SAN DIEGO – The team surrounding Julio Cesar 'El Rey' Martinez doesn’t find any shame in losing to an all-time great.

The WBC flyweight titlist took a chance in moving up in weight to face Nicaragua’s Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez on just six weeks’ notice. It backfired on every level, beginning with Mexico City’s Martinez badly missing weight, resulting in having to forfeit 20% of his purse. The week ended with a lopsided defeat to the legendary former four-division champion atop a March 5 DAZN show from Pechanga Arena in San Diego, California.

The good news for Martinez (18-2, 14KOs; 2ND) is that his WBC flyweight title reign remains intact—as does his fighting spirit.

“I am feeling good, and I will come back even stronger,” Martinez told after Saturday’s main event. “With everything except fear—I will be back and ready for anyone and anytime.”

Martinez jumped out to a respectable start, if only because Gonzalez (51-3, 41KOs) spent most of the opening round gauging his opponent’s power. Once that was determined, the fight transitioned to a world class masterpiece against one of the best little big men in the history of the sport. Gonzalez spent the rest of the night reminding the world why he once served as the pound-for-pound king, dominating to the point where final scores of 118-110, 117-111 and especially 116-112 were all viewed as far too close for what took place in the ring.

“Julio Cesar Martinez took this fight on six weeks’ notice. You saw the difference between a very good champion and a pound-for-pound legend,” Eddie Hearn, Martinez’s co-promoter as head of Matchroom Boxing said after the fight. “Big respect to him taking this fight but (Saturday night) was about one of the greatest to ever do it, Roman ‘Chocolatio’ Gonzalez.”

The loss was Martinez’s first since his pro debut, having since rattled off a 20-fight unbeaten streak that has included four successful defenses of the WBC title he won in December 2019. Assuming he can still get back down to flyweight with a full training camp, Martinez will not suffer from a lack of intriguing options.

“He just has to work hard,” noted Hearn. “He gained so many new fans after Saturday; people love spirit. He’ll go back to flyweight, where I think he has to face a mandatory. There are unification fights as well.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox