Who doesn’t love great ring announcers? They’re an important part of any great boxing promotion.
Whenever a classic fight is broadcast with Jimmy Lennon Sr. doing the introductions it’s a special treat. And let’s face it, a big time fight isn’t truly a big time fight until Michael Buffer utters those five words that get the adrenaline pumping and the butterflies in your stomach stirring. “Let’s get ready to rumble!.”
Incredibly, Buffer is only a few years shy of seventy. The great Jimmy Lennon Jr. isn’t exactly a youngster either. That leaves two major players in the announcing fold. Lupe Contreras of Top Rank and Joe Martinez who currently works with Golden Boy Promotions. If you were paying attention to the pre-fight announcements for the card headlined by Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana on HBO, it was Martinez who was there in place of Buffer. A sign of future things to come?
According to many boxing observers, it’s Martinez who’ll eventually be tapped to introduce the new wave of warriors into the ring. “It was like a dream come true,” he reflected on his first HBO appearance. “I was a little nervous but mostly I was excited that something I’ve envisioned for so long is becoming a reality.”
He‘s been at it for almost a decade. His first gig as a boxing orator was at the Maywood activity Center in 2001.
But it was in 2004 when Martinez made his first serious foray into the ring announcing world at a small club show promoted by Bobby D. Presents.
It wasn’t exactly Vegas or Reno or even Laughlin for that matter. It was in the small border-town of Imperial Beach, California. The venue, Blanca’s Bazaar, was usually reserved as a reception hall for quinceanera’s and other festive occasions.
Its ceilings were much too low and the acoustics were even worse. But this was a crowd full of true and loyal boxing fans. Fans that had no problem enduring tough parking on the street during Friday rush hour traffic. They were enthusiastic and happy to have boxing back in San Diego after a long drought.
Ultimately, the surroundings didn’t matter to Martinez either. He was just glad to be announcing for pay. “I didn’t know what it would lead to but I was happy to have the exposure and I was getting paid to improve my abilities,” remembers Martinez. “Once I was in the ring I was hooked.”
A crowd of about 800 were some of the first to hear the Barstow, California native on the microphone. His resounding voice brought a touch of elegance to the humble venue which sits about ten minutes from Tijuana, Mexico.
It was a nice change from Martinez’s job as a sports editor at the local paper in his desert hometown. It paid the bills but left the 35 year old unsatisfied. “I felt like I could do more. I really wanted to give myself a shot at becoming a ring announcer. Announcing has always been a passion of mine.”
After much trial and tribulation, Martinez eventually landed the gig he thought would propel him to the top. He was cast as the ring announcer of the Oscar De La Hoya driven television series “The Next Great Champ”. Unfortunately, it was competing against the much better funded and better produced “The Contender”.
“The Next Great Champ” was KO’d in its initial season. Martinez was naturally disappointed. “I felt bad but I wasn’t going to give up. I looked at the positive side of things. The experience was tremendously helpful. Eventually I realized that this was only the beginning.”
It was the start of a journey that led to different announcing gigs in different parts of the world. “I went anywhere I could find work,” he remembers. “The goal was to keep busy as an announcer.”
The next few years were a rollercoaster with Martinez having to support himself with odd jobs. “I did everything short of selling vacuum cleaners door to door,” Martinez said. “I felt like I had talent yet I wasn’t getting work. It was frustrating. I was beginning to doubt myself at times.”
His next break materialized in 2007 when the World Extreme Cage-fighting promotional company came calling with a contract. “I felt like this was going to be it for me,” Martinez said. “This was the kind of exposure I was looking for. Working for a great company like the W.E.C. was a major development in my career.”
Things went relatively well at the W.E.C. The gigs with the thriving minor league branch of the U.F.C. were sparse but steady. It was during this time that De La Hoya’s promotional company was starting their L.A. based boxing series: “Nokia Fight Club“. Martinez was brought in to fine tune the show and the relationship with Golden Boy Promotions became cemented.
Some tough choices followed. He could either stay exclusively with the W.E.C. for a few guaranteed shows a year or go with Golden Boy. “Golden Boy offered more gigs and a steady income which I really needed,” he said. The timing couldn‘t have been better. Martinez’s wife, Lena, had recently given birth to his son Drew. He also had daughter Dani to think about. “I would’ve liked to have worked with both Golden Boy and the W.E.C. but the W.E.C. wanted exclusivity,” Martinez stated. “In the end, the decision to go with Golden Boy made more sense.”
Is Joe Martinez the next Michael Buffer? He’s heard the comparisons in the past but his goal is to create something unique. “To be compared to Michael Buffer is a compliment of course. But I’m definitely going to do everything I can to carve out my own identity,” Martinez stated. “Michael is a legendary ring announcer and he’s achieved a lot. He‘s become an integral part of boxing. He‘ll be remembered by many generations.”
His goals for the next few years are concrete. “I’m a lot like the fighters I get to introduce. I’m always looking to evolve and I’ll continue to work on my craft until I get to be one of the best in the world,” Martinez said. “In five years, I’d like to be firmly established as one of the premier announcers in the business. I know it takes a lot patience and passion but I plan on giving all of myself to achieve those goals.”
Spoken like a future champion.