Engels Pedroza-Carlos Padilla-Eric Martin

Engels Pedroza-Carlos Padilla-Eric Martin

South San Francisco, CA– While jogging weeks before his death, 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 where he was the “House” trainer. We talked, nothing major, exchanged 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 hands down 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.


Uncrowned Champ Eric Martin

Uncrowned Champ Eric Martin

Eric’s record is less than impressive. At the same time, he fought seven world champions, none of whom could stop or drop the former San Francisco Police Dept. recruit who left the academy to fight professionally. On any given night, he could be and or beat the best “boxer” in the world. The problem with Eric was two-fold. 1. He was a great boxer who lacked the ability (punch or mean spirit) to finish guys. 2. That being said, Eric 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 that knew the game and cared, thus he stayed with Mateo and instantly became an underpaid opponent who would go anywhere and fight.


I mentioned Martin 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, resulting 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 role, if not his life.

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 for a mere $10,000. 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.


Let me set the table for you, Mateo is in San Francisco and 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 but attempting to or shake down the Sicilian mob could get someone killed. And seeing Mateo was some 6.000 miles away, he wasn’t getting killed as the people in harms way were Eric and his trainer.


Thinking Eric and Rio, they were in cahoots with the nefarious manager Mateo, two bent nose types came and made it clear that Eric was going to fight Olivo and there would be no additional monies wired to Mateo period!


After this warning was issued, one story had Rio and Eric hiding in the closet, another had them 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 are sitting right there in the first row, these same men who two days before threatened your life!


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!

Pedro Fernandez

Note: Mr. Fernandez is an award-winning writer, TV commentator, radio talk show host, former San Francisco Policeman and four-time Golden Gloves champion. Comments regarding this submission can be left below under the advertising.

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  • Nick Bellafatto…People in a cage in SA…….dont believe it,maybe sitting apart or ‘looked’ like a partition but not a’cage’.Boxing was intergrated from early 80’s.EM good man.RIP.

  • The last time I saw Eric was late 1990’s at 7-11 on Bayshore. He was just finishing work as a garbage collector. I had sparred some 20 rounds with Eric while at City College in the late 1970’s. I was 168, he was 142? I could not hit him more than once. He hit me several times and moved. I was so frustrated boxing him, I quit. I later saw he fought McGirt at MSG?. McGirt won easily on scorecards. McGirt however said Martin was one of his most difficult fights. Martin got screwed! He was a world class fighter who had HORRIBLE management! I remember once he trained to fight Sean O’Grady in SoCal. The problem was someone saw O’Grady announcing a fight on TV and asked him about this fight. O’Grady knew nothing about it and Martin was out $$$ for training expenses for a fight that was never signed! Just one example I can share with you.

  • Geoffrey Sadao Prenter

    I remember Jack Fiske writing quite a bit about “The Prince.” I had always hoped that he would get world ranked especially after winning the ESPN Welterweight title in ’84. I think that it was Fiske who wrote about Rene Arrendondo, future world champion, pulling out of a fight with Martin after his stablemate Lupe Aquino, warned him about Martin’s difficult style.

    It’s great that you knew him so well and can share these stories with us.

  • I watched the tape of the Oliva fight over Eric’s house in Hunters Point. He beat Oliva as far as I can see. Eric also talked about boxing in Apartheid South Africa where the blacks present were cordoned off in a cage. Your right about Eric. too humble and lacking the killer instinct to make him more than a solid boxer in the ring. Out of it a totally honest and soft spoken guy who deserved more than he got out of life. He’s always missed.

  • Thanks Pirate!

  • Great Story from the best boxing site!

  • I remember Eric Martin. Thanks for the journey back. For me he was always the original Bay Area Eric Martin. The pop singer reference always reminded me of the boxer.

  • Great story Pedro. I remember Martin as a slick stylist just so smooth ad even though many of his opponents hit harder than him Martin was able to outthink them. I remember his tough fights with Dio Colome, I think one actually went to a 13 round decision. Just a very cagey classy boxer.

