If there is one athlete who put the Philippines on the map of the international sporting scene, boxing icon Manny Pacquiao would be top-of-mind.
From his professional debut in 1995 as a minimumweight pugilist, Pacquiao rose up the scales to collect 12 world titles in eight different weight classes against the who’s who of the boxing industry. He was also hailed “Fighter of the Year” three times by both The Ring magazine and the Boxing Writers Association of America. In addition, the aforementioned award-giving body bestowed Pacquiao with the “Fighter of the Decade” citation for the 2000s.
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Aside from the world titles and awards, Pacquiao was long rated as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world by most sporting news outfits and boxing websites. Courtesy of his remarkable in-ring exploits, a place in the International Boxing Hall Of Fame is imminent for the favorite son of GenSan.
As Pacquiao’s curtain call looms, a fistic prodigy from the mountains of Lagawe, Ifugao strives to become the sport's next superstar. At only 20 years of age, Carl Jammes Martin has already turned heads, amassing an outstanding record of 15 wins with 14 knockouts without a single defeat or draw in his four-year professional career.
“The kid has talent and charisma. He has the right materials to be the next Filipino boxing hero. Carl is explosive and left-handed,” two-division world champion Gerry Peñalosa says of Martin, speaking mostly in Filipino. "He reminds me of the young Manny and has tremendous power. He has full of potential."
Using an old diaper cloth to wrap his hands, Martin started to lace up a pair of gloves when he was six years old. He made his amateur debut a year later, compiling an immaculate 56-0 standing. The boxing prospect turned pro in 2016, adopting the moniker “Wonder Boy” due to his remarkable mastery of pugilism at a tender age.
The Ifugao native made a strident splash in the professional ranks, knocking out 14 of his last 15 opponents. Moreover, he has gone through foreign opposition, defeating boxers from Thailand, Tanzania, Indonesia, and China to hold regional titles from major organizations such as WBA, WBO, and WBC. Last year, Martin was cited by The Ring as one of five Filipino prospects to keep an eye on because of his exciting in-ring style and impressive winning streak.
“Carl fights like Senator Manny. Don’t give him an opening in the ring because he will definitely expose it. Like the legendary Manny Pacquiao, he has power, speed, and great footwork. He also likes to throw a lot of punches. In my view, he is a complete boxer,” Abel, his father and trainer, shares.
Martin closed out his 2019 by winning and defending the Philippine Boxing Federation bantamweight championship at the expense of Filipino journeymen. Despite his promising run, he has yet to face a top-tier foe to break into the Top 15 rankings of all four governing bodies.
“Carl has the skills, personality, and the right work ethic, but he needs to work on gaining more experience in the ring," Peñalosa advises. "That’s very important in boxing. To test yourself against the best is what makes you a world champion."
Although Martin is still far from a world title shot, boxing promoter Brico Santig believes that it will be a matter of time before the Ifugao standout becomes a ranked contender. “I’ve seen firsthand how he trains. I am in awe of his dedication and boxing IQ. If there’s a way we can help him in the near future, we will. He needs more exposure to be able to hone his skills,” Santig says.
While many see him as one of the many candidates to be Pacquiao’s successor, Martin takes it as a compliment. However, he would rather be his own man in boxing.
“Senator Manny is at a different level. I still have a lot to prove. I cannot compare myself to sir Manny. It is hard to equal what he has achieved in boxing. Whatever else I can achieve with boxing and whatever I can reach through boxing, it will still not be at the same level as to what he did,” he stresses.
Martin aims to establish an identity and legacy of his own, and to do that, he will have to seek out the best challenges available. “I want to become the best among boxers in the world because I did not get into boxing just for the sake of being in boxing. I got into boxing because I wanted to be counted among the best. I am willing to face anyone in order to grow as an athlete,” he asserts.
The Cordilleran region may be known for producing globally-recognized competitors in mixed martial arts, but Martin is determined to give his people their first boxing world champion. “Someday, I will bring home a world title, and I will share that winning moment with all of them,” he declares.
Photographs from Carl Jammes “Wonder Boy” Martin on Facebook