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© Copyrighted photo by WBAN Senior Editor Brian Ackley


5'9" heavyweight Martha "The Shadow" Salazar was born on February 2 1970 in San Francisco, California.

She has been boxing professionally since 2001.  She began her competitive career as a kickboxer but found it too difficult to get fights with women her own size. Her current trainer, Danovis (Dee) Pooler, heard about Salazar from other trainers at the gym, so he sparred with her one night. “I was able to hit her and pick my shots a bit,” Pooler says. He added that Salazar thought Pooler had broken her nose, and got angry after that. “Then she introduced me to some skills … and then I got beat up. That’s when I knew what I was getting myself into. Oh, so that’s who Martha is!”

She made her pro debut on March 25, 2001 at Centeniial Hall in Hayward, California, weighing in at 237 lbs and winning a four-round unanimous decision over fellow debut fighter Denise Callahan (278 lbs) of  North Carolina.

On June 22, 2002 at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington, Martha (242½ lbs) won a four-round unanimous decision over Carley Pesente (215 lbs) od Connecticut who fell to 3-3-0 with this loss. Salazar used her strong overhand right to keep Pesente off balance for most of the bout and held off a late rally by Pesente.

On September 21, 2002, again at the Emerald Queen Casino, Martha  (240½ lbs) won a four-round rematch with Carley Pesente (216 lbs) by a shutout 40-3 decision. Pesente fell to 3-4-1.

On October 20, 2002 again at the Emerald Queen in Tacoma, Martha (241½ lbs) won a four-round unanimous decision over debut fighter Tanisha Dunn (5' 7½", 210¾ lbs) of Cincinnatti, Ohio.

On November 16, 2002 at the Mare island Sports Arena in Vallejo, California, Martha won a six-round unanimous decision over 5'10" Kisha Snow of Brooklyn, New York. This was a hard fought slugfest with very little defense by either fighter according to one correspondent. Another writes "this was a six-round war; the crowd was standing from 30 seconds into the first round throughout the rest of the fight. Both fighters came out swinging from the bell throughout the 6th rounds. Kisha was stunned in the 5th round. The ref asked her if she wanted to keep going and she said yes. The sixth round they let them go. Definitely the fight of the night."

On March 1, 2003 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, Martha (230 lbs) suffered her first pro defeat, by a four-round split decision to Vonda Ward (6'6", 179 lbs) of Macedonia, Ohio, who improved to 16-0-0.  One judge scored the fight 39-37 for Salazar, but the other two saw it the other way by identical scores. Ward started well and most observers say she wo the first round but she was bloodied and very seriously tested by Salazar in this bout, which had been reduced from an expected six rounds to four rounds at the last moment. Salazar was stymied by Ward's trademark jab at first, but her hefty looping (but well-timed) overhand rights were a big threat to Ward as the fight progressed. Ward took one of these rights on the temple near the end of the third round and looked stunned. Salazar stepped up the pressure in the final round and hurt Ward with several more big rights, but Ward's control of the early rounds had earned her the decision on two cards. Ward had been training to face Carlette Ewell and then Valerie Mahfood, who was unable to get away from her job as a prison guard in Texas. "I was training for someone about 175 pounds," said Ward, who got a 30-day suspension from the Nevada commission because she had trouble walking after the bout. "I've got a lot to learn," said Ward. "Maybe we'll do a rematch."  Salazar moved well and had good timing and hand speed, and she might have pulled off the win over the lanky and more athletic-looking Ward in a longer bout. Salazar slipped to 5-1-0 (0 KO).

“How is it that Vonda wins that fight but then collapses? The Nevada State Athletic Commission went in her dressing room and gave her a 30 day suspension. I am the one who supposedly lost the fight and I didn’t have a mark on me,” said Salazar.

On May 24, 2003 at the Solano County Fairgrounds in Vallejo, California, Martha (237 lbs) TKO'd Carley Pesente (224 lbs) at the end of the second round of a scheduled four-rounder. Both came out throwing thunderous shots and it looked like a rerun of their first two fights as they fought toe to toe for most of the first round.  In the second Pesente cornered Salazar and appeared to be making a spirited effort to finish her off when something clicked and Salazar rattled off at least eight straight rights to Pesente's head. Pesente finished the round despite being hurt but her corner
realized that it was not her night and threw in the towel. Pesente fell to 3-6-1 with the loss.

