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Unbeaten Frank Martin dominates, vaults into title contention

Unbeaten lightweight Frank Martin hoped to score a knockout victory over Michel Rivera in his most significant fight to date.

He settled for the next best thing instead: a boxing clinic at Rivera’s expense.

Martin (17-0, 13 knockouts) showcased a championship-caliber skill set Saturday at the Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, rolling to a 120-107, 118-109, 117-110 unanimous decision over previously unbeaten contender Rivera in a WBA title eliminator.

Now 27 and approaching the prime of his boxing career, Martin is in line to contend for a world title in 2023.

“It was a blessing to be able to come out here and headline a show … beat a guy who everybody thought was this big threat,” Martin said. “I like to watch my fights and look at all the mistakes I made. I’m going to go back and see how the fight went with my own eyes.”

Martin has surged the last two years under the guidance of trainer Derrick James, who also coaches unified welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. and undisputed junior middleweight champion Jermell Charlo. Martin impressed during his last two outings with knockout victories over Romero Duno and Jackson Marinez.

But Rivera (24-1, 16 KOs) represented his best opponent, a taller, longer fighter with a sharp jab.

On Saturday, though, that jab couldn’t find Martin, who pivoted in and out of range and countered seemingly at will with snapping lefts to Rivera’s head and body. One of those counter lefts dropped Rivera in the seventh round, essentially quelling the 24-year-old’s offense for the remainder of the fight.

Rivera attempted to rally in the later rounds, but Martin remained responsible defensively and continued to counter.

“I’m always ready to go the distance. We always train the rounds to go the distance,” said Martin, a Detroit native who fights out of Indianapolis. “I felt like if I pressed the gas more … I could have got him up out of there. I felt like I was patient. A little too patient.”

Martin said he’s ready for all comers within the lightweight division, including undisputed champion Devin Haney and WBA secondary champion Gervonta Davis. Haney is in the midst of negotiations for a title defense against Vasiliy Lomachenko, but he could elect to move to junior welterweight afterward — thereby freeing his four titles.

Davis is due to fight WBA 130-pound champion Hector Luis Garcia on Jan. 7 and Ryan Garcia on April 16. But the fight with Garcia is not yet official, and Martin said he’d be willing to fight Davis should it fall through.

Either way, the 135-pound division is more interesting after Martin’s performance.

“I’m ready for all of them,” Martin said. “Hopefully, they see what’s up now.”

On the undercard

Burgeoning bantamweight contender Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) continued his title chase with a sixth-round knockout of Nikolai Potapov (23-3-1, 11 KOs) in an IBF title eliminator. Astrolabio, 25, of the Philippines, applied relentless pressure en route to knockdowns in the second and fifth rounds before stopping Potapov with a short right at the 1:26 mark.

In the co-feature, super middleweight Vladimir Shishkin (14-0, eight KOs) secured a 117-111, 117-111, 115-113 victory over former 168-pound world champion Jose Uzcategui (32-5, 27 KOs). Uzcategui was game, pressing forward and initiating exchanges, but the 31-year-old Russian was equally aggressive in getting the better of the 31-year-old Venezuelan.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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