  • Pedro Fernandez

    A great man, a great friend to the end. Dr. told him he had Diabetes, he wouldn’t take the meds, said he felt fine! Was remarried with a young son. Thanks for acknowledging Eric Marion.

  • I knew Eric from Pelton Jr. High School in San Francisco. He was a very cool dude then and stayed that way as a man. I remember watching him on TV for the first time and all of Hunters Point was very proud of him. I just found out today that he passed away. I just happen to be thinking about him as I was watching cage fighting on TV, and I thought I would look him up and then I found out the bad news. Eric was a very cool dude, and I wish his family all the best.

  • Eric was a great man. he use to play flag football with us at this park near Lombard St.He was just a great guy, very respectable, honest and loyal.
    I can remember clowning around with him trying to get him to box me and he would just break out and laugh at me. He was a cool mild mannered dude.
    I wish more athletes has his attitude, he was the class of boxing back in the day.
    I never saw him fight but his name always rung bells in the boxing circles in S.F.

  • I remember Eric as I sparred with him at 14 street armory He had great hand speed,defense,a fast light hitting straight rightand an awesome jab but no left hook.Always in shape great chin awesome boxer .Rest in peace Eric

  • This is funny!I had a boxer named Clarence FElder.who was a lightweight.i don’t remember if it was Lou Thomas OR Don Chargin was promoting the show.But whoever it was,asked me if i wanted a fight for Clarence in Sacramento.I asked who his opponet was and they told me it was Leonard Gains.So went and looked Gains record up in the record book and saw he had a hell of a lot of fights.The fight that caught my eye was Gains had fought Ralph Dupas to a draw.Ralph Dupas was a master boxer.So i saw Gains must be a hell of a boxer.I saw the promoter again and he asked me if i wanted the fight.I told him no,not knowing Clarence(my fighter)was listening.My fighter said he wanted the fight.Itold him that Gains was a master boxer and Clarence cut easily.And besides clarence was more of a brawler with a hell of a left hook.He could knock a bull out with a left hook.So Clarence pleaded with me to take the fight because he needed the payday.He also told me he would get in the best shape of his life.I told him i would take the fight on the condition,if i saw him taking a beating,i would stop the fight.So on the way to Sacramento.I kept telling Clarence to stay in tight on Gains, don’t give him room to box.Before the fight while Clarence is warming up,i was telling him the same thing!!!Stay in tight, cut the ring off.At this point Clerence was tired of hearing me and told me to shut up because he knew what i wanted him to do.Willie Warton worked the corner with me.Vic Grupico,who was my partner with the boxers was in San Jose with another one of our boxers.So i asked Willie to work with me.Anyway Willie asked me who Clarence was fighting and when i told him it was Leonard Gains, Willie looked at me and said thy would arrest me for murder.That made me feel real good because i had a bad feeling about taking thi fight.Anyway the bell rings(my heart is in my muoth)Clarence and Gains are feeling each other out.They go into a clinch and Clarence shoves Gains into the ropes,Gains hits the ropes and comes back at Clarence with a straight right hand lead,Clarence ducks under the right hand lead and catches Gains with aleft hook.He knocked Gains out in about 45 seconds of the first round.Gains was taking this six rounder as a warm up for a comeback.That ended his career.Everyone at Newmans gym was surprised,INCLUDING ME.After the fight Bill Miller a promoter from Reno,nv came and asked if i would consider letting Clarence fight a main event in Reno.His opponent was to be Bobby Scanlan who Clarence boxed with at Newmans gym.Naturally i difinetly said NO.I DIDN’T WANT TO GET ARRESTED FOR MURDER.THANKS FOR READING THIS.I hope you enjoyed it.It’s a true story

  • I fought at Newman, & herman’s when vic grupico, & don stewart had foreman for a minute. I also remember when Grupico, & stewart threw Jimmy lester in with emile Griffith, & now he can hardly talk! In those days the one’s waiting for a title shot would pay their sparring partners. I “LOVED” Frisco in the 60s, greatest city in the world back then. Now it has gone down too crack!

