Alcohol and drugs kept him from boxing, but he came back and won the world crown in Las Vegas.

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From the Doke to Las Vegas.  Puma Martínez left Isla Maciel to go box in the city of casinos.  He returned with the world title and a promise fulfilled (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)
From the Doke to Las Vegas. Puma Martínez left Isla Maciel to go box in the city of casinos. He returned with the world title and a promise fulfilled (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)

With a blow of the paw, like a new threat of life that gives and takes away without warning, the little man who was on the ring united Maciel Island with Las Vegas.

His attack was hungry and his defense was redemptive. I have never seen anything so similar to Pascualito Pérez, our first world champion, who reigned in the 50s after epically beating Yoshio Shirai in Tokyo. Since then and until the last generational survivor, Pascualito He entered into the useless discussion about who had been the best Argentine world champion of all time. Many placed him above Monzón, Nicolino, Galíndez…

As I followed the fight on television, I thought I saw glimpses of that Pascualito in Fernando Martínez. His rival was the Filipino Jerwin Ancajas, the world super flyweight champion; and obviously a big favorite for the bettors and for the “cathedra”. This 30-year-old Ancajas had 10 consecutive defenses of his crown and the show’s programmers had no doubts about his triumph…

In the first rounds it seemed that the sustained attack of Fernando Martínez nicknamed The Pumawas the mandatory tribute from a designated challenger. In other words, show their effort as far as the energy would allow and offer a worthy fight. Who is capable of fighting close to the body of his rival, throwing blows without pauses and giving up stepping back, dancing or the ropes as support…?

The night of his life: El Puma did not stop attacking from bell to bell against a bewildered Jerwin Ancajas, the Filipino who until then held the super flyweight title (Photo: @premierboxing)
The night of his life: El Puma did not stop attacking from bell to bell against a bewildered Jerwin Ancajas, the Filipino who until then held the super flyweight title (Photo: @premierboxing)

It was when I thought what a pity this little boy because that rhythm will not be able to prolong it beyond 5, 6 or 8 rounds at the most. It was not like that, just like Pascualito never stopped pressuring his rival, he never ceased in his barrage of blows and although on two occasions –7th and 9th rounds– he felt the Filipino’s short hooks to the abdominal area, his response was like that of the great champions: stop for a moment, breathe without taking a step back and continue attacking. In that it resembles the Puma to Pascual Pérez, because other great flyweight or super flyweight champions such as Horacio Accavallo, Gustavo Ballas, Santos Benigno Laciar or Omar Narváez himself knew how to use the entire ring in their fights. This strategy of seeking distance is necessary when the air changes, when a blow is felt, when you have to go from defense to attack or when rehearsing a punch whose departure tries to knock out your rival.

As the fight wore on, Martínez accelerated the attack, he didn’t get tired, he looked like a robot. It pushed him to overcome the past and dream of the future. As he himself says: “Open another door of life”. All of him and his dreams were there, on the ring. Perhaps remembering the traumatic eviction of the tenement of Olavarría 1814, heart of La Boca in which the Martínez lived with their 12 children. It is in those brick patios, with flimsy ceilings, ancient walls, arguments between tenants with different accents and a few bathrooms with rows… Yes, the illustrious conventillos of La Boca where those who return exhausted after a bubbling night with those others who start full of hope to go to work.

Fernando’s father, Don Abel, was a sheet metal worker; He died six years ago after much suffering from his relentless cancer and left a mandate for his son, his boxer: “Fernando, dear son, keep fighting and don’t stop until you are world champion”. The Puma Martínez remembers with emotion because he always supported him to be a boxer and his mother, Silvia. “When there wasn’t enough for everyone to eat, I made stew for my brothers but I always had a yogurt and a churrasquito with puree for me; so that I don’t lose weight, so that I can continue training…”.

Martínez trains with Rodrigo Calabrese, his man in the corner and one of the people who rescued him from his worst moment (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)
Martínez trains with Rodrigo Calabrese, his man in the corner and one of the people who rescued him from his worst moment (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)

What a wonderful life: the Puma at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas. A chic place with 800 rooms that cost 3,000 million dollars. Its facade is made of glass, the height to the terrace is 184 meters and as soon as you look out the door you will see the dancing fountains of the Bellagio hotel that is just opposite. There, in one of the luxurious meeting rooms under the promotion of Showtimeplus the support of Maidana Promotion -with the Chino in person – and transmitted by the ESPN for everyone, Fernando Martínez arrived. The same boxer who, under the wise leadership of Rodrigo Calabrese, achieved his impeccable physical condition by alternating between the gymnasium of the Renunciamiento club on Isla Maciel, Parque Lezama -by the foothills- and the Ecological Reserve in which once a week he ran up to 14 kilometers.

