By Steve Kim Updated on January 27, 2022

Martinez Comes out of the Bullpen

Picture for Martinez Comes out of the Bullpen

What was rumored coming into last weekend -- that Juan Francisco Estrada was suffering from Covid -- was confirmed on Tuesday, and with that, the highly anticipated rubber match between him and Roman 'Chocolatito' was shelved. This bout was to have taken place on March 5 in San Diego.

All this comes after their scheduled third encounter was post-poned in late 2021 after Gonzalez came down with the virus.

Matchroom Sports and the management of Gonzalez had a decision to make. Wait for Estrada, or find another dance partner for that date. 

Well, coming out of the bullpen is WBC flyweight titlist, Julio Cesar Martinez, who is stepping in to replace his fellow Mexican. 

“I am thrilled that I am able to move up in weight and fight the very best straight away,” said Martinez. “Chocolatito is a living legend and a fighter I have always admired, so to be fighting him in my first fight at Super-Flyweight is special – but on the night, it’s going to be war and I am ready for it."

Gonzalez is a hard-charging slugger who comes out of the gate quickly and sets a quick tempo. Eventually, like the great Gonzalez, he was destined to fight in higher weight classes. He is crowd pleasing boxer that will certainly bring the fight to Gonzalez. Keep this in mind, at age 26, he is eight years the junior of Nicaraguan star. What he lacks in pure technical precision, he makes up for with passion and a commitment to his offensive attack. 

As that saying goes -- he fights like he's double parked. 

Martinez's last bout was a truncated three round shootout versus McWilliams Arroyo that ended up in a no-contest.

FIGHT HIGHLIGHTS | Julio Cesar Martinez vs. McWilliams Arroyo

Last March, Estrada and Gonzalez waged war at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, in what was truly the 2021 fight of the year. After 12 rounds it was Estrada who was named the winner in what was a bit of a controversial decision. Most observers believed that Gonzalez deserved to have his hands raised.  Despite the end result, this performance only added to Chocolatito's Hall-of-Fame legacy.

Picture for Martinez Comes out of the BullpenMatchroom Sports

Unfortunately, he wont have a chance to exact revenge in March, but he still has a real battle on his hands at the Pechanga Arena this spring.

“What a fight!” said promoter Eddie Hearn. “Julio has ambitions to become a pound-for-pound star, and this is what the greats do – meet huge challenges head on and take them with both hands. 'Chocolatito' is a modern great and he’s relishing this test against El Rey – I cannot wait for this fight and I’m so happy that both men have signed on the dotted line to deliver this brilliant fight to the fans."

Yeah, it may not be the fight we all wanted, but we're still getting a real one in San Diego. 



Much has been made over the fact that Gary Russell, who recently lost his WBC featherweight belt to Mark Magsayo, not being all that active over his title reign. After winning the belt in 2015 after stopping Jhonny Gonzalez, Russell made just five successful title defenses coming into 2022.

His title defense were like birthdays. They came once a year. 

While some will say that by facing his mandatory challengers he fulfilled his obligations. But it's interesting that if you peruse the WBC rules under Article III - Champions Obligations, it states: "a WBC champion should strive to defend the title in mandatory or voluntary defenses at least three (3) times a year, unless a written exception or extension is granted by the WBC in it's sole discretion."

Picture for Martinez Comes out of the Bullpen WBC 

Now, perhaps this isn't a concrete rule, but perhaps all the sanctioning bodies should have more firm regulations that are clear in just how many defenses a champion must make in a certain period of time. 

Perhaps Russell didn't hold the title hostage, but what he did was hold up the rest of the division within the WBC rankings. If you have a belt-holder who is allowed with just defending his title once a year, good luck with being a fighter outside the top five in that division hoping to get a title shot in the near future. 

At a certain point there has to be a faster churn rate. 



On my last K9's Corner ('Russell Dies on the Vine') I wrote this:

''While Showtime pointed out that coming into this contest that Russell was one of the longest reigning world champions in the sport, having won his title way back in 2015, they neglected to point out that he only defended his green belt once-a-year from that point forward. In 2021 he didn't fight, at all. Those details matter.''

To which Al Bernstein, the long-time distinguished voice of Showtime tweeted at me:

Picture for Martinez Comes out of the BullpenAl Bernstein via Twitter

Al, duly noted. I admit, I missed that portion of the telecast as I was focused in on the 49ers and Packers at that time.



Top Rank and ESPN have a card this Saturday night from Tulsa, Oklahoma, that has a main event featuring Robson Conceicao versus Xavier Martinez. This card also features a few prospects including Haven Brady, Tiger Johnson, Jeremiah Milton and the pro debut of Bruce Carrington...Showtime and PBC on February 26 will be airing a card from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas that will be headlined by Chris Colbert facing Roger Gutierrez for the WBA 130-pound title....Also this weekend from Warren, Ohio, Ilunga Makabu  and Thabiso Mchunu, tussle for Makabu’s WBC cruiserweight title....Not sure on the new Axe-less 'Billions' on Showtime.....Enjoying 'American Rust', which is also on Showtime....I can be reached at




This week on 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' on Triller with Mario Lopez and I, we review Russell-Magsayo, the state of the heavyweight division, Ask Mario and Final Flurries:

Mario & Steve talk about the Heavyweight division | The 3 Knockdown Rule Ep. 16 | TrillerTV






About Author
Martinez Comes out of the Bullpen
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.