JULIO CESAR MARTINEZ was like many of his peers growing up in the Mexico City borough of Azcapotzalco, in that he liked to scrap from an early age. A lot. That doesn’t bode well for one day becoming a doctor or a lawyer, but then again, that was never the goal.

“I didn’t like school that much,” Martinez said through translator Gabe Rivas. “I was good, but they would often kick me out because I liked getting in fights, but thanks to the support of my father, we’re here and we’re achieving things.”

Not doctor or lawyer things, but things in the prize ring that earned him the WBC strap in the flyweight division and that have him one win over future Hall of Famer Román “Chocolatito” González this weekend from truly establishing himself as one of boxing’s new breed of stars.
Some things haven’t changed for the 27-year-old, though, mainly his love of the fight. That’s made him popular among fans but does tend to make his team lose some hair every time he puts defence and sense aside to brawl. It’s an issue he’s working on.

“We are controlling that a bit more,” said the Eddy Reynoso-trained Martinez. “We have those impulses to fight. Sometimes you run into big dudes who think they can take advantage of you, but nah, not at all – we don’t let it help them.”

Martinez chuckles, giving the distinct impression that if presented with a fight at lightweight, he wouldn’t hesitate to toe the line. Thankfully, the 112-pounder won’t have to do that against González, but he will be moving up to the super flyweight division for a clash that became a reality when his countryman Juan Francisco Estrada was forced from a highly anticipated third meeting with “Chocolatito” due to COVID-19. And though it won’t be a permanent move yet, Martinez does expect to return after taking care of some unfinished business at 112 pounds, which includes a showdown with closest rival, Sunny Edwards.

“I’d like to return to 112 pounds and fight against Sunny Edwards and unify the belts with him,” he said. “That way, when I move back to super flyweight, I’d, at a minimum, have those two belts and move up as the unified champion and then I can fight Estrada, [Srisaket] Sor Rungvisai, whoever’s there, and make sure my hand is raised. And I’m ready for those challenges.”

Unbeaten in 20 fights (18 wins and two no contests) since a split decision loss to Joaquin Cruz in his pro debut in 2015, Martinez was certainly ready to answer the short notice call to battle one of the modern fighters worthy of the overused term ‘legend’. Martinez doesn’t doubt the Nicaraguan’s CV for a minute, yet he also didn’t hesitate to accept a fight with the 34-year-old.

“I was motivated and excited,” he said of his reaction to getting the call to face González. “I felt really positive about taking this fight and happy that I’m finally taking on these big challenges and these big fights.”

But did he wonder why González wanted to fight him? Is it because he was a solid replacement for Estrada and a legitimate name, or is González seeking to get a little payback for the family, considering that his cousin Cristofer Rosales was halted by Martinez in nine rounds back in 2019?
“I did know about it [that Rosales and González are related] because we had shared cards on two occasions, and I talked about it with his uncle,” said Martinez. “They knew about his cousin, but more than anything, I don’t know why he chose me. I don’t know too much about that deal, but I want to thank him. I accepted and I think it’s a great opportunity and I appreciate it.”

In other words, it’s all business on Saturday night at Pechanga Arena in San Diego. As for another family affair Martinez is in the middle of – a prospective bout with Edwards, whose brother Charlie engaged in a no contest with “El Rey” in the O2 Arena in 2019 – that one might be a little more personal, considering that the bout ended with Martinez tagging a downed Edwards with a body shot that rendered the then-WBC belt-holder unable to continue.

“It looks like they [González and Sunny Edwards] want to remove the thorn from their side,” said Martinez. “They want to do this for their respective family members, and we want those two fights to leave things clear, and I can assure you that they will be wars.”

Since the Edwards bout, Martinez picked up the title vacated by the Brit with his win over Rosales, and three clear-cut victories over Jay Harris, Moisés Calleros and Joel Cordova followed before another controversial outing in his most recent bout against McWilliams Arroyo last November.
In that clash on the Demetrius Andrade-Jason Quigley card in New Hampshire, both fighters hit the deck in the opening stanza and Martinez sent Arroyo down a second time in round two before a clash of heads left the Puerto Rican unable to continue. Call it an anti-climactic finish, but it was a successful title defence nonetheless. Now he preps for the biggest fight of his young career with a few extra pounds to play with.

“Those three pounds are real good ones,” Martinez said. “I’m prepared to move up and be stronger, having eaten better. We do struggle a bit, and this won’t be an exception, but we won’t struggle as much. And thank God with the opponent we have. We know he’s good and we’re going to be ready to leave everything in the ring.”

Maybe that’s why Martinez was chosen, because like González-Estrada, action is guaranteed. That would make some fighters apprehensive, knowing that they might have to swim in deep, shark-infested waters to chase victory. Not Martinez. He’s been doing this since he was a kid in Mexico City.

“Like always, we don’t prepare at a hundred per cent; we prepare a thousand per cent because we have a tough fighter in front of us,” he said. “We know we have a tough fight, he’s an idol, he’s a great fighter, and he’s a boxer who has a lot of experience. And we never underestimate our opponents. We trained conscientiously and we’re gonna work so that we are able to leave no doubts in the ring.

“It’s all about the pride, the desire, the motivation to be recognised as a legend like Roman González,” Martinez concludes. “To have that kind of a name, the emblem of an idol, a legend, that’s what motivates us.”