November 27th, 2013 By Pedro Fernandez
ERIC MARTIN STORY FROM THE ARCHIVES!South San Francisco, CA- Six years ago this week or last, I literally ran into Eric “The Prince” Martin for the last time. Running through the streets of this little city, a community a few miles south of The City by The Bay, Eric turned the corner at Grand & Maple. He was leaving the Physique Magnifique boxing gym. We talked, nothing major, exchanged holiday wishes and the next thing I know “The Prince” is dead. One of the worst eaters I ever knew, especially from an athletic point of view, Eric preferred McDonald’s over a filet, and in the end that would lead to his death. A type 2 Diabetic, that and complications from a tooth extraction brought Eric’s life to an end December 23, 2007 at the age of 48.
CLASSIC EXAMPLE OF GREAT BOXER SANS CONNECTIONS
Eric’s record is less than impressive. At the same time, he fought seven world champions, none of whom could stop the former San Francisco Police Dept. recruit, who left the academy to fight professionally. On any given night, he could be the best “boxer” in the world. The problem with Eric was two-fold. 1. He was a a great boxer who lacked the ability (punch or mean spirit) to finish guys. 2. That being said, he couldn’t sell tickets and his manager, the late Bill Mateo was about as straight as San Francisco’s Lombard St. Loyal to an ignorant fault, Martin wouldn’t listen to those of us (he was (8-2) that knew the game and cared, thus he stayed with Mateo and instantly became an underpaid opponent.
DIDN’T CRY WHEN BILL DIED
I mentioned Eric had fought seven guys who claimed world titles. Eric made the boxing world take note when he all but bi*ch slapped future World champ Lupe Aquino (22-1, 16 KOs) on the Larry Holmes-Marvis Frazier card in 1983 that resulted in an absurd draw. Not impressive physically, but always in shape, Eric needed four rounds to make the “house” judges realize he was in the fight, let alone winning it! Mateo, who died in 2005 from a heart attack, really had little regard for Eric, and like a guy in love with a crack addict, Martin put up with Mateo to a point where I might have wanted to end the manager’s life.
SEVEN CHAMPS FROM 140-160 & NONE COULD DROP/STOP ERIC
One such individual was Patricio Oliva of Italy who would win the WBA 140 lb. diadem one fight after facing Eric. Having only been outside of the country once as an amateur, Martin is “told” by Mateo that he is facing the 45-0 Oliva in Sicily. An excited and well conditioned Martin and trainer Rio Rosa leave SFO for Italy, from where they were driven to a Mafia run hotel. Checking in three days prior to the July 30, 1986 fight, within a few hours Eric would again see what a scoundrel Bill Mateo really was.
THREATENING THE SICILIAN MAFIA IN SICILY!
Let me set the table for you, Mateo is in San Francisco. He gets on the phone and tells the Italian’s promoting the fight (yep, the Mafia) that Eric isn’t fighting unless he gets another $10,000 wired to him before the bout. “Martin’s not getting in the ring ’till I get paid,” was Mateo’s telephonic demand. Either Mateo was dumber than even I thought, or he didn’t realize that the guys behind Olivo and the fight were the Sicilian mob. For he continued his demand for more money in the form of a fax. First of all, shaking people down in general can be scary. Attempting to or shake down the Sicilian mafia could wind up getting someone killed. And seeing Mateo was some 6.000 miles away, he wouldn’t be killed, the people in harms way were Eric and his trainer.
THE KNOCK AT THE DOOR, OH, IT’S THE MAFIA!
Thinking Eric and Rio, that they were in cahoots with the nefarious manager Mateo, they came and made the point that Eric was going to fight Olivo and there would be no additional monies wired to Mateo period! After this warning was issued, Rio and Eric, one story had them hiding in the closet, another under the bed. Regardless, Eric went out and boxed well considering the Mob was sitting ringside. What a motivating factor to not win, I mean the guys sitting right there in the first row, these same men had two days before threatened your life!
REMEMBER THE CRACK HOE REFERENCE?
When Eric returned, he was aloof at first as to what had happened in Sicily. Not in denial, but refusing to discuss his brush with the Mob, I threw my hands up and walked away. My good friend Hector Martinez, (not the HM on Eric’s resume) at the time was working with Roberto Duran, we tried on more than one occasion to help Eric out. But like I said, Martin was like a man in love with a crack whore, and manager Bill Mateo was said whore!