If there were any doubts about Frank Martin going into Saturday night, there aren’t now.
Martin, facing his biggest test, outclassed fellow unbeaten lightweight contender Michel Rivera to win a one-sided decision in a 12-round title eliminator in Las Vegas and establish himself as a legitimate threat to any 135-pounder on the planet.
The official scores were 120-107, 118-109 and 117-110 in favor Martin. Boxing Junkie also had Martin winning 120-107, a shutout.
Frank Martin with the knockdown
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“This is what I do,” Martin said in the ring afterward. “I felt good tonight. There were some things I saw in there that I didn’t capitalize off, some opportunities. But I went in there and got the job done. And we got the ‘W’.”
The fight was essentially even on paper, as both men were seen as naturally gifted boxers with polished skills.
However, it didn’t take long for Martin to demonstrate that he is a level above Rivera in terms of quickness and ability.
Neither man threw a lot of punches but Martin made his count, picking his spots to land explosive combinations to both the head and body whenever he chose to. One of them put Rivera (24-1, 14 KOs) down in Round 7.
At the same time Martin’s excellent defensive ability made him an elusive target.
Rivera, increasingly frustrated, had some good moments but was never able to land punches consistently. He connected on 67 the entire fight – only 5.6 per round (compared to 14.5 for Martin), according to CompuBox.
That formula made Rivera’s mission impossible. He never stopped trying. He simply had neither the physical tools nor the ring acumen to cope with what Martin was doing in the ring.
In short, Martin gave a virtuoso performance. And he insists he’ll only get better.
“What we did tonight worked for us,” he said. “But there is a lot of room for improvement for us, so we’re going to keep working.”
The fight was billed as a WBA title eliminator, meaning Martin is now in a stronger position to challenge the top 135-pounders.
Devin Haney, the undisputed champion, is expected to defend his titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko next year. And Gervonta Davis, the secondary WBA beltholder, has said he’ll face Ryan Garcia if “Tank” defeats Hector Garcia on Jan. 7.
They won’t be able to avoid Martin for long, though, especially after his strong performance on Saturday night. The 27-year-old from Indianapolis believes he’ll be ready when the time comes.
“I just believe in myself,” he said. “I believe in my team. We know what we do inside the gym, working consistently. Outside of the gym I’m doing my own work.
“We just believe it. We believe we’re ready for the top fighters. Give ‘em to us. Let us get ’em. We’re ready to eat. … We want ’em all. We can get Gervonta Davis. We can get Devin Haney. We could get any of those top guys. We’re ready.
“I see Rolly [Romero] in here. Rolly, my guy, we can get in there too. Let’s make it happen, man.”
It’s just a matter of time.