Against All Odds

Against All Odds

by Everlast
“Losing only happens if you give up. That is the only way.” Two-weeks before his professional debut, then 19-year-old amateur boxer, Fransonet “Jinji” Martinez, woke up in a hospital bed confused and scared. That day, the journey changed but the goal and the drive never wavered.

Fransonet grew up in Lancaster, PA, a place more known for its large Amish population riding through town on horse and buggy than for its sports stars. He was one of three children to a father who had a reputation for being a fighter. Tough but fair is how Jinji describes his dad, “My father was the type that if he was working and you were standing around with your hands in your pockets, you were done. He always wanted us to work harder than anyone else, especially when it came to boxing.”

Jinji started his boxing journey going to the gym a few times a week, hitting the heavy bag, working a little cardio but mostly goofing off, not really taking it seriously. But, as his natural abilities began to take over so did his love for the sport. He began training harder and longer, eventually setting his sights on turning professional. At 19, his trainer said he was ready and the match was made. Jinji was scheduled for his first fight as a professional boxer.

Unfortunately, as they say, life is what happens when you’re off making plans. One late night, two-weeks before his debut, a friend of his showed up at Jinji’s door looking for a sympathetic ear to bend. Jinji was much younger than his friend but he had become a sort of soundboard for the man, helping him through various dark times in his life. It had been another tough night for the man and so the two got into Jinji’s car and set out on their typical route around town for some deep and discovering conversation. Then the crash.

The next thing Jinji remembers is waking up to the smell of blood and grinded metal all mixing together in the air. Faint sounds of paramedics using the jaws of life to rip open the car like a can opener between screams from his family now on the scene. He eventually succumbed to the pain and drifted off not waking up until hours later in the hospital.

When he awoke Jinji was confronted with harsh realities that would break even the strongest of people. “I remember waking up tubes coming out of everywhere, casts, machines I’ve never seen before and I couldn’t feel my leg. I pulled back the sheet and was confronted with my worst fears.” Jinji had lost so much so quickly. His left leg amputated above the knee, his right leg fractured in 19 different places, more cuts and lacerations than he could count and on top of all this, his friend in the passenger seat had passed away from internal injuries. He quickly looked around the room for a familiar face, his father’s. “I remember looking around the room trying to find my dad. We locked eyes and I just started crying. I asked, ‘Why? Why did this happen?’” As his father had done through tough times when Jinji was a child, he replied, “What you crying for? Nothing happened, you know what it’s like to push hard through obstacles and this is just another obstacle that you will get through.”

At first boxing was far from his mind. Doctors had told Jinji that he would never walk again let alone box. “The fear of possibly never holding and running with my kids again was overwhelming. Maybe I couldn’t be the father, the son, the friend, the husband that I always wanted to be.” Getting back was going to be tough but as he always had done before Jinji was ready to accept the challenge.

He received a prosthetic leg and began working at his recovery. One step turned into many. Short strolls turned into long walks and eventually Jinji was comfortable enough with his prosthetic to get back in the gym. “My dad taught me how to work. Things are not just given they are earned. I was ready to earn my life back.”

It was a long road of learning and proving to himself and the sanctioning bodies of boxing that he was fit to fight. Despite the way his new leg looked he could still step in the ring against fully able bodied fighters and not just hold his own but be the aggressor and push the pace. At first he was met with much resistance, “Nobody wanted to fight an amputee because they either felt bad or just didn’t want to lose to a guy with one leg.” That was until April 21, 2018, when a boxer by the name of Seth Gaitin would step up and take the fight.

Emotions were running high. Jinji was going to be the first above the knee amputee to get into the ring against a fully able bodied competitor. But just as he had always been, Jinji was going in with confidence, “I’m not worried about my leg. If he’s worried about it then he’s in trouble cause it’s my hands that are gonna hurt ya.”

After the final bell rung, after all the hard work, all the hours in the gym, all the sacrifices, Jinji stood victorious and became the first ever amputee above the knee to defeat a fully able bodied boxer under USA Boxing rules.

Since his victory Jinji continues to inspire through his work at Jinji Boxing Gym, located in his home town of Lancaster, PA. Opening his doors to countless fighters who like him have a dream for greatness. “Im not here to give up I’m here to do what I was meant to do. I want to use my disability as an ability to inspire others and show them that if I can do it, they can do it too.”

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