by Fox Doucette
Vanes Martirosyan fights Ryan Davis this Saturday. All I can say to that is “what a disappointment.” Because this is now the Armenian’s 33rd pro fight, and despite calling out Saul Alvarez and insisting in an interview with your columnist here at the Tribune last year that Alfredo Angulo couldn’t handle him, Martirosyan has yet to fight anyone who would suggest a graduation for him from prospect (he’s 26) into genuine contender status.
It all looked to go so well for him at first; he fought a collection of good-but-not-great fighters, avoiding blatantly soft touches without getting thrown to the wolves too soon. Billy Lyell, Harrison Cuello, a way-past-his-prime Kassim Ouma, Willie Lee. Serviceable, decent pro fighters who weren’t going to be world-beaters. Last June, Martirosyan captured the WBC Silver belt from Saul Roman in a fight that was supposed to be the first of two eliminator bouts to make the Armenian the mandatory challenger to El Canelo’s title.
Martirosyan then proceeded to duck anyone who would’ve allowed him to capitalize on that success. He’s timid in the face of Alfredo Angulo. He ducked Erislandy Lara. He fought Richard Gutierrez and Troy Lowry, the latter of whom came into the fight with a 2-8 record in his last ten but who was deemed worthy by the WBC to fight for the Silver belt in question. If anything, Martirosyan has been backsliding in his career, cruising without moving forward.
Your columnist has a theory as to why; the Armenian community is as close-knit in Glendale, California, as it is in Yerevan. One really has to wonder if it’s about getting a title shot for Vanes and his hangers-on. It might just be about playing at being a pro fighter, living the life and reaping the monetary rewards of “hey, we have an unbeaten guy for your fight card, a good draw with a fanbase.”
The choice of venue for Martirosyan’s fights hasn’t suggested anything too blatantly local, nothing nearly as bad as the stuff Groupe Yvon Michel puts out in Montreal, where anyone not in the GYM stable is fed to a set of judges only marginally more objective than one of Stalin’s Soviet military tribunals during the Great Purge. He fought Roman in Los Angeles (on the undercard of the Chavez-Zbik fight last June), but in light of the fact that Saul Roman is Mexican and so were most of the WBC’s people in attendance, that cannot be construed as seizing home-ring advantage.
It is easy to stroke one’s own ego when in a boxing ring, fighting a guy who’s nowhere near your talent level, making him look like the tomato can he is, then cashing a paycheck, giving your manager his cut and your hanger-on friends their wet-the-beak money and paying all the fluffers and yes-men and weasels their piece, all while wearing a bogus belt around your waist and pretending to be champion.
So congratulations, Vanes Martirosyan, for becoming the newest member of your columnist’s Put Up Or Shut Up club. Hope you beat Ryan Davis silly on Saturday night, hope your undefeated record stays intact, because it’ll be easy work for me every time you turn down a fight with a real opponent in favor of fighting some guy from the Little Sisters of the Poor orphanage.
Side note this week, but I felt a need to say my piece to the world of boxing, wondering why there’s been such a dearth of quality fights since the pay-per-view extravaganza between Mayweather in May and Pacquiao in June. The NBA Finals ended on the 21st of June. The NFL kicks off on September 5th. In the meantime we’ve got the last six or seven Friday Night Fights cards on ESPN2, three Showtime boxing cards (one ShoBox and two championship contests), and a smattering of other pugilistic entertainment as well. In point of fact, the sport is staying quite busy, using the fact that baseball is its only other competition to very good effect and giving fans plenty to look forward to. We’ll see Robert Guerrero, Tavoris Cloud (in a great bang against Jean Pascal), Hank Lundy (FNF), Glen Johnson (also on FNF), Danny Garcia and Amir Khan (a WBC/WBA unification at 140), and a pair of title fights on an HBO card on August 25th (Dmitry Pirog/Gennady Golovkin and Robert Stieglitz fighting Arthur Abraham.)
This time last year, fans and media were lamenting the lack of quality boxing across the board, as the sport entered the doldrums so utterly in earnest that we were all left wondering if anyone was going to fight anyone before the Mayweather/Ortiz fight that September. Except for ESPN having an incredible year (Wolak-Rodriguez I and Hank Lundy’s come-from-behind KO of David Diaz standing out as exceptionally good examples), it really did look like boxing was dying on the vine.
So let’s not bury boxing quite yet, let’s get rid of this “the sport is dying” narrative. It’s going to be a summer with more fireworks than America’s recently concluded annual blow-shit-up and eat hot dogs national holiday. This is going to be fun.
Fox Doucette covers Friday Night Fights for The Boxing Tribune. His weekly column, The Southpaw, appears on Thursdays. Fan mail, hate mail, and cautions to stay the hell out of Glendale for being a “hater” can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.