It’s been a long road to get to this point for Martin Gethin. Nine years in fact. On Friday he takes on Panamanian, Ammeth Diaz, at Walsall Town Hall in an IBF Lightweight Title Final Eliminator. The winner will fight current champion, Miguel Vazquez, for the world title.
Turning pro at the age of 20, Gethin enjoyed a 16-fight unbeaten start to his paid career picking up the Midlands Area Lightweight Title along the way. His star was shining bright.
He defeated unbeaten hot prospects Nadeem Siddique (then 22-0) and John Fewkes (then 17-0) – the latter for the English Lightweight Title. The world seemed to be at his feet. He’d only been a pro for four years at that point, in 2008, and he looked destined to achieve his lifelong ambition: to be crowned British Champion.
A routine defence of his English Title against Scott Lawton would be followed by a shot at the Lonsdale belt. That was the plan. Lawton, however, proved to be anything but routine.
The Stoke scrapper stunned Gethin to record a ninth round TKO, bringing about an abrupt end to his unblemished record. The English title, and his British hopes, were gone.
Things went from bad to worse as the Walsall boxer suffered back to back defeat against John Watson and Chris Long. Suddenly Gethin’s star seemed to be fading.
“Those were dark days,” he admitted to www.uko-boxing.com. “After I’d beaten Siddique and Fewkes I was on top of the world. I thought my time had come. Then I lost those three fights and everything seemed to change. I thought my chance to make a mark in boxing had slipped away.”
A routine points victory over Jason Nesbitt got Gethin back to winning ways before he regained his English strap with a unanimous decision over Graeme Higginson in January 2010. Maybe his luck was changing? Gethin beat Jason Baguley in April of that year but, due to a persistent back injury, he didn’t fight again until November 2011.
“I was just getting back at it when I had my back injury,” he added. “I thought my luck was changing and things were looking up then all of a sudden I was out for 18 months. “It was tough and I wondered where I was going. I’d gone from being a bit of a prospect to, literally, being flat on my back in the space about a year. I just stayed focussed though and my family and friends helped me through.”
With the support of his family, including brothers Steve and Darren, who were both professional fighters in their own right, Gethin knuckled down. His fiancé Sherilyn and son, Kane, were his rock and his long-term trainer and manager, Errol Johnson, stuck by him. And boy has he repaid them all.
His rise to British Champion and possible world glory, started, fittingly, at Walsall Town Hall. Just 18 months ago, in November 2011, he beat Polish pugilist, Arek Malek, on points. It wasn’t spectacular, it wasn’t a classic and it certainly wasn’t in front of the kind of crowd here this evening. Whatever it wasn’t; it was a win.
He followed this up with a victory over Ivan Godor before knocking out both Csaba Torma and Stuart Green. The Quiet Man was back. Re-energised and revitalised.
Then in September 2012 his chance came to add an International belt to his collection.
Gethin was offered the chance to fight Carl Johanneson for the IBF International Lightweight Title. It was a tough fight. Although aging, Johanneson was still a force to be reckoned with. And so it proved. Gethin dug deep to stop Johanneson in the 11th round of a gruelling battle though, which was short-listed for Fight Of The Year.
“That was a tough, tough fight,” Gethin continued. “Carl was strong and dangerous. He had a reputation as being a warrior and I could see why after that fight. He pushed me all the way but I stuck to my game plan, worked the jab, and got the win. I was over the moon. After everything I’d been through – the injury and time on the sidelines – it was great to be crowned IBF International Champion.”
From the minute he laced his first pair of gloves though, Gethin had dreamed of, one day, being British Champion. After the hat-trick of defeats and 18 months on the sidelines, he thought that his chance had passed him by. Then, thanks to that superb Johanneson victory, he was made mandatory challenger to Gavin Rees. He was delighted. Rees though had other plans. He gave up the belt to take on former WBA and WBO World title contender, John Murray.
Although that fight never materialised, Gethin was, eventually, able to secure a shot at the Lonsdale Strap in January of this year. With Rees stepping aside, Gethin was to fight Hove’s Ben Murphy. Where else was that fight going to take place other than in his hometown at Walsall Town Hall.
A snow blizzard hit the town on the day of his fight. The arctic conditions were contrasted by the white hot atmosphere in this very hall. The hometown hero was too sharp, too strong and too clever for his opponent and the dream became reality when Gethin stopped Murphy in the ninth round. The crowd erupted, Errol Johnson leapt from his corner to hug his fighter and, just for once, the Quiet Man screamed with delight. His dream had come true.
“I always wanted to win the British title,” added the Champion. “It’s such a prestigious belt. “It was hard work to start with but when I relaxed with my shots I outworked him. Errol said to me ‘as soon as you’ve got him on the back foot, you’ve won the fight’ and that’s exactly what happened. I worked on my jab, worked on my jab, switched down to the body and that was it. It was such a proud moment and the culmination of a lot of hard work.”
His journey doesn’t end there though. The next chapter begins on Friday. The Quiet Man, the hometown hero, the nice guy, the Rocky story, the father, the fiancé, the fighter; is just one step away from a shot at the IBF Lightweight Title and a showdown with Miguel Vazquez. Victory over Ammeth Diaz tonight will set up a fight that Gethin did not even dare dream about.
“I never really thought about a world title shot if I’m honest,” he admitted. “I suppose my focus has always been on the next fight or the next title, so the IBF was never really on my radar. Since this fight was made though, that’s all I’ve thought about.
“I’m definitely ready. I’ve worked hard to get to this point. I’ve been a professional boxer for 9 years. I’ve had 28 pro fights to get here. It’s been a long road but it’s been worth it.
“Everything I’ve got out of boxing has come through hard work and dedication. Nothing has been given to me without a fight; literally.
“Now I’m ready; Ready To Silence The World and show what I’m capable of.”