Spanish veteran Kiko ‘La Sensacion’ Martinez stunned the Sheffield Arena crowd with a pair of seismic right hooks on Saturday night, knocking out hometown hero Kid Galahad and becoming a two-weight world champion in the process.
Galahad had dominated the opening three rounds of the fight before Martinez adopted a more aggressive, front foot approach. After roughing up the defending champion in round five, Martinez dropped Galahad in the final seconds of the round and finished the job with the opening punch of round six.
IN THE RED CORNER – KID GALAHAD
Born in Qatar under the legal name of Abdul-Bari Awad, the Sheffield-based fighter moved to England at the age of four and is now known more commonly by the nickname he was given by his beloved trainer, the late Brendan Ingle. The name rhymed with his initial moniker ‘Kid Awad’ and was inspired by a fictional boxer played by the legendary Elvis Presley in a 1962 movie.
Ingle also trained Hall of Fame world champion ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed and helped forge the habits and mindset that would see Galahad go on to reach world level. “If it wasn’t for Brendan, everything I have got and everything I am going to get, I wouldn’t have had.” With his original mentor gone, the teachings Galahad receives have not changed too much, as he entered this fight under the tutelage of Dominic Ingle, the son of Brendan.
This contest was to be Galahad’s first defense of a world title he had worked long and hard to attain, entering this contest with a career record of 28-1 (17KO). Having suffered his only career loss to date when unsuccessfully challenging for this same IBF title against Josh Warrington in 2019 (a hotly contested split decision), Galahad rebounded by retiring James ‘Jazza’ Dickens on his stool at Matchroom HQ this past summer to win the vacant world title. The result brought Galahad world title gold and propelled the Sheffield fighter to #2 in The Ring list of best featherweights in the world.
Now, Galahad was looking to defend his belt in his homecoming event against a man with no shortage of top-level experience.
IN THE BLUE CORNER – KIKO MARTINEZ
Viewed by some pundits as not the threat he once was, Spanish veteran Martinez entered this contest with a career record of 42-10-2 (29KO). Martinez had tasted world title gold of his own eight years earlier, stopping then unbeaten Jonathan Romero to claim the IBF world junior featherweight crown.
After recording successful defenses by stopping Jeffrey Mathebula and Hozumi Hasegawa respectively, Martinez lost the title in a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Northern Irish great Carl Frampton.
Since that defeat, Martinez has challenged for world titles unsuccessfully against elite opposition in the form of Scott Quigg, Leo Santa Cruz and Gary Russell Jr. Martinez also stepped up to face current Ring Magazine #4 featherweight Warrington, losing a majority decision in 2017.
Back in 2017 The RingTV report on the Warrington clash was already referring to Martinez as a “veteran,” and the defeat meant he had gone 1-2-1 in four contests. The Spaniard continued to fight his way to the top despite the setback and now was looking at another top-level opponent, as well as an opportunity to register the biggest win of his career if he could dethrone champion Galahad in his own backyard.
Champion Galahad stayed on his toes and looked to find his range in the opening minute of the fight, while Martinez adopted a more roughhouse style, grabbing Galahad in a headlock and forcing a separation from referee Steve Gray. Galahad continued to fight behind the jab and connected with a one-two combination to the body before backing Martinez into the corner and continuing to land crisp shots. A hook appeared to momentarily wobble Martinez before he recovered to see the bell in what was a comfortable opening round for the hometown fighter.
To open round two, Martinez crowded Galahad and initiated a clinch, only for the champion to show his strength by pushing off the Spaniard and propel Martinez into the ropes. The jab of Galahad dominated the opening minute of the round before the English fighter was rocked back by a sharp right hand from Martinez. Galahad skipped in and out of range with quick footwork, landing a number of right-handed hooks and uppercuts to take the upper hand in the early stages of the fight.
The impressive opening to the fight from Galahad led to a very confident corner in between rounds, marshaled by the younger Ingle. “He’ll probably get disheartened this kid because you’re catching him with everything,” assured Dominic Ingle between rounds before cautioning “just don’t overreach with your right hand.”
