Boxer Frank Martin is fired up

Indiana’s first National Golden Gloves title holder in 23 years is ready to defend his title.

My interview with Martin is featured in this year’s Indiana Golden Gloves Championship program… It’s a treat to watch talented athletes learn to elevate their game: a solid example for all of us!

Hope friends, media and fun seekers will show up at 7 p.m. tonight, April 6, at Tyndall Armory, 711 N. Pennsylvania St., Downtown Indianapolis, as the championship rounds of Indiana Golden Gloves begin, and again at the same time next Thursday, April 13, to watch Martin get to work in the ring.

National champion exhibits mental, physical toughness in pursuit of boxing dream

Story and Photos By Rebecca Townsend

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Frank Martin, winner of the 2016 National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions in the 141-weight class — the first Indiana representative to win a national Gloves title in 23 years — must defend his state title before he can advance to nationals — and attempt back-to-back national victories — a feat that no one in the elite club of Indiana representatives to win a national title has accomplished except Marvin Johnson. Martin is shown here working out at his local club: Indianapolis Boxing and Grappling in the 2900 block of East Washington Street on Indy’s near-east side.

Going into the Indiana Golden Gloves at this time last year, Frank Martin was hungry — eager to fight his way back to the National Golden Gloves tournament where, in 2015, he was denied a national title in a controversial split decision.

He credits increased mental focus and an uncompromising training regimen as the keys to accomplishing his goal: Martin won the 2016 state title in the 141 weight class, advancing to nationals in Salt Lake City where, after earning victories in five fights in a five-day gauntlet featuring the top amateur fighters in the nation, he carried home the championship belt — the first representative of Indiana Golden Gloves to bring home a national title in 23 years.

The Detroit-born boxer developed his athletic skills as a high schooler in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he played football, wrestled and ran track. The 22-year-old started boxing just before he moved to Indianapolis four years ago, honing his skills at Indianapolis Boxing and Grappling under the tutelage of coaches Pat McPherson, a local police officer, and Ike Boyd, a two-time Indiana Golden Gloves champ. Frank includes his father, also named Frank, as another primary component of his coaching team and he recognizes the importance of the tireless support from his brother, JC.

Though Martin is proud of his accomplishments, he said their full weight has barely registered with him because he continues to focus on the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. Two weeks prior to his return to the Indiana Golden Gloves ring to defend his title, Martin took some time out to talk about his development as a boxer.

Q: How did it feel heading into that fight for the national championship last year?

A: I was all the way locked and loaded; it was nothing but excitement to show how hard I was working. I was working extra hard at the gym and in conditioning.

Q: Tell us about the fights you experienced to get to the final bout. What stands out?

A: My first fight was a 5-0 decision against a guy from Pennsylvania. He was tough. It was a good fight to get first. Once I got that out of my system, I was ready for anything.

I had five fights. I fought every day. I fought a guy from Cincinnati. That was a good fight — a lot of action. I dropped the guy several times – twice count to 8 counts.

I dropped three of my opponents — knocked three down — including 7-time national champion Virgil Ortiz from Texas. He is now a professional — one of Golden Boy Promotions’ top prospects. I knocked him down in the final.

Q: What was the key to earning that final victory?

A: I was mentally all the way there. I knew I had put in the work, so I knew I was gonna get the fight because I had worked so hard. I had no doubts going in; I didn’t question myself or how hard I’d been training. Nothing like that. I knew I was ready. And getting the knockdown was key. If I wasn’t favored going in, I had to make the judge’s decision as easy as possible.

A loss motivates more than anything. And critics… Any fight I ever lost, I go back and look: What didn’t I do enough? And I fix that the next time out.

Q: What was the key to earning that final victory?

A: I’ve matured in my work ethic. I was honest with myself. I pushed myself to the limit. I could accomplish anything I wanted to, if I pushed. Because I was in the best shape I could be in. That’s where my confidence came in. I was true with myself I didn’t take shortcuts. I was out running — late at night, at 2 in the morning, because it gave me a curve. I knew no one else was doing that. It made me mentally strong knowing that my opponents were not doing that, 9 times out of ten.

Q: How was your national victory announced? What was your reaction?

A: It was 3-2 decision. Fighting out of Indiana, we’re not known, not the favorites. When I heard it was a 3-2, I felt like I pulled it out because I’d knocked him down. The guy was supposed to win the whole thing. He had a good team around him. He was more of a favorite. When that 3-2 came, it was a nail biter because it can be about who are are and where you come from — in amateurs and any boxing. I was glad I was able to pull it off, though I feel it should have been a 4-1 not a 3-2, but the judges scored it like they scored it and I’m thankful that God blessed me to get it.

