Roman Martinez out of Miguel Berchelt bout with hand injury

Junior lightweight world titleholder Roman "Rocky" Martinez suffered a left hand injury and withdrew Friday from his mandatory defense against Miguel Berchelt, Puerto Rico Best Boxing Promotions announced.

Martinez, 33, of Puerto Rico, was due to travel to Berchelt's hometown of Merida, Mexico, on Monday to defend against him March 12.

According to PR Best Boxing, Martinez (29-2-3, 17 KOs) was examined by Dr. Jose M. Santiago Figueroa, who diagnosed him with tendinitis in his left hand and recommended he rest it for four weeks.

"Definitely Rocky will not fight on March 12," PR Best Boxing vice president Peter Rivera said. "Rocky had a pain in the hand, and we went last week to see Dr. Santiago Figueroa, who specializes in hand injuries and is one of the best in Puerto Rico, and he prescribed some medication to Rocky. But the pain continued, and we went to see him again [Thursday]. After the evaluation, Dr. Santiago Figueroa gave him the diagnosis and advised him not to punch with that hand and rest for four weeks.

"As soon as the doctor notified us [Thursday], we talked with the people from Zanfer Promotions [Berchelt's promoter] to let them know of the situation and to work the possibility of a new date for the fight."

Martinez said there were a number of Puerto Rican fans who had made plans to travel to Mexico for the fight, which was to have been his second title defense of his third 130-pound title reign.

"I feel bad for all Puerto Rican fans, including some people who already had tickets to go to Mexico with us, but I had to be 100 percent and I could not disappoint my country fighting there injured," Martinez said. "Now I have to follow the instructions of the doctor and wait patiently until they give me the green light to train at a high level again. Everyone knows I'll be ready to return to the ring and defend my title when I recover."

Said Rivera: "Unexpected things happen, and fights fall through. It's better this way for Rocky, rest the hand and not punch. Let us hope that he does not have to undergo surgery. Rocky is a warrior. He wanted to go ahead with the fight but recognizes that for the sake of his career it's better to follow the doctor's recommendation. Everyone knows that Rocky does not shy away from opponents, so when it recovers, he will be ready for anyone."

Zanfer Promotions head Fernando Beltran said he hopes to find a substitute opponent for Berchelt (28-1, 25 KOs), 24, to fight March 12.

Last month Beltran won a purse bid for $215,000 for the right to promote the fight.

"It's a very unfortunate situation," Beltran said. "We, as winner of the auction, had fulfilled all that there was for us to do and had everything ready. Berchelt had an exceptional training camp for two months, and it will not be in vain."

Beltran said he hopes that a contender in the WBO rankings will agree to the fight on short notice and that the organization will sanction it for the interim world title. If the WBO does that, the winner of the fight will have to face Martinez upon his return.