Martinez started round three on the offensive, but Galahad maintained control with good movement and a quality jab. Short, powerful hooks were a primary source of offense for Martinez, but the Spanish veteran was not able to get close enough to cause any damage with them, often swinging at air. Galahad found himself backed into a corner but landed a strong right uppercut and hook before moving forward and finishing the round in the ascendance.
Desperate to gain some traction in the fight, a resurgent Martinez burrowed forward with his head down and threw punches to back Galahad onto the ropes. Galahad responded with combinations from the center of the ring before being backed onto the ropes once more.
As round four ended, Martinez backed Galahad into a corner, only for the champion to fight his way out with a flurry of rights and lefts. Both men threw punches as time ticked down on what was a better round for Spanish brawler Martinez. With blood streaming from his right eye, Martinez raised a fist in a celebratory gesture of what he believed had been a 10-9 round in his favor.
In the corner between rounds, the corner of Martinez tried to stem the bleeding while giving animated instructions. In the opposite corner, Galahad sat calmly with a towel covering his head and listened to the instructions of Ingle.
Repeating a successful recipe, Martinez came out on the front foot for round five, throwing punches while closing the distance and wrestling Galahad onto the ropes. The Spaniard’s momentum was broken up occasionally by thudding blows from Galahad, but Martinez seemed more than willing to walk through punches in order to land some of his own.
The home crowd was stunned in the final seconds of the round when the offensive pressure of Martinez paid off and he floored Galahad with a vicious right hook. A staggered Galahad rose from only his second career knockdown at the count of eight and was saved by the bell from a potentially fight-ending follow up attack from Martinez.
With his fighter now facing some real adversity, trainer Ingle poured cold water onto the head of Galahad while warning him not to sit in front of Martinez and use this next round to fight “off the jab” and regain composure.
There would be no regaining of composure, as Martinez ended the fight with the first punch of round six. Another crashing right hand found the jaw of Galahad, leaving the hometown champion sprawled out on the canvas, and ending his short title reign to the audible jeers of the Sheffield crowd.
WHAT THEY SAID
Speaking through an interpreter at ringside, new champion Martinez spoke about the upset and becoming a two weight world champion at a relatively late point in his career.
“It may be a surprise for everyone else but not for me. For the last three years I’ve been living like a monk. I’ve had no holidays, no time with my family, no days off, 365 days of the year I’ve been working. My wife has helped me with my anxiety to make sure I keep on top of that, but I’ve been making sure I prepare and been working really hard over these three years.”
When asked if this achievement meant he was the greatest Spanish fighter of all time, Martinez was adamant he remains ranked behind his childhood hero Javier Castillejo. A two-weight world champion himself, Castillejo shared the ring with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas on the way to compiling a 62-8-1 career record.
“I’m a bit behind Javier Castillejo. Castillejo for me was an idol when I was growing up, he definitely marked a before and after for the sport in Spain, so I am behind him.”
Speaking on the DAZN broadcast, former world champion Tony Bellew expressed concern over Galahad continuing to fight at featherweight, citing that the defending champion took two attempts and had to strip naked on the scale to scrape under the weight.
“He’s killing himself to get down to this weight. I saw him on the scales yesterday, extremely tight. I just think it’s too much for him.”
Speaking after the win over Dickens to claim this title, Galahad also hinted at a future move up the weight classes. “Brendan said I would win everything from junior featherweight to lightweight.”
WHAT NEXT FOR THE WINNER
Martinez has now propelled himself into the discussion at the top of the featherweight division, with WBO champion Emanuel Navarrete the best possible matchup. If he wants to return to British shores, a rematch with either Galahad or Warrington would be intriguing options.
WHAT NEXT FOR THE LOSER
Galahad may decide to chase a rematch and gain his title, or if the words of Bellew hold weight he could move up a division. At junior lightweight, unbeaten American fighters Xavier Martinez and Chris Colbert would provide a stiff challenge and allow him to propel himself towards a title shot with victory.
Authors’ Scorecard (round by round)