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Home Boxing Grand Old Master of El Paso Boxing Part 1
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Grand Old Master of El Paso Boxing Part 1

boxing_art       Jake Martinez has been an icon in the amateur boxing world since 1948. He tutored under renowned El Paso trainer, Frankie DeMarco and had his debut in the summer of 1950 as a representative of the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization). Jake demonstrated the skills he learned under DeMarco but more importantly, it was a tough fight and he was gallant and brave in overcoming a good boxer to gain the winning nod from the judges. Those traits would bode well for him in an exceptional career that would lead to fame in and out of the squared circle.
Jake was well aware after his first bout that in order for him to be a boxing champion someday he would have to dedicate himself to training and be disciplined in every aspect of the sport of boxing. He realized that speed, muscle and determination were base components of the sport but even more important was the ability to have exacting discipline in training, in the ring battles to come, and in his lifestyle. Those were tough goals for a budding teenager. But Jake had his dream and he wasn’t about to forsake it by engaging in some youthful liabilities that would be detrimental to his mental and physical growth and escalating his career.
 
 The most hazardous danger for a boxer is taking hard blows to the head. Severe hematomas can lead to paralysis and even death. DeMarco was a safety wizard and developed fighters in the stand-up lead-counter - style boxing and Jake would prove to be a pure disciple of that regimen. It only took a few months for him to graduate from beginner to novice to an open class boxer. During that time and the frenzied pace exacted by DeMarco the young lad remained cool and calm under fire developing into an outstanding competitor against older and more experienced fighters. DeMarco attributed Jake’s early success to his learned boxing skills but more directly to the fact that Jake was not just a pugilist, he was a student of the art of boxing. From the early days of television boxing that featured such boxing legends as Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Willie Pep, Sandy Sadler, Kid Gavilan, Carmen Basilio, George Foreman, Archie Moore, Joey Maxim, Floyd Patterson, Jake LaMotta, and Art Aragon just to name a few, Jake avidly paid attention to how each great handled themselves ring wise, offensively and defensively. It was lessons learned and Ring Magazine became a must read and as advertised it was the Bible of Boxing. For Jake, it was a major reason for striving for his main goal of becoming a perfectionist in the ring. Throughout his illustrious boxing career he would demonstrate time and time again that he had achieved his main goal. Not once in over a decade of boxing did he ever suffer a serious injury though he was in the ring with some of the greatest amateur punchers. 
Jake was then as now an American patriot. With the Korean War underway he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1951 to serve his country. After boot camp at MCRD in San Diego and combat training at Camp Pendleton, Jake had a few boxing smokers that caught the eye of some boxing brass. He was approached and asked to join the boxing team. And so it was, Jake fighting in the ring as a United States Marine. He showed off his talented skills and weaponry often throughout California and he conquered all he met. Then it was off to the ‘All Marine Corps Boxing Championships’ at Cherry Point, North Carolina in 1953 where he conquered the field for the title.

 Jake was honorably discharged in 1954 and returned to El Paso to resume his burgeoning boxing career. And did he ever show off his graceful ability and impeccable defense. He romped through the 1955 El Paso Regional Golden Gloves tournament and made his first sojourn to the Texas State Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. As a lightweight he faced formidable opposition against the reigning state champion and national contender yet triumphed throughout the tournament with an amazing display of boxing know how to win his first state championship title and the accompanying trademark gold ring. He then traveled with the Texas Team to Chicago for the National championships but lost a stinging close decision in a bout he felt he had dominated. It was time to return home and prepare for another season.
        Jake prepared for the 1956 State Golden Gloves by fighting locally and in New Mexico. He was at his fittest when the El Paso Regional Golden Gloves Tournament took place in late February and ‘sure as shooting’ he was at the top of his game as he lithely out - punched out - danced and outsmarted  some very tough local boxers. Shortly thereafter, he was poised and ready for another run at the state championships. 

