Undefeated junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan was recently mandated to face once-beaten southpaw Erislandy Lara in a WBC eliminator bout for the right to face the organization’s beltholder, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez.
But it’s not the first time the 26-year-old Armenian-born boxer has been in this position.
“They told us at first that we were supposed to fight James Kirkland, and then Kirkland got injured,” said Serge Martirosyan, Vanes’ uncle and manager. “Then it was Lara to become the mandatory, but there was no paper and no binding contract that let us know that there was a guarantee that we would get to fight Canelo after Lara.”
When Martirosyan passed up a shot at Angulo, Kirkland was subbed in and wound up scoring a sixth-round knockout that lined him up for Alvarez.
Were it not for a shoulder injury suffered during a 10th-round disqualification victory over Carlos Molina in March, it may well have been Kirkland who would be facing Alvarez (40-0-1, 29 KOs) on Sept. 15 instead of an opponent still to be determined.
In the meantime, Alvarez is coming off the fourth defense of his belt against ex-titleholder Sugar Shane Mosley, whom he defeated by unanimous decision in May.
“If there is no agreement within the 30 days, then we will have a purse offer on July 27,” said Sulaiman. “After the purse offer, it usually takes from 90 to 120 days until the fight, and then the winner has to fight the champion.”
Two of Martirosyan’s biggest wins have been unanimous decisions over former titleholder Kassim Ouma and previously unbeaten southpaw Joe Greene in January and June of 2010, respectivley, along with a seventh-round knockout of hard-hitting Saul Roman during which Martirosyan rose from a first-round knockdown in June of last year.
Martirosyan has Saturday night’s bout against Ryan Davis (24-9-3, 9 KOs) to deal with, but says he’s focused on getting Lara after that.
“Going into this fight with Ryan Davis, I was kind of bummed out because I wanted a big fight. I kept telling my manager and we keep telling Top Rank that we’re tired of fighting these bums and these other fighters, because we want the big names,” said Martirosyan.
“When they said Lara this time, I said, ’100 percent, yes.’ So this actually gives me more motivation going against Davis, because I know that I get a bigger opportunity. This is more of a motivator than it is pressure going in against Ryan Davis.”
Martirosyan had more to say in the following Q&A:
RingTV.com: So how do you feel about the fight with Davis?
Vanes Martirosyan: Listen, I feel really good about this fight. I’m in good shape. It’s a stay-busy fight, but we’ve done everything that we’re supposed to do and we’re in good shape and we’re ready to go.
RingTV.com: Is there any more pressure given that your next fight could be against Lara?
VM: Going into this fight with Ryan Davis, I’m 100 percent accepting the Lara fight this time. I’m happy knowing that after this fight that we’ll get the big fight.
RingTV.com: What type of performance do you need to satisfy your own expectations if not those of others against Davis to place yourself in the elite of the division?
VM: This fight on Saturday, you know, I’m just going to go in there and do my job. I don’t think that the guy is going to last the whole way with me, but if he does, more power to him.
I’m going to win the fight, and as long as I do what I’m supposed to do then I know that I will get the knockout. I’ll stop him.
There’s no pressure or anything like that. I’ve just got to go in there and do boxing. I’ve got to use my gift and just do what I know how to do, and then, I can focus on Lara.
RingTV.com: What do you think that you demonstrated by rising from the canvas to stop Roman?
VM: The fight with Saul Roman, going into it, there were a lot of things going on. My dad was sick and for the first time ever, my dad, Norik, was not at the fight.
He’s 100 percent good right now, but he wasn’t feeling good so he wasn’t at the fight. So I went in there with different thoughts in my head and I got caught in the first round.
But the main thing is that I got up and I got my head together and it took me a couple of rounds to get re-focused on the fight.
But once I started to do that, then I went to work. I started boxing and I got into his head and I was able to take him out.
I think that going down and getting up, I never had a feeling of defeat. Getting up, even if he had dropped me again, I would never have felt like the guy was going to beat me.
I think that I proved myself against a big puncher who has fought a lot of guys, like Sergio Martinez. So I proved that if you put me down, you have to make sure that I stay down.
Because if I get up, I’m going to come after you and I’m going to come back on you and I’m going to win the fight.
RingTV.com: Why didn’t the fight come off with Angulo?
VM: The Angulo fight, I had a manager, Steve Feder, who I was very unhappy with. So at the time, my head was messed up and I wasn’t into boxing. My weight was going really high.
I wasn’t focused on boxing and that’s all because I was very uncomfortable with my manager. So I spoke to my uncle, and he helped out. He went and talked to Steve.
And they made a deal where my uncle bought out my contract from Steve, and that’s what we did. At that time, they had offered the Angulo fight.
But if I had taken the Angulo fight, I would have had to stay with Steve and I didn’t want to do that, so we declined the Angulo fight and that’s what happened behind closed doors and stuff like that.
So that’s why that fight didn’t happen. I was after Angulo for a long time, otherwise. After I got with my manager that I have now, who is my uncle, I’ve gone after Angulo, but it was already too late.
RingTV.com: Do you in any way regret not taking the Angulo fight and potentially doing what Kirkland did?
VM: No, because I wanted my uncle to be my manager and it should have been that way from day one. I made a mistake by going with Steve.
I don’t think that that should have been me. If I had my uncle as my manager then maybe that would have worked, but I would not have been happy if I had been with Steve and gotten that fight.
So I’m very happy for Kirkland, but I think that he beat the guy that I was supposed to fight. It’s nothing that I regret, because I think that everything happens for a reason and my time is going to come.
RingTV.com: And what of the first opportunity to face Lara?
VM: That first time around I felt like the WBC was playing games to protect Canelo. I mean it was like, fight this eliminator and that eliminator and a semifinal eliminator.
So we asked them to put it on paper that we would get Canelo 100 percent for the winner. So we said no. I honestly wanted the fight, but I just wanted it on paper.
Because I felt like if I beat Lara, and then there was no mandatory fight with Canelo, then I was just going to be stuck there.
But this time, when they offered it, I was like, “100 percent, let me take this fight.” Because people will see how good I am, and it doesn’t matter.
I want this fight 100 percent. I told my manager and I told my dad that, no matter what, if I have to go down to Mexico and make this fight, I will, because I really want this fight.
RingTV.com: Who is training you and how is the fight going to go?
VM: Freddie Roach is my main trainer that I have, so he’s my main coach. My strength and conditioning coach is Roman Calantryan, and Alex Ariza helps out on the side.
On Saturday night, it will be Roman and Ernie Zavala, because Freddie has to go and call the Wladimir Klitschko fight in Switzerland on Saturday night.
The guy that I’m fighting is a tough guy, he’s fought Zab Judah to a 10-round decision. But I think that I’ll end up stopping him, maybe even with a body shot.
Or just an accumulation of punches. It’s going to be my night, I’ve just got to do my job and I’ll take care of business for sure.
I have to say I’m pretty surprised that Vanes would make a comment like that. Not only is it inaccurate, but it makes no sense. All the parties involved at the time will tell you that the fight with Angulo was handed to Vanes on a silver platter. It was a fight that had he taken, win or lose, would have changed his last twelve months dramatically.
As far as any turbulence between Vanes and I, well, I’ve never commented publicly on it out of respect for Vanes and his uncle Serge, who I always found very professorial and very supportive. I’m surprised that Vanes would name names so long after the fact, but I guess he needed an escape goat and seems like I’m it.
Fact is Vanes was going through a lot of personal issues and I agree with him that he was acting in a manner that lead a lot of people — including myself — to believe he was not focused on boxing. He has a lot of talent, but he was drifting in the wrong direction. I have a very hands-on style. I spend a lot of time in the gym, and I try to be available as much as possible. But I am not a sponsor, I am a manager, and I think that was were Vanes and I had a big divide.
If I had kept pouring cash into the well, I assure you we’d still be together. He didn’t cut me loose. I was the one who walked. His uncle was a diplomat and a very stand-up guy. He attempted to make it work, but it was too far gone. There was no respect, and with the situation unreconcilable, his uncle stepped in and orchestrated a buyout. No fighter walks from a world title fight because he didn’t want the fight to happen while under a specific manager. That is absurd. If that was the case, his uncle and I would have worked it out between us. The fight didn’t happen because Vanes didn’t want it.
[A Top Rank official] called me and gave us a stellar opportunity to fight Angulo. My sole reason for managing Vanes was to get him a world title. Kirkland went and took the shot that I positioned Vanes for. The Saul Roman fight was taken as the entry way to the Angulo opportunity should Alvarez shy away. We figured we wouldn’t get Alvarez, but I knew Angulo was there, and I truly believe Vanes would have won the fight. He would have outboxed Angulo, winning in a different style then Kirkland, but with the same outcome. We would have had three American judges in Mexico, and the last time I looked, the ring is the same shape there as anywhere else. The money was more then he had ever been offered so I can tell you it wasn’t financial at all.
I see Vanes in Wild Card from time to time, and though at first there was tension, we’ve since always been friendly to one another. His father is a very nice man and always says hello. I was always treated very nicely by his family and his friends and team. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. Vanes can put the blame on me if that makes his situation easier to swallow. It’s fine with me. However, there is one thing he has to understand about boxing. It isn’ the manager or the promoter or the trainer or an uncle that stands in a fighters way. It’s the fighter.
If HBO or Showtime wants to see a fighter fight, if they take a liking to a fighter, well then I can tell you the fighter will fight and the opportunities will come. You have to be a fighter no one can deny. The way you do that is to simply fight the right fights. Angulo would have defined Vanes as a guy who doesn’t shy away from a challenge. I truly believe he’d be the world champion at 154 right now had he taken it. With me or without me he would have had the belt and he wouldn’t be fighting opponents far below his station that do nothing for his career and further establishes him as a guy who isn’t in the mix.
Fighters fight. A well placed loss never hurt a fighter who has champion in him. A manager can lead a fighter to the ring, but he can’t make him fight. I’m far from perfect, but I know an opportunity when I see one, and Angulo was an opportunity.
Photo by Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org