  • The last time I saw Eric he was picking up ‘my’ garbage. I had heard that he was training kids down on the Peninsula. Back in the day I used to play b-ball against him over at Portola (now PALEGA) gym. He actually tried to get me into the boxing game. This was around the time a avenged his first ‘loss’ to a guy who was Hispanic. I did not see that rematch but from what a read Eric ‘smoked’ the guy. I never saw Eric fight but I do know he was legit. I heard he lost a fight to Buddy McGirt. My question to you Pedro is was it a close fight or was Eric completely outclassed.

  • You are right, Eric was like the Raiders, lots of fans, but none willing to pay out cash to see him fight. That was sad. He was a good semi-main bout with a good main event fighter.OR he was a good main event fighter with a real good semi-main event fighter. He could never pull in a lot fans. Not like Pat Lawlor (your favorite sparring partner). Pat at least would go out and sell most of his tickets. The other thing was he was white and Irish. That combo will always sell a lot of tkts.

  • Don Stark is dead? He worked with me for about six-eight months circa 1974. Pete’s antics after his guys lost was the best! They’d lose every second of the fight and he was screaming “robbery.”

    Rivette, he screwed up Johnny Nava. Instead of a nutritionalist and fighting at welter or 154, Rivette told him the other divisions didn’t matter, that the middleweight title, etc., etc. Grupico was a good guy, Billy Newman paid my gym dues, Marvin Moore taught me how to best throw a jab. Rank-a-torre was bad! He convinced Lester Jackson to turn pro at 39, put him in with Cubanito Perez, criminal!

  • Eric was cool. Eric told me that he would do anything to win a fight, within the boundaries of fighting. you know, nothing as vicious as a handwrap or pulling out the stuffing of a glove. More like, pull your armpit hairs!!!! You gotta love that!!! I mean, that’s classic “old school” fighting. I used to go to West Point, the other side of Hunters Point, and play Chess with him. Someone said he was nice, that was an understatement! he was “Genuinely Nice”. Last of the true “Gentleman” club. Always was polite to women, his elders and would listen to your advice, whether he agreed or not. R.I.P friend…….

  • Honestly Pete, Was anyone at Newman’s gym more crooked than Pete Alvarez???? Come on now, you remember we used to call him “The Butcher” !!!! He’d bring in Mexican fighters from south of the boarder,make a buck and give them 25 cent to go home…..
    Speaking of Phil, remember Bill Rivette, Old man Marvin, the guy that managed Andy Nance, Vic Grupico, the shyster Sonny Marson, the ever so nice Johnny “Carnation” Vidal….. Yeah, those were the true “old school”trainer and managers, of San Francisco. Hey!, don’t forget Ole Floyd and Tommy (with the bad eye)…. I’ll never forget those days. It was a different era, RIP Billy Newman, Joe Herman, and Don Stark….

  • He wasn’t a guy to be ****** with, period!

  • good story pedro just saw the movie the fighter got any storys about dickie eklund?

  • Phil was co owner of City cab. Sold his fighters out faster than you could say Rank-a-torre!

  • Pedro, another great story of a local Bay Area fighter. I’m going to jog Pedro’s memory a little, do you remember Phil Rancatore ? He used to manage S.F.’s middleweight contender Nate Collins. And when you talk about crooked SF managers you can’t leave out Sid Flatery (sp) who managed Bobo Olsen and Eddie Machen.

  • P. S. Nice, weird choice in allegorical photos. . .

  • Agreed with alberto and Jose. Unfortunately, I don’t think boxing books sell, but it’s great to hear “Grandpa Pedro” reminisce here!

  • José-Ariel Cuevas

    I agree with Michael’s statement, Pedro. Keep up the good work. Also, have you written a book detailing Northern California’s boxing history?

  • Another great story…you should put a book together with these short stories.

  • I was lucky enough to know both Eric and Rio from Kings Gym, the best gym in California. Eric was always kind and interested in who ever he was speaking to.I always felt as though he loved being in the gym I am glad that someone cronicles northern california boxing. Otherwise, the boxers and trainers who give so much to the rich bay area boxing history, remain annonimous.

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