Rodrigo Calabrese, his technician, also resorted in permanent consultation to different doctors, a nutritionist and various paid gyms to do bodybuilding or elongation. He was the one who accompanied him at all times because he always kept in mind what Don Abel, Fernando’s father, asked of him before he died: “Take good care of him, make him world champion…”.

Fernando Martínez poses for Infobae and shows the names of his parents tattooed on his arms: Silvia, whom he will help buy her first house, and Abel, now deceased, whose dream was for his son to become world champion (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti )
Fernando Martínez poses for Infobae and shows the names of his parents tattooed on his arms: Silvia, whom he will help buy her first house, and Abel, now deceased, whose dream was for his son to become world champion (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti )

After crossing the Riachuelo several times a day to leave or get home in the Dokethe Puma He put everything into this fight and trained to make his dream come true. Gone are the ignored milestones of his life as a boxer: member of the Los Cóndores team that competed abroad in times of the AIBA, winner of the pre-Olympic and representative of Argentina in the Rio 2016 Games. His start was in the historic United States of Pompeii at the age of 14 and passed through Quilmes with the support of the brothers Sergio and Roberto Eye Rodriguez. In yesterday there were the rings of the Federation, the concentrations in the CENARD, the salary of some union and the conviction to continue. The death of his father caused such a depression in him that he preferred to run away from all those places where someone, a colleague, a friend, a teacher, suggested he go back to training or talked to him about the harmfulness of alcohol and drugs.. His mother Silvia and Professor Calabrese were the ones who finally rescued him. And when he resumed the life of an athlete he found support and encouragement. He stopped by Yesica’s gym Sure Bopp -fly world champion and social psychologist- and they also managed to get the Municipality of Avellaneda to join in the support.

In the last segment of the fight against the Filipino Jerwin Ancajas, who arrived with a record of 22 knockouts in 37 fights, I presumed that Martínez would slow down the hellish pace he was leading and that the last 4 rounds would be overwhelming. Nothing could be further from reality: the Puma he sustained the initial dynamic and psychologically destroyed his rival. The worst thing that happens to a sanguine fighter like the Filipino is to arrive with his strongest punch and the opponent responds by counterattacking. That did the Puma Martínez from bell to bell throughout the 36 minutes of the fight. And so exceptional was his physical condition that before leaving towards the 12th round, Calabrese told him: “Now close the fight well, win and fulfill your old man’s dream…”. And the Pumadid.

The Puma received his first big purse, 40,000 dollars.  But now he could quadruple that number or even more in his first defense.  His daughter's name is engraved on his back (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)
The Puma received his first big purse, 40,000 dollars. But now he could quadruple that number or even more in his first defense. His daughter’s name is engraved on his back (Photo: Gustavo Gavotti)

Returning with the IBF world champion belt erases all the grays of his hard-working life. Perhaps for the first time tomorrow draws a smile. The same one that he sees in his mother, in his brothers; in his girlfriend Mica -Micaela Oliveri also a boxer- and in his unyielding “teacher” Rodrigo. It was he who embraced her and held her in the blackness of the fatal space of depression.

Maybe it’s a dream, maybe an illusion but you already hired him Showtime and will represent Maidana Promotions with the Chino and his cousin Gustavo (Pileta) who have extensive experience in the difficult world of boxing in the United States. And his main support Rodrigo Calabrese will always be by his side to achieve in La Boca, on Maciel Island or in the Doke (Dock Sud) the great physical condition that allowed him to obtain the world crown. The meager 40,000 dollars won today will become 150,000 in the next fight and why not 250,000 if he faces the Japanese Kazuto Ioka -WBO champion- or the Nicaraguan Román Chocolate González who was facing the Mexican Julio César Martínez (18-0-1) when these lines were written.

From now on, Martínez will listen to new sounds and other voices will try to be close to ponder everything; to the bizarre color with which I draw an exotic fringe in her hair. There will also be new rivals and it will no longer depart silently. In order not to repeat the history of other champions, I hope I look back and discover where the truth lies at all; that everything that took him to a ring in Las Vegas so that he can fulfill his old man’s dream.

So is Puma. A flower has been reborn in the garden of hope. Don’t let her die…

KEEP READING:

Historical triumph of the Argentine Fernando Puma Martínez in Las Vegas: he won the world title in an electrifying fight

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