NEW BRITAIN - Local boxer Nathan Martinez is closing out a successful calendar year with the highest-profile fight of his professional career.
The 20-year-old New Britain native is 5-0 this year and 6-0 as a pro, but on Saturday at noon, Martinez will take the ring against Yeuri Andujar at Foxwoods for the first six-round fight of his career, after going perfect through his four-round bouts, most recently a unanimous decision over Steve Garagarza on Oct. 11 in Hartford.
“This is the next level,” Martinez said. “It's two more rounds compared to my last ones, so I've been training harder and feeling good. I'm ready to put on a good show.”
In preparation for potentially the longest fight of his career, barring a knockout by either side, Martinez has ramped up all aspects of his already demanding training regimen, including longer sparring sessions (he was already sparring as much as eight rounds at a time for four-round fights) and more work with his strength and conditioning coach.
“I'm working hard in the gym and just pushing myself a little harder,” Martinez said.
The extra work isn’t just for the longer fight schedule. Andujar, a 24-year-old from the Dominican Republic, represents arguably Martinez’s most difficult assignment since turning pro. At 4-2 with three knockouts, Andujar’s win total as a professional equals the amount of Martinez’s last six opponents combined.
Despite his previous opponents having a combined record of 4-12, Martinez is ready to embrace the upcoming challenge and close out his first full year as a pro with a profound statement.
“He might be the toughest so far,” Martinez said. “But I'm ready.”
Martinez often leaves film study of his next opponent to his father and trainer Jose Martinez, but this time, he took time to watch Andujar’s tendencies and where his knockout power is generated from. Like many knockout hunters, Martinez believes Andujar has a weakness that can be exploited, and has been of late, as Andujar has dropped two of his last three fights.
“He comes forward and throws a lot of punches,” Martinez said. “In the videos I've seen, he leaves his face wide open. He comes forward but he's available to get hit a lot. His hands are open, so we're ready to put on a show and close out the year strong with this fight. I'm excited. I'm going to prove who I really am.”
Fortunately for Martinez, he is recently coming off a win over Garagarza, a fighter who attacked Martinez with an almost identical style as what he’s seen of Andujar on film, giving him what he considers valuable experience.
“Steve Garagarza was a strong fighter and came forward throwing a lot of punches like [Andujar], but this fight might be a little harder just because of his height,” Martinez said of the 5-foot-8 Andujar, compared to the fourth-inch shorter Garagarza. “He's a little taller, so I'll have to bob and weave and try to get inside and throw punches any chance I get.”
With a local crowd likely in his corner on Saturday at Foxwoods, Martinez believes he’ll have the support to help him throw those extra punches and prevent fatigue, even if the fight stretches into the fifth and sixth rounds. His last time in the nearby venue on June 29, Martinez took a unanimous decision over Jose Homar Rios and was thrilled with the pack of fans that took the short trip to watch what was at the time his fourth career victory.
“It was great,” Martinez said of his last bout at Foxwoods. “I like fighting there near my hometown. I get a lot of support and it pushes me to fight harder. It's more motivating for me to perform better.”
Martinez will have to be at his best on Saturday, taking on his biggest opponent of his career, in terms of both height and previous success. Andujar will be looking to end his 2019 on a better note than his previous three fights, while Martinez will be looking to close what has been a year of perfection. He might have to fight off some of the most powerful punches he’s faced in his young career, but that’s just the way he likes it.
“These styles are the types I like to fight,” Martinez said. “I love to brawl. That's my thing. I'm ready to box or brawl. I'm ready to come home victorious.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org