 The Will Rogers Coliseum held eight thousand fans and the seats were full and the noise level at high pitch when Jake entered the ring as defending champion in the lightweight division. Jake didn’t disappoint the crowd or his team and once again he dismantled one opponent after another for three days until he stood center ring after his championship bout and claimed his second straight state title. A few weeks later it was off to the Chicago Nationals with his dear boxing friend, Pete Melendez. Pete had retired in 1953 after winning the National Golden Gloves but had been badgered into making a comeback in 1956. Come back he did as he strode through regional, state and nationals to stake his claim as one of the greatest amateur boxers in history. His stunning two national diamond rings were a testament to his boxing skills and ring dominance. Jake was doing quite well himself in Chicago until he suffered a serious cut that ended his run for a national title. Back in those days amateur boxers did not wear head gear as is the case nowadays. The headgear safety ruling was still a decade away. Jake was obviously disappointed but boxing was his game and he would look forward to continued success in 1957 and store the treasures he had already won.


       Jake had no second thoughts about his next goal. No boxer from El Paso had ever won three consecutive Texas Golden Gloves titles. He planned to be the first. He trained even more vigorously then in any time in his career and was absolutely scintillating in his destruction of opponents in The El Paso Regional Golden Gloves. His next mission at state was thwart any and all attacks of those who had studied his style and ring savvy the past two years. Pardon the metaphor but Jake heard rumors that some very smart trainers had built a ‘rap sheet’ on him and could dethrone him at state. However trainer Frankie DeMarco and  Jake had long since sensed such efforts by opposing coaches and  over the course of the year had worked diligently on Jakes punching power through isometrics and weightlifting squats. While the big city trainers were gearing up to have their boxers power through Jakes classic boxing style, Frankie and Jake were busy building Jake his own canon of a right hand. Surprise, surprise, boxer by boxer, and slugger by slugger met their unintended fate when Jake deftly deployed his new armament meting out horrid punishment inside and at long range along with his crafty defensive skills. Game over, Jake Martinez stood tall and proud as he accepted his trophy and accolades from the Fort Worth Golden Gloves staff and print media for winning three consecutive state lightweight championships. His magnificent feat has not been equaled from any El Pasoan to this date in time. He was duly honored in El Paso by The El Paso times and The El Paso Herald Post.
       Jake was suddenly in need of some hard cash. Though ranked second nationally in his weight division he had married his sweetheart, Paula Aguirre, in 1954. That meant it was time to begin a life-long career to support a wife and expected siblings. He first took a job with the postal service but it wasn’t long before he was wooed by the late Sheriff Mike Sullivan to come on board as a Sheriff’s Deputy. Jake was now a family man and in law enforcement. To make an extra buck for a night out on the town now and then with his wife he worked security at some of the not-so-real professional wrestling matches. Mind you, those wrestling athletes were for the most part, fantastic athletes and excellent wrestlers. Unfortunately ‘Showtime’ was the real name of the game. Jake just wasn’t into ‘Showtime’ though. One evening in a colorful and acrobatic match, one of the wrestlers was thrown out of the ring and likely missed his intended landing and instead plummeted down on Jake. Instinctively Jake unleashed his boxing arsenal on the wrestler and the crowd reacted vociferously and violently by attacking Jake with blows from fists and kicks. Luckily for Jake other security arrived and the crowd finally settled. A few rabid fans wanted Jake’s blood not realizing the matches are theater. A few knowledgeable fans who understood the sport thought that Jake’s reactions were just part of the act.  Not Jake, he was there for the money, not a dummy for takedowns. Mike Sullivan didn’t despair over the event. He would have been more concerned about the incident if his deputy had been intimidated by the larger man and not reacted to being smothered by the large wrestler. Instead he made Jake a Sergeant. A few years later, Sheriff Sullivan would join Jake in forming the ‘Double G Club.’ Jake had already been active in the 1966 golden gloves as an official and was spending time teaching youths the art of boxing. However, The El Paso Police Officers Association who held the Golden Gloves franchise for 1966 and 1967 had 1968 voted down by a majority of members of the association and the Golden Gloves tournament was in jeopardy. Jake and the sheriff rallied boxing officials and coaches together in the club and soon had the franchise from Fort Worth in hand. Jake was voted by the membership to direct the 1968 Golden Gloves

Grand Old Master of El Paso Part 2

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