Fighting back

  • By Charlie Laughtland / Special to The Herald
  • Tuesday, January 25, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

Coming off the most uneventful year of his career, Martin O’Malley has major plans for 2005.

The Edmonds boxer is looking to revive his reputation as a bankable lightweight contender by returning to where he got started as a pro.

O’Malley, 29, is scheduled to face Rafael Ortiz, 26, in the main event of a seven-bout card Saturday at the Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester.

Three of O’Malley’s first six professional fights – all wins – were at the Lucky Eagle between August 1997 and October 1998.

It will be the first action for O’Malley since his second-round knockout loss last April to current World Boxing Association lightweight champion Juan Diaz.

In his two previous outings, O’Malley fought Leonardo Rojas to a majority draw – ending a streak of four convincing victories – and dropped a unanimous decision to Luis Villalta.

Following the Diaz fight, O’Malley (21-3-1, 14 knockouts) went searching for quality sparring sessions and contacted gym owner George Credit.

Over the summer, O’Malley began training at Credit Boxing in Renton five days a week under the tutelage of Credit and veteran trainer Sam DiTusa, who will work O’Malley’s corner for Saturday’s 10-round contest.

“I’ve watched Martin grow up and wanted to be there for him when he was in town,” Credit said. “He was looking for a place to train and I told him he could make his home here if he wanted.”

Credit is stressing fundamentals with O’Malley, who is 9-1-1 in his home state.

“There were just a few basic things he was missing. A lot of it was taken care of just by having someone pay attention to him so he wasn’t training himself,” Credit said. “He is much sharper and his speed is up. We’re working on his defense and he’s harder to hit now. He used to lean in a lot in his fights. Now he’s moving a lot more and he’s not such a stationary fighter.”

The increased mobility is helping O’Malley tweak his offensive strategy.

“I’m trying to use my height and my reach more and put punches together,” O’Malley said. “Instead of loading up on one punch at a time, I’m throwing three-, four- and five-punch combinations.”

Though his past few fights have produced disappointing results, Credit is confident O’Malley has the strength and ring savvy to rise through the lightweight rankings.

“Martin has some good skills and good power. We’re just showing him how to put it all together,” Credit said.

“The long-term plan is to get Martin in the top 10. We’ll build his record back up and step up the level of competition gradually. By June or July, he should have a record that will put him closer to the top 10 or 15 in his weight bracket.”

First up is Ortiz (9-5-1, nine knockouts), another Northwest product who will be making his sixth appearance at the Lucky Eagle.

The hard-hitting welterweight from Lebanon, Ore., won three of his five fights in 2004. Ortiz scored a third-round knockout of Nalo Leal in his last bout on Nov. 6.

“He’s the type of guy who has to be set to punch,” O’Malley said. “But I’m not going to stand in front of him. I’m confident with my speed and my combinations I can take him apart.”

Credit sees openings in Ortiz’s aggressive style that O’Malley can exploit if he’s patient.

“Ortiz likes to come straight ahead and throw looping punches. We’ve been working on counterpunching with Martin just for that reason,” Credit said.

“We know (Ortiz) can punch. That’s why we want Martin to move more. If you stand in front of (Ortiz), he’ll get off some big shots. If Martin doesn’t get into a brawling match, he’ll come out with an easy victory.”

The winner assumes ownership of the vacant Northwest Boxing Association junior welterweight title. O’Malley emphasized that while regional belts carry little weight, they can be beneficial for future bookings.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said. “I’m looking forward to winning this fight and this belt and moving on to the next step.”

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