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A 23-year-old embodied Floyd Mayweather’s dogpound culture so well a top broadcaster clamored to see him fight again

Summary List PlacementDisaster almost struck Xavier Martinez when the young American boxer found himself in a sink-or-swim situation in the middle of a wild fight in October 2020. Backed by Mayweather Promotions, the 23-year-old was rocketing up the super featherweight rankings but, against Claudio Marrero, he had come up against a savvy veteran who was hitting him like he owed him money. Marrero cared little for the bruises Martinez had inflicted on his battle-hardened face earlier in the bout. He shook them off and threw a one-two punch combination, thudding his second shot straight into Martinez's temple. With Martinez knocked firmly to...

Xavier Martinez boxing

Summary List Placement

Disaster almost struck Xavier Martinez when the young American boxer found himself in a sink-or-swim situation in the middle of a wild fight in October 2020.

Backed by Mayweather Promotions, the 23-year-old was rocketing up the super featherweight rankings but, against Claudio Marrero, he had come up against a savvy veteran who was hitting him like he owed him money.

Marrero cared little for the bruises Martinez had inflicted on his battle-hardened face earlier in the bout. He shook them off and threw a one-two punch combination, thudding his second shot straight into Martinez’s temple.

With Martinez knocked firmly to the ground in the eighth round, the Mayweather talent was in trouble.

Marrero swarmed him with stinging shots when Martinez got back up to his feet. He perhaps sensed an upset victory. One merciless flurry later, Martinez returned to the deck, suffering a second knockdown in just 22 seconds.

With more than two minutes remaining on the clock, it looked like Martinez might not make it.

Showtime Sports President Stephen Espinoza watched closely at the behind-closed-doors Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut.

He reached for his cell and opened his contacts book, filled with the most famous names in boxing, including the most famous of all — Floyd Mayweather.

Martinez survived the round and as he recovered from the walloping while sat on his stool for the minute break before the ninth, Espinoza heard Mayweather’s phone ring.

“I don’t know if Xavier’s going to win or lose because this is tooth and nail,” Espinoza told Mayweather, who was listening to the network exec while watching the fight from Las Vegas. Showtime’s COVID protocols didn’t allow him to attend because of restrictions designed to reduce the threat of transmission.

“But the way he just made it through that eighth round … we want Xavier back on Showtime,” Espinoza said. “It doesn’t matter if he wins or loses.”

Stephen Espinoza and Floyd Mayweather

Espinoza told Insider this week that anybody who saw Martinez perform that night, who saw how he turned the fight around and won a comfortable decision in the end, would have a new-found level of respect for the California kid.

But for people like Mayweather, Mayweather Promotions CEO Leonard Ellerbe, and marquee Mayweather fighter Gervonta Davis, it was likely nothing new.

Martinez embodies much of what makes top tier Mayweather Boxing Club fighters great.

He’s got a dogpound battleground mentality, nurtured through session after session of some of the hardest sparring a combat athlete can find in North America.

Welcome to the doghouse

“They call it the doghouse for a reason,” Martinez said, speaking to Insider from his Dodge Charger muscle car last week. “It’s because every time you go in there, you gotta go to war.”

These sessions are not for the lily-livered, yellow-bellied, or faint-hearted. No, sir. These “mini fights,” as Martinez calls them, are for those who are accustomed to staring at intimidation with nothing but a smile, a flex of the biceps, and a hook to the jaw.

Crowds form around the ring of the Mayweather Boxing Club in Vegas, shut off from the public so the pros can go to work.

It is loud. The bell is sometimes removed as fighters compete for lengthier rounds than they’d be accustomed to in a legitimate fight. Mayweather has a special corner spot to watch the session.

All young talent fighting under the Mayweather banner eventually has to go through the doghouse. And, before long, they’ll have to go through that doghouse against “Tank” Davis — a pitbull of a puncher, a two-weight champ, and one of the faces of the fight game.

If you think Mayweather might offer you words of encouragement in the seconds before you go to-to-toe with “Tank,” you’d be dead wrong.

“When I was sparring ‘Tank,’ Floyd was talking s— to me,” Martinez laughed. “But it was a lot of fun and a great experience.”

Espinoza told us that Mayweather Promotions “does not baby its fighters.”

“They throw them in tough fights early on to see what they have, and it’s the same mentality they have in the Mayweather gym — the doghouse.

“There’s fierce competition there every day, and that applies in the ring. Fighters are brought along, but when the training wheels come off, you’ve got to fight — and take tough fights.”

Martinez is back on Showtime fighting a ‘buckethead’ called Burgos

Xavier Martinez boxing 2

On Saturday May 15 at the Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California, Martinez finds himself back in the ring with a veteran — Juan Carlos Burgos, who has 34 wins, four losses, and two draws in a 40-bout record to date. He has never been knocked out.

“One thing I know about Burgos is that he has a buckethead — he ain’t never been knocked out,” Martinez said. “That’s what my ex-coach used to call ’em, who had never been knocked out. Bucketheads.

“He’s a veteran, doing this a while, knows a lot. But I just fought a veteran in my last fight, I learned a lot, so will bring those learnings into this one.”

Martinez continued: “Obviously, I’m getting a win, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t know if I want to go in and show something different — that I can actually box and move — or if I just want to try and apply the pressure, running the combinations like I’m supposed to, and go for the kill. It’ll probably happen.”

The way Martinez tells it, his whole life in boxing has been a lesson. He learns from many of the top coaches in the States at the Mayweather gym, can rely on Floyd for advice in and out of the ring, and studies Roberto Duran, Diego Corrales, and Mayweather himself to form a style that he thinks suits him best.

“Floyd for his hard work and dedication to the sport, Diego Corrales for his heart, and Duran because he was also so mean and hungry. I loved his style. Roll those styles into one, with Floyd’s defense, because you just can’t touch that man with a handful of rice.”

Beyond Burgos, Martinez is targeting another Showtime fight with the American skillster Chris Colbert. It would involve a wild promotion as both guys have already enjoyed a hostile back-and-forth.

“The only rival I can I say I have is Chris Colbert,” he said. “We’ve had our exchange of words. He’s had a lot to say to me, I’ve said things back. But as young, hungry, upcoming lions, we’ve got to fight. And I can’t wait to make that fight happen.”

With “Tank” moving to the super lightweight division to fight Mario Barrios in June, the super featherweight division is in a state of flux, according to Martinez. “Nobody has put a real stamp on it,” he said.

“But real soon, things are going to change. There’s names coming up, and I’m one of them. So you gotta tune in May 15 and see me get a step closer to getting a world title shot, and becoming a champion.”

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