By Kevin Haas
Rock River Current
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ROCKFORD — Angel Martinez said he had to knock the rust off in his first round of competitive boxing in four years.
In the second round, it was his competition who got knocked.
Martinez ignited the hometown crowd at the Rockford Boxing Classic with a blistering right-hand hook that staggered his opponent and sent Martinez into a high-pressure attack to finish off the match.
“The first round was a little rusty, but we came back,” the 22-year-old former Golden Gloves champion said. “I had to win the second and third round no matter what. We got him with a good right hook. That dazed him a little bit, and then went for the kill after that.”
Hundreds of fans packed under the Rockford City Market pavilion in downtown roared as Martinez dealt popping blows that served as a reminder of why he was once considered one of the best amateur boxers in the world.
With 2:14 passed in the second round, the referee stopped the fight as Martinez was delivering a punishing combo to earn the victory by technical knockout.
Martinez, who won his Golden Gloves title at 108 pounds, was fighting at 132 pounds for his return. It was expected to be a tough matchup against a bigger fighter than he’d ever faced.
“He was strong. He was a great fighter,” Martinez said of Allen Terry, a lean and fast boxer out of Champaign who stands about a head taller than Martinez.
Terry and Martinez exchanged blows in the first round, but the momentum shifted in round two. The crowd came alive as Martinez landed a couple clean hooks.
“It definitely fired me up, just hearing the crowd,” Martinez said. “I’m just very thankful for the crowd that came and everyone supporting.”
Jimmy Goodman, who worked as Martinez’s coach both when the Rockford native was chasing Olympic dreams and now for his return, hoisted his fighter onto his shoulders after the bout was stopped.
“Jimmy is the No. 1 guy I want in my corner at all times,” Martinez said. “We’re like a dynamic duo in the ring. He tells me exactly what to do, and 99% of the time it lands perfectly.”
Flores dominates with speedy combos
When Martinez started training six months ago in preparation for this comeback fight, he had help from an old sparring partner. Osiel Flores, a 19-year-old from Belvidere who also fights out of Rockford Patriots Boxing Club, said he was little help to Martinez during his early years as a sparring partner. But now, four years later, it was Flores who helped Martinez start to rediscover his timing.
“From the time he came back to now he’s made a lot of improvement,” Flores said. “He’s not there yet, but it’s showing that his old self is coming back, and I like that.”
Flores also proved to the hometown crowd how much he’s progressed, and why he’s now considered a pro prospect.
He dominated his match against Diego Saldivar of Champaign with quick combos and constant pressure. The referee stopped the match at 1:13 into the second round to declare Flores the winner by TKO.
Flores said the key was sticking to what he knows. He gave credit to Goodman and to his father, Juan Flores, who is both his coach and 24/7 training partner.
“I came here and did my fight, the way my father showed me,” Flores said. “He kept telling me I want you to fight the same way you’re training. That’s what I did tonight.”
Flores said his father taught him to box as a means of self-defense after he was bullied in middle school, but now the sport means much more.
“Now here we are almost nine years later, I couldn’t be happier,” he said.
‘Atmosphere was just awesome’
Fans filled the ringside and the crowd stretched to the edges of the outdoor pavilion as more than a dozen matches happened under the lights.
“I didn’t expect it to be this big for the first time around,” said Rockford police officer Cory Magnuson, who fought in the main event against Elijah Leffelman. “Just coming out here and feeling the crowd and the atmosphere was just awesome.”
Magnuson, like Flores and Martinez, also impressed before the hometown crowd. He crumpled his opponent with a right-hand body blow, leading to a victory after the referee stopped the fight at 1:50 into round three.
“I could hear him gasp for that air,” he said. “Once you land that and you hear that, you kind of know that worked.”
Magnuson said Saturday’s turnout showed potential for this to become an annual event.
“I hope to keep participating in it,” he said. “Hopefully next year more people come out between fire and police and it just turns into something big.”
As for Martinez, he’s not defining what comes next for him in boxing. But, as he said when decided to return, he’s coming back with “no limitations.”
“I just want to see what I can do.”
Rockford Boxing Classic | results
Anthony Sanchez def. John Stenerson
Marty Balciunaitis def. Will Stenerson
Myair King def. Diego Jaramillo
Doni Monipov def. Brandon Chaney
Yahel Flores def. Isaac Quezada
Darius Lewis def. Marcus Bradley
Liam Falk def. Clayton Buress
Raul Farcas def. Makoa Kong
Isabel Marquez def. Cecelia Russell
Gavin Bernal def. Jose Villarreal
Osiel Flores def. Diego Saldivar
Zachary Carter def. Hulian Lugo
Angel Martinez def. Allen Terry
Cory Magnuson def. Elijah Leffelman
More images | Rockford Boxing Classic