Serving And Boxing For Her Country Is A ‘Big Responsibility’ For Sierra Martinez
by Steve Drumwright
Living in Colorado Springs, Colorado, there are plenty of ways to escape from all the pressures of daily life.
For 20-year-old Sierra Martinez, that means taking hikes.
“I like to go out and see nature,” Martinez said. “I think it fills my mind most of the time. It’s a big recovery thing for me also, because I believe recovery is not just for your body, but your mind as well. It just soothes my mind. Very peaceful.”
Martinez, USA Boxing’s 2020 Boxer of the Year, is hoping to take some triumphant hikes after this week. The native of Providence, Rhode Island, is putting her mind and body to the test at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Boxing in Lafayette, Louisiana. Martinez is seeded No. 2 at 57 kg. in the women’s field and faces Elise Soto in a quarterfinal bout Thursday. The semifinals are Friday, followed by the championships in all weight classes for men and women on Saturday.
The women’s 57 kg. winner this week will then square off with Alyssa Mendoza in a January selection camp. Whoever is picked then will need to go to a world qualifier in March in order to advance to the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
While Martinez feels like she is in a good spot with her training entering the Olympic trials, her 2023 has been a little uneven. She joined the Army about a year ago and is part of the World Class Athlete Program. In becoming part of the Army’s boxing team, Martinez had to adjust to new philosophies.
“Training camp has been great,” Martinez said. “It pushed me more, especially having new teammates. We all do it together, so it’s like motivation.”
However, there have been challenges too. Some of the training introduced new concepts to Martinez that were like “nothing I’ve seen before,” she said.
“So I was trying to implement what they’re telling me, to put into my style,” she said. “It took me a couple of tournaments just to get used to what they’re telling me.”
The results have been mostly positive. Following basic training, Martinez won the Beautiful Brawlers International Tournament in February, then took third place at the Olympic Trials Qualifier in March before winning at the USA Boxing Summer Festival in June.
“This year has been busy,” Martinez said. “There’s also been a lot of ups and downs.”
One of those downs could be rectified this week. Martinez lost a split decision to Deborah Grant in the semifinals of the Olympic Trials Qualifier. Grant is the No. 1 seed this week, and the two could potentially meet in Saturday’s title bout.
“I think she’s a great fighter. I’m not going to knock anything from her, but we did meet in Detroit and I did lose to her in a tiebreaker,” Martinez said. “I won the first two rounds, but they were close. So the last one, I guess the judge that I needed didn’t give it to me.”
Martinez comes from a boxing family, with her dad really introducing her to the sport.
“My dad just put me in the gym, just to lose a couple pounds and keep me active,” Martinez said. “I ended up having my first sparring match and from there just never stopped.”
Martinez noted her love kept her boxing.
“I just grew to love it,” Martinez said. “I’m very competitive, so the competitiveness I think kept me in the sport. I’m just super-competitive, and once I found out I was this competitive, I never wanted to stop.”
Something else that runs in the family is being in the military, which is why she enlisted in the Army. She is a private who is an automated logistical specialist. But while she’s boxing, the World Class Athlete Program shifts her responsibilities to the sports side instead of the military portion.
“I like being able to represent my country on both sides, the boxing side and also the Army side as well,” Martinez said. “I also grew up in a military family, so it wasn’t hard to make that adjustment. Not only that, knowing that the military is going to support my love for the game and being able to succeed in my Olympic dream while serving my country, that is a big thing.
“Not a lot of people get to say I served my country while also representing my country in a sport. I have a big responsibility on my back to go out and represent my country on both platforms.”
Martinez is now hoping those platforms can take her to Paris for next year’s Olympics.
“A dream come true — and I know I can do it,” Martinez said. “I know it’s not impossible. Right now, my weight class is wide open, so I’m just ready to show everyone what I came here to do and what I’ve been doing. It’s really nothing new. I just need to show it, that’s all.”