Without him, a lot wouldn’t possible — me even fighting.

Q: How so?

A: People are put in certain situations. I could be paralyzed and have the dream of boxing, but I’m blessed to be 100% healthy. There are people who want to but the can’t walk or move. He blessed me to be able to do everything I want to do, what I love.

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Martin knocks down professional boxer Pablo Sanchez in an April 3 sparring match at IBG. One of his coaches, local Indianapolis police officer Pat McPherson, watches.

Q: How have you developed a knockdown punch?

A: You have to have power, of course. You gotta know how to pinpoint your shots. Power is not everything. Knowing the right time to attack and exactly the right spot.

Q: Do you have anything specific you look for when trying to find that spot?

A: No…

Q: You just know it when you see it open up?

A: Yep, I just know I’ve got that eye.

Q: A lot of young guys will be watching you now. Can you offer them any training tips?

A: To the fighters: Be honest with yourselves about how hard you’re working and working out. Don’t take shortcuts. If you do, when you have to fight, you might have a doubt. Just a little doubt can change a whole game plan. I just feel like a better man will win the fight. You should go into the fight 100 percent ready.

Q: What does it mean to you to be the first fighter in 23 years to bring Indiana a national title?

A: I’m glad and blessed to be the one to break that bar. It really hasn’t hit me. I was excited that I did win, but I just felt that honestly I’d put in so much work that I had to get it. I knew I was 100% all the way in. I’m glad and I’m pretty sure it motivated a lot of other fighters, making them want to do the same thing. I’m glad to be a role model but I still have so much more to do. It hasn’t hit me: I’ve got bigger things in store.

Q: What has happened since winning that title?

A: We won a couple more national championships: Ringside and Title .. and I fought in the USA tournament and got on the USA team. And I’m ranked number two in the country.

It’s like everything is panning out how it’s supposed to.

Q: How have your coaches influenced you?

A: In the beginning, when I first started boxing, I didn’t work to my limit. They were able to get inside my head and help me find my inner self and my work ethic. And now I’m able to motivate myself, pushing myself and my work ethic. They helped me get to that point where I can do my own thing. Like when I’m in the gym by myself, I can get the same intensity as if they were around.

Q: What do they say? Do any of their words stick with you?

A: They say a lot! They would tell me: Don’t get in my own head, or don’t get in my own way. If I’m not in my own way, I can do whatever I want to do.

Q: What’s it been like to be on Team U.S.A.?

A: It’s broadening my perspective. It’s what I need. It’s helping my learning experience. It helps my confidence in learning so many aspects of the boxing game. Boxing is an ongoing learning process as I’ve been on the up and up.

Q: You went to Europe?

A: I fought in Bulgaria against an opponent from Turkey and a guy from Italy, who I knocked out in 15 seconds. Plus, I got to spar with a fighter from Poland.

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Frank Martin and Pablo Sanchez spar at IBG.

Q: What’s the relationship between amateur fighting and your professional prospects?

A: I still have a lot to learn, but even though my style is changing, it’s not really suited for amateurs where they award points for the total number of punches landed and not necessarily how effective the punches are. I’m really a slow-paced fighter —  I’m more into effective shots.  In amateurs, it’s about who is landing more. But I’m more of a power puncher. If he’s hitting with a lot of piddly shots, even if they’re not affecting me, they’ll give it to him because he landed more. In the pros, it’s more about the effective shots. I’m ready for the pros. A lot of these guys I’ve fought have turned pro.

I feel that turning pro would take me to the next level and will motivate me to do things. It will get more serious with us taking trips and getting to work and going to camps.

Q: What is pinnacle of your dream?

A: I want to be more than just a boxer. I do want to be one of the best that laces up their gloves, but that’s not all I want to be. I don’t want people to say, “He’s a good boxer, but that’s about it.”

When somebody asks about me, I tell them a little bit about my story. It’s not to be cocky or show off. I’ve been working so hard. I’m not working this hard to be a nobody. I could be a role model to people without being an athlete and give them stories about how to take a different road. But I’ll have a bigger impact with the story I have now.

I know a lot of people have guidance. Some people don’t. I’ve always had family members tell me things. I’m not one to let things go in one ear and out the other. If someone tells me something, I’ll take it and think about it. You don’t have to go with it. But sit and down and think about it before you don’t agree. And then you choose what you want to do. But always hear a person out. At the end of the day, people will make their own decisions. But I’ve learned a lot by hearing people out. Always listen and give what someone says a chance. And then you decide after you give them chance.

I’m trying to get the word out there on who I am. If I stay under the radar, I won’t get done what I want to get done. I’m humble but you’ve got to speak up to be heard.

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