better sparring partner to help Shafikov in his preparations. Like Easter, the Martin’s height makes him an intriguing player at 135 pounds but, unlike Easter, Ryan hasn’t been tested yet.
Marcos Jimenez, 22-7 (15), a 33-year old Dominican, fighting out of Puerto Rico, is Martin’s opponent tomorrow night and, while Jimenez has more losses than wins in his past five fights, Blue Chip still has a challenge on his hands, given the stage he’s sharing and the responsibility he says he has in fighting on TV.
“I see he’s a very defensive fighter,” said Martin about his foe. “I’m going to go in there and be smart, pick my punches and just try and get him to open up. I feel like he’s a fighter that’s going to bring another side of me out. I just have to be patient and capitalize on the openings.”
An interesting footnote about Martin fighting on this ESPN2 card, one promoted by Golden Boy Promotions: He is the first fighter to be featured on the “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” series who isn’t signed to the company. Tom Loeffler, managing director of K2 Promotions, isn’t exactly Martin’s full-fledged promoter but he has helped him get fights on just about every recent card featuring IBF/WBA/WBC middleweight champion Gennady “GGG” Golovkin – who, of course, is also a stablemate in Big Bear. Martin even got to perform on the HBO Pay-Per-View portion of Golovkin’s most recent fight in March, thanks to Loeffler, and delivered an impressive eighth round stoppage of Bryant Cruz.
“I know Tom is a player in the sport of boxing and very well-respected,” said Martin about getting his opportunity for tomorrow night. “From what I know, him and Golden Boy have a very good relationship. I’m just grateful and excited that Golden Boy is allowing me to have that slot and Tom has gotten me that slot. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”
Should he prove successful against Jimenez, Martin wants a fellow Top 15-ranked opponent in his next fight and hopes he can return on Golovkin’s September 16 HBO Pay-Per-View undercard, when GGG faces Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. It would be quite a year for Martin, if he can leave an impression tomorrow and follow it up with a bigger fight on the sport’s most important date of the year. Then, step by step, Martin can find himself in a spot he hasn’t been before – challenging for a world title.