Javier Martinez should have been preparing for a trip to the Olympics in Tokyo right about now as a member of Team USA competing in the 165-pound weight class.
He’s not. Instead, the Milwaukee native is in Las Vegas, 3-0 as a pro and looking to make it 4-0 when he faces Calvin Metcalf on the Jose Ramirez-Josh Taylor undercard. And he’s just fine with that.
“I'm over here training next to world champions and with one of the best coaches in the world,” said Martinez, who just finished his camp in California alongside Ramirez and their coach Robert Garcia. “I have great teammates, and this whole situation is just a hundred times better. I'm getting paid to fight, and these guys might not even make it to the Olympics, so they may have wasted a whole year while I'm on my fourth fight. So I'm glad I went pro. That was one of the best decisions I've made.”
“I wasn't gonna sit around waiting on hope,” Martinez continues. “I'm too good of a fighter to put my faith on somebody else.”
That’s a good motto to live by in any walk of life, let alone boxing. And while he’s moved on, you can still hear the hurt and anger in his voice when he talks about how his spot on Team USA was robbed from him.
“Robbed” may be too strong a term to use for some, but in this case, it’s appropriate. In a simplified comparison of the situation, let’s say the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers go to the Super Bowl. Pittsburgh wins the game 28-24, but the NFL decides to give the Lombardi trophy to New York instead.
That’s what happened to Martinez, who faced Joseph Hicks three times in the Olympic boxing team trials. It’s a double elimination tournament. Martinez won two out of the three bouts. Done deal, right? Wrong. Martinez received a call that he would be the alternate on the 2020 team, with a committee deciding that Hicks was the better pick for the team. That’s fine if a committee is the sole arbiter of choosing an Olympic team. But then why fight the fights?
“When I got that call saying I wasn't gonna be on the team, that was the worst,” said Martinez. “I felt horrible. I can't even explain the feeling. My whole world came down on me. But once I turned pro, and came over here with Robert Garcia, it all went away. F the amateurs, F all that. When I make my first mil, I'll go to Tokyo myself.”
He laughs, knowing that the best revenge is living well. That doesn’t mean the whole situation doesn’t sting, especially given the sacrifices he made to get to that point in his amateur career.
“My biggest thing was I was on the team for four years,” Martinez said. “I have an eight-year-old son. I was away from my son for four years on and off. And my biggest accomplishment was to make the Olympics. The whole time, I did it for that. And I took my kid to the Olympic trials to give me a boost, and I won it. I fought my ass off every day for my son and my family, and to see my son look at me and be proud of me that I made the Olympic team just so a garbage-ass team like that can take it all away from me, I was disgusted. I was disgusted with the whole organization. To this day, I'm still cheering for my ex-teammates; I've got nothing against them. The four years I spent on the USA team were great and I would never take it back. But with the coaches and the staff, I was disgusted.”
Today, though, the 25-year-old southpaw has got the pro game on his mind, and with Garcia in his corner and world champs and contenders around him daily in California, he’s getting a priceless education.
“You learn a lot,” he said. “You learn the lifestyle it takes to become a world champ. Isolating yourself from your family, sacrificing, the way they present themselves, the dedication, their state of mind, all of that. Being around guys like Mikey Garcia and Jose Ramirez, you don't even have to talk to them, basically; you just look at them and see the way they train, and you pick up a lot.”
And on those days when he holds his own with established fighters, yeah, he can get a little impatient.
“I was thinking like, 'Man, I'm gonna start calling people out,’” laughed Martinez when talking about a recent day in the gym before Garcia reined him in. “But like Robert said to me the other day, ‘Just calm down, the big fights will come, don't try to rush it.’”
Martinez listened, knowing that if he follows the right path, gold will be waiting for him eventually.
“I would love to get the big fights, but I know it's all a process and it's a learning process on the way.”