Vonda Ward vs. Martha Salazar
© Copyrighted photo by WBAN Senior Editor Brian Ackley

On July 11, 2003 at Memorial Civic Center in Canton, Ohio, Vonda Ward (188 lbs) advanced to 18-0-0 (15 KO) with a clear unanimous (99-91,98-92,97-93) ten-round decision over Martha (234 lbs). With her IBA Heavyweight title on the line, Ward controlled most of this rematch by boxing from the outside while the shorter, heavier Salazar tried to work inside with overhand rights and left hooks. Ward used her reach and jab to set up the early action but Salazar began to get to her in the fifth, landing a series of punches to the head with Ward against the ropes. After the fight, Ward admitted that she was in trouble in the fifth, but she recovered her composure and went on to control the late-round action. ``I could tell (Salazar) was tired. After I didn't go down, I think that deflated her" said Ward. Salazar fell to 6-2-0 (1 KO), both of her losses coming to Ward.

“Vonda told me after the fight that I hit her harder than anyone’s ever hit her and I know that’s true", says Salazar. "Some of her friends came over and told me I won that fight. Even her mother came and told me it was a great fight. They’re nice people over there in Canton, Ohio. Very nice. Too bad that next time I go there, I’ll be putting that girl on the floor.”

On March 18, 2004 at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez, California, Canadian-born Marsha Valley (183½ lbs)  of Los Angeles won a six round split (58-56,56-58,58-56) decision over Salazar (239 lbs).  Valley improved her record to 10-8-4 (4 KO's) with this win.

On October 16, 2004 at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, California, Martha (237 lbs) avenged this loss with a eight-round unanimous decision over Marsha Valley (181 lbs) for the vacant WBE Super Heavyweight title.

On November 28, 2004 at Splashmin's Fun Park and Resort in Georgetown, Guyana, Martha (240 lbs) TKO'd Pamela London (210 lbs) of Guyana at 1:19 in the ninth round of a scheduled ten-rounder for the vacant WBF Heavyweight title.

Martha Salazar vs. Kathy Rivers
Copyrighted photo courtesy Team Salazar

On April 2, 2005 at the Oakland Arena in Oakland, California, Martha (236½ lbs) won an eight-round unanimous decision over Kathy Rivers (198½ lbs) of Woonsocket, Rhode Island defending her WBE Super Heavyweight title in the card's semi-main event. Referee Marty Sammon said of the fight: “These women can teach the men how to fight. There wasn’t one clinch in eight rounds.”  Rivers had been in trouble in the first round, but fought on and forced Salazar to settle for the unanimous decision. Salazar’s strength and skill dominated the fight despite a gutsy effort from Rivers.  When Rivers straightened up, Salazar connected with looping hooks but when Rivers leaned forward, she was met with devastating right uppercuts. From the sixth round on, Salazar also began to follow the uppercuts with hard left crosses that would have put away lesser opponents. Salazar appeared to be going for the knockout in the final round, landing heavily with both hands, but Rivers took these shots and fired back her own, bringing the fans to their feet for a standing ovation at the final bell. Rivers fell to 13-5-2 (5 KO) with the loss.

On July 21, 2005 at Arco Arena in Sacramento, California, Martha
stopped Marsha Valley at 1:49 seconds of the
fourth round in a scheduled six rounder. Marsha Valley fell to 10-12-4 (4 KOs).  

On November 17, 2005 at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Martha (223 lbs) won a six-round unanimous decision over Marsha Valley (177 lbs), who fell to 10-13-4 (4 KOs).

On February 10, 2007 at the Wolstein Center in Cleveland, Ohio Vonda Ward (182½ lbs) returned to the ring to win a majority (97-93,97-93,95-95) decision over Martha (234½ lbs)  and became the new WBC and WIBA Heavyweight champion. Martha fell to 11-4-0 (3 KO's) while Vonda Ward improved to 22-1-0 (17 KOs).

“She’s not your ordinary female,”
says Doc Conway after sparring with Martha at Fairtex Gym in Daly City, California  “She hits as hard as a guy. She could probably knock out most guys. I think it’s good work for me -- I’m not ashamed of it.”

“She is the hardest working fighter I have,” said trainer Pooler.  “I find female fighters are very loyal to the workout."

Salazar says she is happy to travel, to meet new people and to be in the center of the ring with a crowd cheering for her. And no matter how physical the sport is, boxing is more of a thinking game for Salazar.  “It’s like a game of chess,” she told Christine Yee of Xpress Magazine in April 2004, "you don’t know what’s going to happen. You’re always thinking about what the opponent is going to do. … Even if the other person doesn’t know how to fight, one lucky shot and that’s it. You’re done.”

“We’re not like the guys where we’re making all these millions of dollars. It’s going to take awhile, but we’re getting there. … We’re going to keep on pushing and pushing,” she says. “That’s why I love San Francisco and America, because you can just try anything and push yourself and just see what happens.”

Martha Salazar is now looking ahead to her third fight with Vonda Ward, at the ARCO arena in Sacramento on May 27, 2005

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Page last updated: Friday November 06, 2015


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