Leotis Martin

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Leotis Martin
Real nameLeotis Martin
Nickname(s)Otis Lee
Height6 ft 0 12 in (1.84 m)
Reach76 in (193 cm)
NationalityUnited States American
Born(1939-03-10)March 10, 1939
Helena, Arkansas
DiedNovember 20, 1995(1995-11-20) (aged 56)
Boxing record
Total fights36
Wins by KO19

Leotis Martin (March 10, 1939 – November 20, 1995) was an American boxer, the first ever NABF heavyweight champion and is best known for his victory over former heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Martin was a good puncher and a fairly skilled heavyweight who fought from 1962 to 1969. He compiled a record of 31 wins (19 KOs) and 5 losses and in 2003 was named on The Ring's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. His career, however, was marked by inconsistency and bad luck.

Amateur career[edit]

Martin was the 1960 Chicago and Intercity Golden Gloves 160-pound champion and the 1961 160-pound Intercity Golden Gloves Champion (alternate). He also was the United States National AAU 165-pound champion in 1960 and 1961.

Professional career[edit]

From February 1964, when Martin fought on the Liston-Clay world heavyweight championship fight undercard, to June 1967, Martin fought 15 times without suffering a defeat. This winning streak qualified him for the WBA heavyweight elimination championship series, after the organization had stripped Muhammad Ali of its world heavyweight crown when he refused induction into the United States Army. But even this win streak was laced with hard luck, On May 10, 1965, he faced Sonny Banks, then one of only two fighters to have knocked Muhammad Ali down for a count. Martin scored a ninth-round knockout over Banks. Martin's jubilation was short lived. Banks never recovered from the blows he received during the fight and died from his injuries.

Although Martin was selected for the WBA title elimination tournament, he was matched, in his first fight, against the ultimate tournament winner Jimmy Ellis. The two fought in the Houston Astrodome on August 5, 1967. Ellis, as was his style at the time, came out sharp, trying to score an early knockout with his sneaky-fast and dangerous right hand. Although unable to knock Martin out, Ellis inflicted on the inside of Martin's mouth a nasty cut, which ultimately caused the fight to be stopped in the ninth round. Scoring was around even at that point. Many had predicted Martin might win the elimination series. Martin had campaigned for a contest with fellow Philadelphian Joe Frazier, but it never happened — mainly due to Martin's loss to Bonavena, who got the Frazier match instead.

Martin rebounded from the Ellis defeat by traveling to Germany to knock out German and European heavyweight champion Karl Mildenberger in seven rounds. Martin appeared to be back in contention for a title shot when he dropped a decision to California heavyweight Henry Clark (record 14-3-2). He then came back from that defeat to upset and knock out Thad Spencer in nine rounds. His title quest, however, again was derailed when Martin travelled to Argentina to meet Oscar Bonavena in his home town of Buenos Aires, where he lost by decision. Bonavena went on to fight Frazier for the world title.

After the Bonavena loss, Martin put together a four-fight win streak, including two wins over Detroit hometown favorite Al "Blue" Lewis. These fine efforts landed him a match with veteran former champion Sonny Liston on December 6, 1969. Liston had resumed boxing after his two stunning losses to Muhammad Ali, and had run off a winning streak of 14 fights with 13 knockouts. Although slowed by age, Liston was still a feared heavyweight.

Martin, who formerly had been Liston's sparring partner, devised a good fight plan. Rather than attempting to slug with the bigger and heavier Liston, Martin stayed away from him, boxing and waiting for the older man to tire. Despite a close call in the fourth round when Liston caught him with a booming left hook that knocked Martin down, the plan worked to perfection. With every passing round Martin seemed to get stronger while Liston weakened. Finally, in the ninth round, Martin hit Liston with a beautiful, powerful combination that knocked the former champion out cold. Fate, however, double-crossed Martin once again. He had suffered a detached retina during the fight, and was forced to retire before he could capitalize on the biggest win of his career.

After boxing[edit]

For the next 26 years Martin lived a quiet life in the Mount Airy section of Philadelphia. Early in 1995 he retired from Budd & Co. after 31 years as a machinist. In November that year Martin had a stroke brought on by hypertension and complications from diabetes, and died en route to a local hospital, aged 56.

Martin's death received little coverage in the boxing media.

