Kirtland's Martinez, Williams shine in the ring
FARMINGTON — Few people can count themselves as among the best in the world at something, but Kirtland boxers Elijah Martinez and Aiyonah Williams can.
Martinez, 13, and Williams, 15, both from Kirtland, competed at the Ringside World Championships Aug. 5-8 in Independence, Mo., and found great success.
Martinez, who is entering the eighth grade at Kirtland Middle School, won the 114-pound division, scoring a unanimous decision over Kansas' Johnathan Contreras in the title match.
"It felt awesome when I won the fight," Martinez said. "I felt nervous when I got in the ring, though."
Williams, who will be a sophomore at Kirtland Central High, reached the finals of the 15 and -16-year-old girls division, losing to Oregon's Diana Estrada after the referee stopped the match.
"I see their happiness when they win and the heartbreak when the lose. Either way it goes, it makes them tougher and helps them understand there is good and bad in everything — it just depends on how you deal with it," said Eli Martinez, Elijah's father and the owner of 505 Fight Factory where the teenagers train. "You could tell they felt that the work paid off. I don't know any other way to describe it (besides) satisfaction. They walk around with a little bit of pep in their step."
With more than 1,700 fighters from 15 countries taking part, the RWC is the largest amateur boxing tournament in the world.
"It might not be the most recognized tournament because there's the Olympics and (Pan-American Games), but from a numbers standpoint, it's the biggest," Eli Martinez said.
Going into the RWC, Elijah Martinez and Williams ranked fifth and sixth in the Independent World Rankings, respectively.
"That's pretty amazing for Kirtland, New Mexico," Eli Martinez said.
Williams said she got into boxing after seeing her brother, Avery, compete and realized the competition boxing presents was something she enjoyed, as well.
Martinez has been boxing for about five years and said he fell in love with the sweet science when he first put on the gloves. Since then, he's been in the gym for three hours a day every day of the week.
"My favorite thing about it is the sport," the 13-year-old said. "The experience, the sport, the competition. The sport is awesome."
But boxing does more than feed the Kirtland teenagers' love of competition. They don't take days off, and often spend their summers, and Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks traveling to compete at various tournaments. Instead of going out with friends on Friday and Saturday nights, they go to bed early, knowing the next day's training session is fast approaching.
"If they try to make boxing a profession, or if they do something different in life, they're always going to have that hard work ethic," Eli Martinez said. "They get up every day from the beginning of January to the end of December, no matter what. It teaches them discipline and a hard work ethic. No matter what they do in life, they're going to have that."