Iain Martell impresses on way to Southern Area title victory
PUBLISHED: 03:00 15 March 2020 | UPDATED: 09:32 16 March 2020
Iain Martell completed the transition from MMA fighter to professional boxing champion with a scintillating display at the sport’s spiritual home.
The man from Marsham, was giving away experience as well as height and reach against Londoner Jose Lopes, but nothing could stand in his way of claiming the vacant Southern Area cruiserweight title.
That it went the full 10 rounds was probably down to Lopes' staying power, although the scorecard of 97-95 in Martell's favour was perhaps a little on the generous side. But in a sport of fine margins, the instruction from trainer Graham Everett to make sure he won the final round just to make sure, proved to be salient.
'The cries of 'and the new' were echoing in the bowels of York Hall long after the final bell as Martell celebrated a win played out in front of a packed house who, as the rounds ticked by, began to swell the cheers of the 150 fans who travelled down from Norfolk and took over the place.
'I am just pleased - it has been a long, long road,' said Martell, whose record is now nine wins from nine fights. 'I have been in combat sport since I was a kid.
'I have sold nearly 150 tickets here - what a fantastic city to have behind you. I was born in London but I have lived in Norfolk since I was a kid. I am a Norfolk boy, everyone knows I am and I am just grateful and blessed. That's why I have a huge smile on my face.'
Martell's left jab was a thing of beauty - and a trade mark of the Everett coaching handbook - snapping back Lopes' neck and sapping confidence each time it landed. Given Lopes had a three-inch height advantage and, consequently, a longer reach, that was no mean feat.
'Graham will smile when he hears this, but all of his fighters have a good jab - the Walshes, Sam Sexton, Jon Thaxton, Billy Bird, all the guys and that is something that Graham instils in us, he says that more than anything, but he is dead right, and we outboxed a bigger, longer so-called better boxer tonight,' said Martell.
'We got it done. We have trained hard and we got it done.'
It's a smile that appeared at regular intervals - Martell is never afraid to show how much he enjoys a scrap.
'I think a happy fighter is a dangerous fighter,' he said. 'As I have said before, I think any man, woman or child must enjoy what they do to do it very well. I enjoyed myself tonight. I will be honest, training was difficult at times - I think this was the worst I have ever trained, but I am not making excuses - I wouldn't have said anything if I had lost so I won't say anything now. I learned a lot, so I am grateful. I am still not 30 so I look forward to the challenges ahead.'
Martell started the fight well, working the body and mixing it up, recovering from the difficult third round to open a cut above Lopes' left eye with a straight right in the sixth - and from then it looked like his opponent was struggling to play catch-up.
There was never a country mile between the two, but the outcome should never have been in doubt.
'I expected him to resist,' said Martell. 'He has been in there before, he has had tough fights and you won't get any excuses from me. I dug in and I enjoyed it. I was never hurt and I wanted him to be confident and have a go because having a go at me will get him caught - and that is what happened.
'I remember cutting him and looking at him and being from an MMA and Thai boxing background, I smiled and said to him, 'you're cut now, son'. We had a smile, but we dug in, worked hard and got it done.'
Martell's pro boxing debut was just two and a half years ago, although Everett helped his punching technique for hexagon well before that and hailed his man for producing a small hall classic.
'I said before the fight had all the makings of a small hall classic, and it was,' said Everett. 'It was worthy of any big show, a great fight. Credit to our opponent, he dug deep, he got hurt on three or four occasions. I personally had the score wider but that just proved how you have to be careful. I sent him out to win the last round, which I think he did anyway, so it shows it was a close fight,
'I am proud of him. He did really well, he is so much more of a boxer than he realises. Any fighter who trains with me or Jon (Thaxton) is a good jabber - we must have a good jab, and his was phenomenal.'