Professional boxing record[edit]

31 Wins (19 knockouts), 5 Losses, 0 Draws[1]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Win 31–5 United States Sonny Liston KO 9 (12) 06/12/1969 United States International Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas Won vacant NABF heavyweight title. Martin was knocked down in round 4 and behind on points when he KOed Liston with a vicious right. Martin was forced to retire shortly afterwards, as he suffered a detached retina in this bout.
Win 30–5 United States Roger Russell UD 10 18/11/1969 United States Spectrum, Philadelphia
Win 29–5 The Bahamas Wendell Newton KO 7 (10) 28/10/1969 United States Blue Horizon, Philadelphia
Win 28–5 United States Alvin Lewis SD 10 26/02/1969 United States Detroit Olympia, Detroit
Win 27–5 United States Alvin Lewis TKO 9 (10) 26/11/1968 United States Detroit
Loss 26–5 Argentina Oscar Bonavena UD 10 07/09/1968 Argentina Estadio Luna Park, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Win 26–4 United States Thad Spencer TKO 9 (10) 28/05/1968 United Kingdom Royal Albert Hall, Kensington, London, England, United Kingdom
Loss 25–4 United States Henry Clark MD 10 27/04/1968 United States Coliseum Arena, Oakland, California
Win 25–3 Germany Karl Mildenberger KO 7 (12) 05/04/1968 Germany Festhalle, Frankfurt, Germany
Loss 24–3 United States Roger Russell SD 10 27/11/1967 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Loss 24–2 United States Jimmy Ellis TKO 9 (12) 05/08/1967 United States Astrodome, Houston Elimination Tournament for WBA Heavyweight title (Ellis-Martin/BonavenaMildenberger vs. QuarryPatterson/SpencerTerrell).
Win 24–1 United States Billy Daniels PTS 10 06/06/1967 United States Toledo, Ohio
Win 23–1 United States Lee Carr KO 2 (10) 29/05/1967 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 22–1 Trinidad and Tobago Ulric Regis TKO 5 (10) 29/05/1967 Trinidad and Tobago Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Win 21–1 South Africa Remington Dyanti TKO 3 (10) 26/02/1967 Sweden Baltiska Hallen, Malmö, Sweden Boxing News March 3, 1967
Win 20–1 Spain Mariano Echevarria RTD 3 (10) 03/02/1967 Sweden Gothenburg, Sweden Boxing News February 10, 1967.
Win 19–1 Peru Roberto Davila PTS 10 22/12/1966 Peru Lima, Peru
Win 18–1 United States Amos Johnson KO 3 (10) 05/12/1966 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 17–1 United States Von Clay PTS 8 06/12/1965 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 16–1 United States Curtis Bruce TKO 6 (10) 14/10/1965 United States Philadelphia
Win 15–1 United States Sonny Banks KO 9 (10) 10/05/1965 United States Arena, Philadelphia Banks dies of injuries sustained in this bout.
Win 14–1 United States Don Warner KO 1 (?) 19/04/1965 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 13–1 United States Earl Battles KO 3 (?) 29/03/1965 United States Philadelphia A.C., Philadelphia
Win 12–1 United States Dave Bailey PTS 8 22/02/1965 United States Philadelphia A.C., Philadelphia
Win 11–1 United States Dave Russell PTS 8 20/04/1964 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 10–1 Jamaica Allan Harmon PTS 6 25/02/1964 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida
Loss 9–1 United States Floyd McCoy KO 2 (8) 30/09/1963 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 9–0 United States Billy Johnson KO 1 (?) 22/07/1963 United States Convention Center, Las Vegas
Win 8–0 United States Johnny Alford PTS 6 24/06/1963 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida
Win 7–0 United States Frank Davis TKO 2 (?) 24/06/1963 United States Cambria A.C., Miami Beach, Florida
Win 6–0 United States Monte Monnie McCoy TKO 4 (6) 13/04/1963 United States Arena, Philadelphia
Win 5–0 United States Buddy Moore PTS 6 05/02/1963 United States Philadelphia
Win 4–0 United States Joe Washington PTS 6 18/12/1962 United States American Legion Arena, Reading, Pennsylvania
Win 3–0 German Hernandez KO 1 (?) 21/05/1962 United States Philadelphia
Win 2–0 United States Bob Rutherford KO 4 (?) 23/04/1962 United States Alhambra A.C., Philadelphia
Win 1–0 United States Bobby Warthem SD 4 26/01/1962 Canada Kenwick Terrace, Sarnia, Ontario, Canada


External links[edit]

Regional titles
New title NABF Heavyweight Champion
December 6, 1969 – February 2, 1970
Title next held by
Muhammad Ali