Boxing

Martinez KOs Mathebula to keep IBF junior featherweight belt

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ELCHE, Spain (AP)

Kiko Martinez successfully defended his IBF junior featherweight title when he defeated Jeffrey Mathebula with a ninth-round knockout on Saturday.

Martinez was backed by the home Spanish crowd at Esperanza Lag Pavilion. He attacked relentlessly from the start against Mathebula, a former world champion, until he brought the South African down with a hard body blow.

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''I just kept hitting and hitting until I could hurt him,'' Martinez told Marca radio. ''He is a great rival and an intelligent boxer. It was hard work.

''I hit him in the body and he ended up on the mat. And I prayed he wouldn't get up.''

Martinez recorded his 30th win, including 22 knockouts, to go with four defeats.

In August, Martinez upset Jhonatan Romero of Colombia in Atlantic City to claim the title. This was the Spaniard's first title defense.

Martinez said he had no plans yet for his next rival. First he will celebrate his win with his family during the winter holidays.

''I just want to be respected so that when someone fights Kiko Martinez they know they will be in a war,'' he said.

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