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Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Kiko Martinez-Hozumi Hasegawa set

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Junior featherweight titlist Kiko Martinez of Spain, no stranger to fighting on the road, is headed to Japan to make his second defense.

Martinez will face former bantamweight and featherweight titlist Hozumi Hasegawa after Martinez promoters Sampson Lewkowicz and Gary Shaw announced on Wednesday they had signed contracts for the bout with Teiken Promotions' Akihiko Honda, who promotes Hasegawa. The date and venue are not set, but the bout will take place in April, the promoters said.

Martinez has traveled the world fighting. Besides bouts in his home country, he has boxed in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, France, Argentina and the United States.

It was in his lone American fight -- last Aug. 17 in Atlantic City, N.J., in an HBO-televised bout -- that he scored his biggest victory. He scored an upset by knocking out Jhonatan Romero in the sixth round to win a 122-pound world title.

The 27-year-old Martinez (30-4, 22 KOs) returned to Spain for a homecoming first defense on Dec. 21 and knocked out former titleholder Jeffrey Mathebula in the ninth round of a mandatory defense. Now Martinez is headed back to the road to face Hasegawa (33-4, 15 KOs), a 33-year-old southpaw and highly respected former two-time titleholder.

Hasegawa held a bantamweight title from 2005 to 2010 and made 10 defenses before losing it. Later in 2010, Hasegawa moved up to featherweight and won a vacant title, which he lost in his first defense. He has won four bouts in a row since, all in the featherweight division, but will drop down to junior featherweight to challenge Martinez, who is managed by middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (no relation).

"Kiko Martinez can fight any place with the best fighters available," Lewkowicz said. "After this fight, God willing he wins in a good fashion, then we will see, but we hope he will be back on HBO. The right fight would be Nonito Donaire. But the bottom line with Kiko Martinez is he is a very special person and fighter and he always makes fan friendly fights for TV. Now he has a belt and to be a real champion you have to fight with the best. Hasegawa is one of the best."

There had been some discussion about Martinez returning to Northern Ireland to defend against rising star Carl Frampton (17-0, 12 KOs) in a rematch. Two fights before Martinez won a world title, he traveled to Belfast to defend the European title against Frampton last February and got knocked out in the ninth round.

Frampton, awaiting a mandatory shot, sat by and watched as the man he so easily defeated claimed a world title.

"The Frampton team made us a very good offer for the rematch and I appreciate it, but we need to do what is best for our fighter," Lewkowicz said. "We don't need the mandatory fight (which is not due yet) in this moment. Frampton will be the mandatory and then he will get his opportunity. We might as well take an interim fight, also for very good money, and then the mandatory will be there."