It was a dream come true for Julio Cesar Martinez the moment he captured his flyweight title.
Far too much of his reign, however, has proven to be a nightmare.
The streaking WBC flyweight champion is finally set for his first fight of 2021, attempting the third defense of his title versus countryman and friendly rival Joel Cordova. The pair of Mexico City natives collide Saturday evening, live on DAZN from Arena Alcalde in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The event is the first of a new four-part Mexico-based series in a partnership between Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and Canelo Promotions.
“I’m honored to headline the first card of this deal,” Martinez told BoxingScene.com. “I’m just here to fight and to make sure I don’t let anyone down.”
It’s been a humbling year for Martinez (17-1, 13KOs; 1NC), who has suffered through three canceled fight dates since last August. An illnes forced the hard-hitting champ had to pull out of a scheduled title defense versus McWilliams Arroyo to have headlined a DAZN show last August 15 in Tulsa. Martinez once again fell ill prior to a slotted undercard clash with countryman Francisco ‘Chihuas’ Rodriguez on a December 19 show headlined by stablemate Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who would outpointed previously unbeaten Callum Smith to become a four-division titlist.
Martinez made it all the way to the final pre-fight press conference before having to withdraw from his rescheduled February 27 title fight with Arroyo. The bout was to serve as the chief support to Alvarez’s third-round stoppage of Avni Yildirim, only for an aggravated hand injury to force Martinez off the star-studded show in Miami Gardens, Florida.
Fully healthy, Martinez is ready to resume his WBC flyweight title reign dating back to his December 2019 knockout win over former champ Cristofer Rosales. Part of the healing process came within his own inner circle, which includes Alvarez and highly respected head trainer Eddy Reynoso.
“Canelo has always told me that I can go as far as I want to go. I have to want it, though,” notes Martinez, who has been out of the ring since a second-round knockout of Moises Calleros last October in his Mexico City hometown. “Being around Canelo is very inspiring, watching him work as hard as he does and achieve everything in his career.
“He is there for us, to pass along his wisdom and demand the best out of everyone around him even with all of the pressure around him. I use it is inspiration and hope to one day follow in his footsteps.”
Next on that journey is his title defense versus Cordova (12-4-2, 3KOs), the first fight in what he hopes to be a more active 2021 campaign. There is the potential to one day move up in weight and look to become a multi-division champion—though not before living up to his full potential in a division where he is currently perceived to be the best.
“I want to test myself to prove that I am the best,” vows Martinez. “I can’t wait to get in there with the other champions. Eddy and I have talked about beating everyone at flyweight, becoming undisputed champion.
“I want to win as many titles as possible and make everyone proud.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox