Junior featherweight titlist Jonathan "Momo" Romero worked hard to win his belt. But as focused as he was on reaching his goal of winning it, he said he is just as focused on keeping it.
"This is what boxers work towards," Romero, of Colombia, said through a translator. "We all want to be champions, but defending what we worked so hard for is the best kind of challenge to embrace. I have the same motivation and focus going into this fight as I have had for others, but getting this victory will prove to everyone that I have staying power in the junior featherweight division."
Romero will make his first title defense against former European champion Kiko Martinez on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the Revel Casino-Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J., in the co-feature of the card headlined by middleweight titlist Daniel Geale's defense against Darren Barker.
The big break for Romero to fight for a title came after Nonito Donaire vacated a version of the 122-pound world title last fall. Eventually, the 26-year-old Romero (23-0, 12 KOs) squared off with Mexico's Alejandro Lopez for the vacant belt. They met Feb. 16 in Tijuana, Mexico and Romero, despite being on the road, won a split decision.
Now he faces Martinez (28-4, 20 KOs), 27, of Spain, the former three-time European champion, whose third reign came to an end via ninth-round knockout loss to Carl Frampton of Northern Ireland on Feb. 9.
Martinez -- promoted by middleweight champion Sergio Martinez (no relation) -- rebounded from the loss to Frampton by scoring a second-round knockout of Damian David Marchiano on April 27 in Argentina on the undercard of Sergio Martinez's homecoming defense against Martin Murray.
"I know he has a lot of power in either hand so we will have to watch out for that," Romero said of Martinez. "He's a worthy opponent that is looking to knock me down, but I'm not going to let that happen."