Boxing: Martinez insists belt 'on loan' to Irish rivals
SPAIN'S Kiko Martinez has warned Ireland's Willie Casey and Paul Hyland that whoever wins the European super-bantamweight title in Limerick next month will only have the continental strap on loan.
Martinez, who first claimed the European crown with a sensational win over Bernard Dunne in 2007, was slated to defend the belt against Limerick's Casey at the University of Limerick on November 6.
But a rib injury has forced the Spaniard to vacate the title, meaning that Dubliner Hyland, the current EU and Irish champion, will now meet Casey in the first ever all-Irish European title fight.
However, Martinez will be given a shot at the winner, and the Alicante-born knockout artist says he will be returning to Ireland to reclaim the belt.
"I'm very disappointed that I won't be able to defend the title but the rib injury left me in too much pain and it was even hard to breathe," said Martinez.
"I know that Casey has trained hard for his chance and Hyland was the number one challenger, so it was only fair that I vacate the belt.
"They need to remember that it will only be on loan, I will definitely be coming to Ireland to take it back again."
Meanwhile, Prizefighter champ Casey, nicknamed 'Big Bang', says that the late change of opponent won't impact on his focus ahead of the biggest fight of his career in his home town.
"Nothing has changed for me," insisted the Shannonsider. "I'm still fighting for the European title in my home town on November 6 and all that matters is leaving the ring with that belt around my waist.
"Paul's an excellent boxer and he presents a different challenge to Kiko but I'll have a game plan for the fight. I've worked so hard for this and made the sacrifices you need to make to succeed at European level."
Irish Independent Sport Star Awards
Pick our magic sports moment of the year and win a trip for two to London. To view the shortlist and cast your vote click here.