By Gjergj Kola
– The rare story of Viktor Martini, the undefeated boxer from Shkodra, who ended his career at the age of 20…!-
Memorie.al / He remain one of the prominent names of the sport of boxing in Shkodër, but also beyond. Unfortunately for him, the sport of boxing was stopped at his best age, when he was not yet 20 years old, but in fact he was already the champion of Albania with adults for two years. We are talking about Viktor Martini, the man who has stood out as a champion in the ring, as a trainer with many values, but is often left in oblivion. He was born in Shkodër on December 5, 1943. He started the sport of boxing by chance; however, he would become one of the best athletes in the country, with the data that characterized him. Unfortunately for him, this sport was stopped by the communist state of that time, when he was 20 years old and had just started to triumph in the Albanian arena. Viktor Martini, however, has something to say in an exclusive narrative, where he will tell us in detail the whole story of his life and sports career.
Mr. Viktor, how did you start the sport of boxing?
It was September of 1958 when I started this sport. I left one day from my house to “Arra e Madhe”, to go to the theater because there was an activity. I stopped on the way to the sports gym because I heard a noise. But this accidental stop would greatly affect my further career.
The local enterprise championship was taking place.
Gjovalin Çuni, former wrestler and well-known boxer, comes in front of me and asks me to get ready to enter the ring because one of those who had been programmed to be on his team had left unexpectedly. I was surprised by this request.
I had never boxed before. I didn’t even have the right clothes, but we made something up and they put me in the ring. The referee asked me: “Whose are you?” “To Nikoll Martin” – I answered, and the referee was also surprised by this answer. Actually, I should have said “I NIL Production”, the company I represented in this championship, but I didn’t know anything and I was wrong.
The referee went to Gjovalini and asked him why he had taken me because I was not in his company but Gjovoja, embarrassed, explained to him that he had missed an athlete and they had taken me to complete the number but, in fact, it turned out differently.
I won the first match, and then the second one, appearing in the final against a certain Cin Fati, much older, much fitter in body, and of course, everyone thought that Cin would win, but he didn’t happen like this. It’s been a terrible three rounds. A very strong duel, one punch, the other punch, and at the end, I saw the referee giving me his hand as the winner of the match, but I didn’t understand what was happening.
I was overwhelmed and didn’t know I had won.
As soon as I got off the ring, my brother came in front of me trying to hug me, but I fell with him because I couldn’t stand. I was so tired and although I was declared the winner, my opponent had beaten me badly. Let’s not forget that I was not yet 15 years old.
This was my first success in boxing. Actually, I didn’t enjoy this victory very much. I went home and was able to hide from my father, because my face was completely black. I tried to avoid him for some time, and I did not leave the house for 10 days in a row.
But Gjovalin Çuni, together with another friend, came to my house and brought me 1,500 ALL (new) that I had received as a reward for this success in this local championship. That ALL gave me joy because they were almost my father’s monthly salary and the first money I put in my pocket. However, I had no desire to take up boxing. I didn’t even think of such a thing, but the opposite happens.
How did you get back into boxing?
In Shkodër, the youth boxing team, led by Shpresim Bregut, would gather to participate in the national championship of this age group, which was held in Tirana. The coach of this team, Shpresim Bregu, together with Gjovalin Çun, would one day come to the “Ndoc Mazi” school where I was a student and they met me, asking me to join the team to participate in the championship.
I did not accept on the pretext that I was at school and they did not allow me. But both of them, unbeknownst to me, had gone to the school director, Doneta Baba, and filled her mind. The director calls me and tells me that I am free to go to Tirana for the championship. I was stunned because, willy-nilly, I went to the championship.
Did you have an obstacle from your family?
Again I didn’t tell the truth. I told my father that I’m going to Tirana with the school, for some athletic competitions, and he didn’t stop me. We arrived there and Ramiz Halili stayed with me the whole time. He was older and told me: “This is so-and-so”, “This is the champion”, etc., etc.
Of course, I didn’t really know what the real boxing matches were and I said “I beat this one”, “I have a problem with this one”, etc. I played the first match in my career against Bujar Labinot of the “Partizan” team. I felt superior and won the match. In the second, I was drawn against a Vlonjat boxer, but I beat him too.
People began to marvel at my victories, even though I knew nothing about boxing! Neither how to sit in the ring, nor how to walk, because I never had the chance to learn them in training. On the third day, I met Dhori Gërnjot. I beat him so easily that even his father, the great Rafael Dishnica, who was the coach of the Korčar team, was surprised.
I won three more matches, six in total, and thus I was declared champion of Albania with the youth, in the weight up to 42 kg. It’s 1958 and this is my first success. An unprecedented emotion, especially since I also received a reward of 3 thousand ALL.
How did the family receive this success of yours?
It was something random. Xhevdet Elbasani, a well-known ex-wrestler of “Vllaznia”, had the newspaper in his hand, where it was written about my success, with the title: “Viktor Martini, the future of Albanian boxing” and after seeing my father, he said: “O Nikol, come see what the newspaper wrote”!
The father, not knowing what was written, approaches and when he reads it, crosses himself and is surprised because he didn’t know that his son was involved in boxing and, even more so, he was declared the champion of Albania. He came home and of course he yelled at me quite a bit because I had lied to him, but after this moment, he didn’t bother me anymore.
How did your career continue after that?
