Martha Salazar eases into champion’s role

It’s been a about a week since Martha Salazar seized the WBC women’s heavyweight championship in dominant fashion.

Yet the realization of such an accomplishment still feels surreal to the newly-crowned title holder.

Salazar (13-4, 3 KOs) claimed the vacant world title with a 10-round unanimous decision win over Tanzee Daniel in the co-main event of the Nov. 8 “Back to Business” event from Longshoremen’s Hall on North Point and Taylor Streets.

Judges Susan Thomas Gitlin, Ray Balewicz and Marshall Walker all favored Salazar by shutout at 100-90.

SFBay also scored the bout 100-90 for Salazar.

While the title is now in her possession, Salazar told SFBay she sometimes finds herself waking up in the middle of the night and looking at her belt to assure herself it is indeed hers:

“I was telling Blanca (Gutierrez), ‘Did we do that fight already? Did I fight and did I win this belt? I’ve got to turn around and look at it.’ So I can’t believe that I did it, that the whole team did it. I’m enjoying every moment of it.”

Her championship victory is the culmination of a seven-year odyssey.

She first challenged for the vacant WBC world title in February of 2007. Despite having almost six years experience as a professional, she felt inexperienced in losing a majority decision to notable rival Vonda Ward.

Throughout her six-year retirement that preceded the Ward fight, Salazar became more determined to capture the WBC belt.

In her first fight back last April, she defeated then-No. 1 ranked Sonya Lamonakis via unanimous decision to earn the right to fight Daniel for the vacant world title.

Gutierrez – Salazar’s close friend and owner of the Baby Face Boxing gym in Pacifica where Salazar trains – is well aware of how much it means for Salazar to bring her dream of becoming a world champion into fruition.

She believes Salazar’s victory ultimately solidifies her as the best female heavyweight in the world:

“You know, people will argue with me about that, but I think she is. The WBC thinks she is and we’re just happy to be a part of the WBC family. It’s great that Martha’s the WBC champion because we thought that that was the best belt in the world.”

Salazar completely controlled the bout from the opening bell. She constantly tagged Daniel with her trademark right hand and also landed multiple right hooks in succession.

She also had great success backing Daniel up against the ropes, a strategy she conceived as she kept coming forward and forced Daniel to constantly retreat to the ropes.

Despite the lopsided nature of the fight, Daniel (4-4-1, 1 KO) exhibited her durability by enduring Salazar’s best shots. She even tagged Salazar with a few shots of her own, but none of them had the power and commitment necessary to turn the fight in her favor.

Daniel also resorted to dropping her hands during certain moments of the fight.

The tactic may have been risky (especially since Daniel ate plenty of leather as a result of it), but Salazar saw it as Daniel’s attempt to set her up for a surprise knockout shot:

“She was trying to bait me in so I can either drop my hands or not throw too many punches so she could just come at me with the uppercut. She once threw an uppercut (in the 10th round) and I felt that if she would have connected, I think she would have knocked me out because she was so powerful. I could feel the power in that uppercut.”

Gutierrez also recognized the force behind that uppercut and became a little concerned for Salzar’s health and safety as the 10th round progressed:

“That uppercut was huge. I mean that was like a 250-lb. uppercut. So I was more worried about just making sure Martha was healthy until the end of the fight. I already felt good about (her victory), but I knew that Tanzee was going to come out looking for the knockout. That made me not worried, but it just let me know that the fight was just going to get a little bit interesting.”

Though she dominated Daniel for all 10 rounds, Salazar considers Daniel her friend and said she would gladly offer her a championship rematch in the near future:

“At the end of the fight, I gave her a big hug and told her that she’s the champ, too, just for stepping up in the ring. I never had any problems with her. She’s an amazing person just to go in there and battle with me.”

Gutierrez acknowledges Daniel as an underrated fighter and looks forward to working with her in the future in hopes of transforming her into a superb knockout artist:

“We’re all in this together in the heavyweight division and we just want to make things grow. But we also saw things in Tanzee that she needs to work on and if she does that, she’s going to be an incredible knockout artist. She’s got a lot of power, she just needs to let (her hands) go.”

Salazar hopes to defend her championship at least once before retiring. While she’s willing to offer Daniel another crack at the title, Lamonakis (9-1-2, 1 KO) may be the consensus opponent.

Nicknamed “The Scholar,” the Greek fighter is scheduled to fight Carlette Ewell on Dec. 6 for the vacant IBO women’s heavyweight championship. An emphatic victory could establish her as Salazar’s prominent challenger.

Lamonakis believes she wound up on the short end of the stick in losing the unanimous decision to Salazar last April.

Her biggest gripe with the bout was the fact that she and Salazar fought for six three-minute rounds. Professional women’s boxing matches are usually sanctioned to last two minutes per round.

Gutierrez said she and Salazar don’t have any personal disdain towards Lamonakis, and that Gutierrez is aware of how significant a rematch would be for not just the heavyweight division, but also women’s boxing in general:

“We treated her really well and it was a good fight. A lot of people want to see that fight – it’s two of the best in the world.”

As she has proven throughout her 13-year career, Salazar will fight any and all comers.

Gutierrez believes Salazar will fight more than once after scouting some of the new rising opposition in the women’s heavyweight division.

But if she’s unable to defend her belt against any of the aforementioned talent or fight another top-ranked contender, Salazar couldn’t be any happier at this moment after achieving her goal.

Should she retire today, she can do so happily knowing she earned the WBC’s recognition as their women’s world heavyweight champion:

“It slipped a few times out of my hands with Vonda. But right now, I’m enjoying it. If nothing happens after this, then hey, I accomplished my goal and my dream that I wanted. You know, whatever happens from here, it’s an extra filling on top of the cake.”