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Fight Night: Riel Martinez wins main event

Nelson event saw ten rounds of amateur boxing
Riel Martinez from the Nelson Boxing Club has his hand raised in victory following his unanimous decision win over East Vancouver’s Nathan Dizon at Fight Night 13 held at Nelson’s Rod and Gun Club on May 11, 2024. The event was dedicated to the memory of Martinez’s brother Elias, a former member of the boxing club, who died unexpectedly in last October. Photo: Louis Bockner

by Louis Bockner

In a back storage room of the Nelson Rod and Gun Club, Jesse Pineiro silently wraps the hands of boxer Riel Martinez in preparation for a main event fight ahead. They’ve done this ritual many times, 57 to be exact, and at this point words are no longer needed. Pineiro, the coach of the Nelson Boxing Club, is wearing a white T-shirt with a blue, green and red stylized picture of Elias Martinez, Riel’s brother, fighting on it. The words “Team Martinez Forever” are written across the top.

Fight Night 13, which featured 10 bouts of amateur boxing, took place on May 11 and saw clubs come from as far as Edmonton and Vancouver. The night was dedicated to Elias, a national silver medalist and four-time provincial champion for the Nelson Boxing Club, who died last October, just shy of his 20th birthday.

“This is the first [fight night] since he passed away,” said Pineiro, “and I just wanted to honour him because this is a place where he provided so much inspiration for so many people.”

Nathan Dizon (left) from Hidden City Boxing in East Vancouver faces off against Riel Martinez from the Nelson Boxing Club during the main event at Fight Night 13 held at the Rod and Gun Club on May 11, 2024. Martinez won via unanimous decision. Photo: Louis Bockner

Before the fights began, Pineiro spoke to the crowd about Elias, the model boxer and human he was, and how much he meant to the Nelson boxing community.

“He boxed beautifully in this very room so many times for us. His brother is fighting in the main event and we’re going to have a ten count for him because I know he’s here with us.”

After Pineiro left the ring an official struck the round bell ten measured times before the nearly sell- out crowd cheered and applauded.

The fights began with Nelson’s Matt Brown winning a unanimous decision over Cody Lam from Hidden City Boxing in East Vancouver. The second fight saw Fernie’s Luther Sawatzky beat Nelson’s Jack Dool via unanimous decision while Zachary Cuff of Edmonton emerged victorious over Salmon Arm’s Jayce Minchuck by a coach’s stoppage.

Jesse Pineiro, head coach of the Nelson Boxing Club, offers some advice between rounds during Fight Night 13, held at the Rod and Gun Club on May 11, 2024. Photo: Louis Bockner

The fourth fight saw Nelson’s Sabian Smith win a close, blood-filled split decision over Edmonton’s Hamdaan Ahsan followed by a unanimous decision for Edmonton’s Seth Schreiber over East Vancouver’s Gino Ramos.

The only exhibition fight of the night had Nelson’s Porter Hansen square off against Edmonton’s Matthew Gear. This friendly affair was followed up by the final fight of the first half where Nelson’s Jaxon Zaytsoff won a heavy-handed unanimous decision over Edonton’s Oliver Mcluskie.

While roundcard girls were a presence at some of the first Nelson Fight Nights, the club has since ditched them in favour of an intermission dance break featuring Slava Doval’s Dance Fusion. The ring rocked and bounced as three hip hop dances were performed by teachers and students from one of Nelson’s most iconic dance studios.

As fans settled in after getting a chance to grab a taco or beer from the concession, Nelson’s first National Champion, Milane D’aurelie, lost a close split decision to Amber Jane Wall from Kelowna. The ninth fight of the night brought the only referee stoppage of the evening after Nelson’s Torin Edmonds overpowered Edmonton’s Kaiden Atkinson.

Jesse Pineiro, head coach of the Nelson Boxing Club, wraps the hands of Riel Martinez prior to his fight at Fight Night 13 at the Nelson Boxing Club on May 11, 2024. The night of amateur boxing was dedicated to Riel’s brother Elias, a former boxer for the club, who passed away unexpectedly in October of 2023. Photo: Louis Bockner

This left only the main event with Riel Martinez stepping into the ropes of the red corner to face off against Nathan Dizon from East Vancouver. Riel, who won his first provincial championship only four days after his brother’s passing, said that every fight he has had since the tragedy has been for Elias. “Before he died I told him I would go to the Olympics for him. I made a promise and I’m going to do it.”

The first two rounds were tight affairs with Riel seeming happy to box defensively while using quick counter punches to send his opponent back. By the third round the tide had shifted. Riel became the aggressor, the ring shaking as the two fighters moved across the canvas as the crowd who, sensing the momentum swing, began swelling into a fervour. Their shouts of encouragement filled the room as Dizon seemed to falter, unable to match the rising energy of his opponent. Riel, it appeared, was finding a strength outside of himself.

After both fighters released a final flurry of punches, the piercing sound of the bell rang out, cutting through the screams of the crowd. Riel, on a night dedicated to the memory of his brother and family, emerged victorious, winner by unanimous decision.


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