In fact, after returning from Tirana, where I became champion, I didn’t go to training because, again, I didn’t want to play sports, despite having learned that I was a promising boxer, and the newspapers had already written about me.
However, one day my mind was full and I went to the gym to meet my friends, but they embarrassed me, telling me that; I had become arrogant because I had become the champion, that’s why I didn’t go to training. They changed my mind and from that moment on, I got serious about the sport of boxing. I learned proper technique, I learned tactics and everything I needed for my career.
Who was part of the team at that time?
11 sportsmen were part of the team, but I would single out some of them, especially Ramiz Halil, who was also the champion, Ibrahim Ramën, Gjovalin Çunin, Pjetër Gjergjin, Hashim Nurjen, etc. Our coach was Shpresim Bregu.
Would you be declared champion a year later, in 1959?
Unfortunately not, but not for my poor form. In the 1959 championship, I lost in the finals to Xhemal Gramllesh of “Partizan”, an unfair loss because I had boxed better than my opponent and deserved the victory, but the referee gave it to him. I was very upset.
I cried for 3 hours straight after that match because I was convinced that I had been treated unfairly. Even everyone else who had seen the match had this opinion.
Strangely, your name also appears on the list of the “Vllaznia” team, participating in the First National Spartakiad that took place that same year. How were you allowed to participate?
A bit strange because the rule was that under the age of 19, you could not participate, while I had not yet turned 16. I don’t know how they allowed me but, of course, Rexhep Rama, who was the head of sports at that time, who loved me so much, “closed one eye” and let me.
I took the third place in the weight up to 51 kg, giving some points to the team. In the finals of this Spartakiad, I remember that Ramiz Halili and Fadil Efovija took first place.
In 1960, would you be back as junior champion again?
Seeing how they lost the title to me in 1959, the year after, I prepared hard. I developed an intense training because I wanted to not lose again, also calculating the favors that the referees could give to my opponents.
The 1960 junior and Senior Championship was played in a round-robin format from May to November, with matches every Sunday, and it was a good year because I won all the matches, taking the slang money all.
When did you spend time with adults?
In 1961, I was immediately declared champion. I repeated this in the championship of 1962, being announced for the second time in a row, champion of Albania, these titles would be the only ones, because this sport would be discontinued.
The 1962 championship had another special one because I was declared the best boxer. I won in the final against Ramiz Reka of “Partizan”, who was the current champion. I beat him easily. I threw him in the ring, I took him again myself because I wanted to continue the match, but after 2-3 times, he couldn’t continue anymore and I won.
I remember Rexhep Rama, who shouted: “I’m sorry, this is a boxer”. They were beautiful years and part of “Vllaznia” in these years, there were also well-known boxers such as: Mark Pishkashi, Mikel Vila, Ndoc Gjoni, Ymer Gruda (who was also champion), while we had Shyqyri Halil as a coach.
How did you get to “Partizani”?
It was 1963. It was time to go to the army and I was sent to Korça, but “Partizani” drew me to Tirana. I played only one match with this team, which I lost in Durrës because I broke my jaw in the Spartakiad of the Army.
That same year, the state decided not to allow the practice of this sport anymore, considering it dangerous. A big pledge because I had not yet turned 20 years old and had just started my career, even taking the first championship titles.
Have you ever been drafted into the national team?
Unfortunately, not. Once there was an invitation to the “Vllaznia” club, someone was interested in not taking me to the national team, and for this reason, they made a gathering at a tourist spot. This was told to me later by Injac Lacuku, the inspector of the “Vllaznia” club at that time.
Even the coach of the national team, Ali Kastrati, who was also the coach of “Partizan”, did not have much desire because he wanted to take Ramiz Reka, who had his athlete. My failure to join the national team probably came from my biography.
Were you one of those athletes with a “bad biography”?
Yes, I was one of them. My uncle – Col. Martini, was sentenced to 12 years in political prison and I also suffered from this. In 1963, when I was part of “Partizan”, we gathered and got ready to participate in a tour, in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Of the 10 athletes who were supposed to participate, only 3 went, namely Ramiz Sadushi, Martin Çeta and Hysen Sharra. The rest of us, myself included, suffered for one reason or another.
Who were the best boxers of “Vllaznia” in your period?
I would single out Fadil Efovija, but as far as his boxing style is concerned, I was amazed by Ramiz Halili, who did a beautiful boxing.
After closing boxing, why didn’t you continue your career with another sport?
I didn’t really want to. I only tried wrestling for a few days, but I wasn’t into that sport. My great passion was boxing and when it closed, it all ended.
However, in 1991, with the advent of Democracy, he was among the first to commit to the revival of boxing, right?
Of course. It was up to us former boxers to be the first. Together with Shyqyri Halil, Zef Gjon, Ramiz Halil, Fadil Efovija, Toni Dema, Kolec Ashiku, Kujtim Demi, etc., we took the initiative to re-raise the sport of boxing and we succeeded. Shkodra had to say its word and it did, in the best possible way.
For several years you worked as a coach at “Vllaznia”. Why did you decide to give up training?
I worked from 1991 to 2004, but even in these years with breaks, for various reasons, and in the end I decided to give up, precisely at the age of 61, when in fact I had something to give to this sport again.
Who are the best athletes that have come out of your hands?
I would single out two of them, Besnik Gjetjen and Sead Bushati, two champion sportsmen, without leaving aside other very high-quality names. /Memorie.al