While most of the boxing world views Vanes Martirosyan’s appearance on this week’s Friday Night Fights as a rebound fight following the first loss of his career, the longtime junior middleweight contender sees it as a new beginning.
Martirosyan’s scheduled 10-round bout against Mario Alberto Lozano is his first bout with new promoter Goossen Tutor and his first with veteran trainer Joe Goossen in his corner.
Prior to his unanimous decision loss to Demetrius Andrade last November, the 2004 U.S. Olympian had been promoted by Top Rank from the time of his pro debut in 2005. And apart from a one-year stint with Ronnie Shields, Freddie Roach was the 27-year-old boxer-puncher’s head trainer for the past nine years.
Although Martirosyan (32-1-1, 21 knockouts) acknowledges that Top Rank CEO Bob Arum and Roach are deservedly in boxing’s hall of fame, he says the move to the Goossen brothers, Joe and Dan Goossen, who heads up the Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based Goossen Tutor, is a positive change.
“It’s been amazing,” Martirosyan told RingTV.com on Tuesday. “For the first time in my career, I feel like a professional fighter because I have dedicated trainer, one who’s with me in the gym, pushing me, every day.
“And I have a promoter who says ‘yes’ to the fights I want, a promoter that I don’t have to worry about if he can work with another promoter or network.”
As wise and accomplished as Arum and Roach are, both legends have limitations that are well known to boxing fans. Arum’s got his beefs with Golden Boy Promotions and Al Haymon, which sometimes gets in the way of making high-profile matchups for those who fight under the Top Rank banner.
Roach has the fullest plate of any world-class trainer, save for perhaps Robert Garcia. So full that even a promising up-and-comer like Martirosyan gets pushed to the side.
Martirosyan says the years when his training and his career really should have been kicked into high gear – 2009 through 2011 – Roach’s primary focus was on his star fighters, such as Manny Pacquiao, Amir Khan and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
More recently, Miguel Cotto’s arrival to Roach’s famous Wild Card Boxing Club interfered with the veteran trainer’s attention to Martirosyan during a most crucial stage of the young fighter’s career – his title bout preparation.
Martirosyan’s fight with Andrade, which was for the vacant WBO 154-pound title, took place the same month Pacquiao made his pivotal ring return against Brandon Rios in Macau. The prior month – a time when Martirosyan needed to fine tune his mind and body for the biggest night of his career – was the same month Cotto made his comeback against Delvin Rodriguez. Obviously, Roach was unable to give Martirosyan the attention he needed.
“Freddie is a great coach, and he was good for me when he was there with me, and in my corner, but it was hard for him to be there all the time,” Martirosyan said. “He wasn’t around when I was getting ready for Andrade. My old sparring partner – Ernie Zavala – worked my corner for my title fight.
“Nothing against Ernie. He was a good fighter and he’s learning to be a good trainer, but he’s not there yet. I needed Freddie full time in camp and I needed him in my corner.
“People haven’t seen my talent because it hasn’t been pushed out of me.”
Martirosyan says he’s getting that push from Joe Goossen, but he admits that having an experienced world-class trainer working with him every day in the gym took some getting used to.
“Joe is working my butt off,” he said. “I’m learning what it’s like to work really hard. I sparred three days in a row one week. I never did that before. I went 15 rounds in a sparring session for the first time in my career.
“The most I ever sparred at one time before was six or seven rounds at a time, eight at the most. That’s on a good day. Now I’m going 10, 12, 15 rounds at one time, with three or four fresh sparring partners.
“There’s so much I hadn’t done before because I was kind of on my own a lot at the Wild Card. When I started with Joe, he asked me how long I usually skipped rope. I told him 10 minutes. He said ‘S__t, I can skip rope for 10 minutes. You need to do a lot more. We’ll start with 30 minutes and work up to more time.’ I’d never really hit the heavybag for many rounds. Now I’ll do 30 rounds at time – after sparring.
“Freddie’s a great trainer, but when he’s not there, it’s an assistant that you’re working with and it’s not as intense.”
Martirosyan will get the opportunity to put his high-intensity training to the test against Lozano (28-4, 22 KOs), a Mexican welterweight who has never been stopped. The 26-year-old boxer, who has gone the 12-round distance four times, had won nine in a row before dropping a decision to Texas prospect Charles Hatley in Dallas last November.
“Working as hard as I’ve been working, it really doesn’t matter who they put me in with but Lozano’s young, he has a lot of power, and I heard he deserved to win his last fight,” Martirosyan said. “I know he’s going to come to fight. But so am I. I want to make a statement – what you saw against Demetrius Andrade was not me.”
Martirosyan, whose fight with Andrade was on HBO, has no qualm about showcasing his “true self” on basic cable.
“I love that I’m fighting on ESPN. There’s no other fights this weekend, so a lot of fans are going to be watching – probably a lot who want to see me fail. I watch Friday Night Fights every week. If you’re into boxing, you know there’s Friday Night Fights on every week, and you watch it.
“I’m not thinking about HBO and Showtime right now. Those fights and the money will come later.”
If Martirosyan wins in impressive fashion, he’s right. He’s a name in a division that only has one star – Canelo Alvarez (when Floyd Mayweather Jr. isn’t around). All of the major beltholders – including two that Martirosyan has already faced, Andrade and Erislandy Lara – are in need of recognizable challengers.
When the time comes for those fights to be made, Martirosyan says he’s glad he’s now with Dan Goossen.
“I thought I was ready to fight for the title back in 2010,” Martirosyan said. “At this time we had conversations with Top Rank every day, begging them for a title shot against anybody. ‘Come on we’re ready! Let’s fight this guy!’ But every time we approached them we heard ‘OK, fight this guy and then we’ll go for a title in your next fight.’
“The fight with Lara (who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions) was forced because of the purse bid. When Golden Boy won the purse bid for the rematch, the people at Top Rank talked me out the fight. They told me to stay loyal then they put out a statement that I had turned it down because my eye wasn’t healed from the first fight (which ended in a technical draw).
“No disrespect to them, Top Rank is a great promotional company, but only if they want to promote you. Who knows? Maybe my performances made them not want to get behind me 100 percent.
“But I worked hard to get to a certain point in my career and then I couldn’t fight who I wanted to fight because my promoter didn’t like another promoter or manager. It drove me crazy. I really don’t know who was crazier – Bob Arum for not being able to get along with so many boxing people, or me for staying loyal to Top Rank.”
Martirosyan says he isn’t feeling crazy anymore. And whatever differences he had with his old team are now in the past.
“Now I just want to fight and train my butt off. Now I got a promoter who will make the fights I need,” he said.
“It’s almost been 10 years since I turned pro, but I feel the best is yet to come.”
Email Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer