Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Everett “Big Foot” Martin faced a virtual who’s who of boxing in the heavyweight division, in a professional career that spanned from 1984 to 2001. Bigfoot also may hold the all-time record for most heavyweight world champions faced, having faced 16 in his professional career, at one point facing 9 in a row!
He began his professional career as a light-heavyweight and cruiser-weight but competed as a heavyweight for most of his career, even though he was relatively small in stature for that division. Although he gave up size for most of his career and faced a murderer’s row of opposition, he was never knocked out and would only be stopped by T.K.O. several times during the tail-end of his career when he was already “tired and worn”.
“Big Foot” was a journeyman that would fight anyone, anywhere, many times with no training camp and on short notice, but still managed to always be competitive, and give the boxing fans an entertaining fight win, lose, or draw. He also held Olympic Champion Chuck Walker to a draw, beat Jesse Selby, Sherman Griffin, “Smoking” Bert Cooper, and Tim Witherspoon by decision, along with knocking down Micheal Moorer.
In an amazing professional career that took him all over the world, he faced many top contenders and champions including:
Jesse Shelby, Sherman Griffin, Olympic Champion Chuck Walker, Kevin Kelly, Vincent Boulware, Tony Willis, Bert Cooper, Johnny Du Plooy, Dwight Muhammad Qawi, George Foreman, Gary Mason, Pierre Coetzer, Francesco Damaini, Micheal Moorer, Riddick Bowe, Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tucker, Larry Holmes, Herbie Hide, Tony Tubbs, Lance Whitaker, Wladimir Klitschko, Danell Nicholson, Lamon Brewster, Fres Oquendo, Joe Hipp,James “Bonecrusher” Smith, Obed Sullivan, David Bostice, Siarhei Liakhovich, and Ruslan Chagaev!
Originally from Fifth Ward, he would later move to Houston’s South Park neighborhood, where he began learning to box first from his mother Mary Martin, who he described as a “tough, street fighting woman” and “Big Al” Alfred Leon Willis, who taught and trained neighborhood boys to box in parks, back yards, and anywhere in the neighborhood, especially in the courtyard of The Villa Americana Apartments. “Big Foot” said that “Big Al” and his mother taught him everything he needed to know in boxing and although he would work with other coaches in his professional career, he would always depend on what he learned from his mother and “Big Al” to get him through anything, along with his faith in God.
A big kid in his youth with a good heart, “Big Foot” hated to see smaller, weaker kids getting bullied in school and would defend them by telling their tormentors, “Hey man, what are you picking on him for, he’s just here doing what he has to do, just like you”. This would inevitably lead to fights with those same bullies and though he didn’t like fighting, backing down wasn’t an option on the streets of South Park and Fifth Ward. After getting in trouble at school for fighting but not necessarily at home since he was fighting to protect those being bullied, his mother decided he needed to box to keep him out of trouble and off the streets. This was when she brought him to “Big Al” Alfred Leon Willis to introduce him to amateur boxing.
“Big Foot” stated he didn’t like boxing initially but eventually became very good at it, partly because “Big Al’s Boxing Club” sparred in the Villa Americana Apartments courtyard and he “Didn’t want to look weak in front of all the homeboys”. He also said that once he started becoming proficient in boxing he began to see boxing as a way he could eventually take care of his family, which was a strong motivation for him. This outlook served “Big Foot” well as he became an elite amateur boxer, winning The Houston Golden Gloves, Open Division, Heavyweight Championship in 1981, 1982, and 1983.
I asked “Big Foot” what skills he learned from “Big Al” that enabled him to become known as one of the toughest, most fearless boxers to ever grace the ring and he said, “He first taught me how to stand correctly and on balance, then how to move in and out and side to side, to be in condition, how to remain calm in the ring, protect myself, control my breathing and punches, and to make my opponent fight how I wanted him to fight, not how he wanted to fight”
I met “Big Foot” only once before calling him today for a phone interview and I must add that he was very gracious about sharing information about his life in and out of boxing. Our interview eventually became more of a private conversation and as a lifelong participant, coach, and fan of boxing I asked him many questions as much as for my personal interests as for this article. One of the main things that intrigued me was how he was able to be competitive against all the contenders and champions he faced over the years without ever being knocked out or seriously injured. “Big Foot’s” response was simple and direct.
“The only reason to be scared of those guys would have been if they were able to hit me and hurt me and I wasn’t about to stand there and let them hit me without moving around and hitting them back, that’s why it’s called BOXING”.