Frank Martin turned his projected “toughest fight” and 135-pound clash of unbeaten streaks against Michel Rivera into a one-sided, beat-down on Dec. 18.
The 27-year-old southpaw nicknamed “The Ghost” floored Rivera with a head-swiveling straight left-right hook combination in the seventh of a near-shutout 12-round unanimous decision at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
During his post-fight interview with Showtime’s Mauro Ranallo, Martin targeted three-division and WBA 135-pound champion division champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (27-0, 25 KOs), as well as four-belt titleholder Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs).
“I want ‘em all,” said Martin, who improved to 17-0 (12 KOs). “We can get Gervonta Davis. We can get Devin Haney. We can get any of those top guys. We’re ready.”
Martin’s triumph precedes a Jan. 7 defense by Davis against rising 130-pound title Hector Garcia (16-0, 10 KOs) in a clash of southpaws at The Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
Davis and Martin had a spirited sparring session in August 2020 in advance of “Tank’s” sixth-round stoppage of four-division champion Leo Santa Cruz that October.
“There were a lot of people in the gym, and nobody left disappointed,” said Martin in an interview with Zenger before the fight. “Gervonta has skills and power. That definitely showed me where I’m at. That was great work and a huge motivation — because it was before I got to the level I’m at right now.”
Martin defeated Rivera by scores of 117-110, 118-109 and 120-107, earning his third victory over a previously unbeaten opponent, even as he fell short of earning his third straight knockout in as many fights this year.
“Tonight, you comprehensively outclassed a fellow undefeated fighter both ranked in the top 10 at 135-pounds,” Ranallo told Martin. “How do you feel about your performance tonight and why did you make it look so easy?”
Martin out-landed Rivera (24-1, 14 KOs) in overall punches (174-67), power shots (118-48) and jabs (56-19) toward dominating statistically in blows both to the head (126-38) and body (48-26).
“I felt good tonight,” said Detroit-born Martin. “There were some things that I didn’t capitalize on when I had certain opportunities, but I went in there, got the job done — and I got the W.”
Martin trains in the Dallas, Texas, area alongside fellow southpaw and unbeaten IBF/WBA, WBC welterweight champion Errol “The Truth” Spence (28-0, 22 KOs) and undisputed IBF/WBA/WBC/WBO 154-pound champion Jermell Charlo (35-1-1, 19 KOs), with whom he shares renowned trainer Derrick James.
“In the corner, Derrick was just telling me to stay on the outside, work the game plan and to look out for the right hand. That’s the main shot he was trying to land. So I wanted to look out for the right hand to use my legs,” said Martin, who stands 5-foot-8 to Rivera’s 5-foot-9.
“I could have done a lot more. What we did tonight worked for us, but there’s a lot of room for improvement, and we’re going to keep on working. I just proved myself. I believe in my team. In the gym, we’re working consistently. Outside the gym, I’m doing my homework. We’re ready for the top fighters. Give them to us. We’re ready to eat.”
Martin pointed to his work with Spence, Charlo and James as “a blessing” and a motivation.
“They keep me going. I’m always watching, looking at Errol. The things he’s doing and the shots that he’s throwing on the [punching] bag and when he’s sparring,” Martin said. “I’m always asking questions, and I’m always looking to get better. Having them around and just seeing them as champions who are on top, I’m gaining from it.”
Rivera had vanquished a pair of southpaws in 2020, winning a 10th-round TKO over Fidel Maldonado Jr. in February and 10-round unanimous decision over Ladarius Miller in October.
But Rivera had no answer for Martin’s controlled aggression, speed, angles and head-movement, which neutralize his rival’s jab starting in the fifth round, and led to the seventh-round knockdown.
“It’s protect yourself at all times, and we believe in man-down,” said Martin, using a phrase coined by Spence. “He got caught slipping, and he went down.”
Rivera was candid in defeat, particularly noting the left-hander’s maneuverability and footwork.
“I went in there for a win, I didn’t come here to lose. I was feeling pretty good today, but by round four or five, I started to feel the effects of the weight cut. I don’t make excuses, but I’m a big guy for the division,” he said.
“I’m pretty fast, but you have to be faster to fight a guy like this, I was too slow tonight. I tried to use my jab to keep him off me. He was the better guy today,” Rivera said.