Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara meet tomorrow night on HBO from Las Vegas, with a shot at Canelo Alvarez's title belt on the line. Who comes out on top?
Erislandy Lara holds all the advantages going into this fight except perhaps the most important one: his promoter. Lara's fought much better opposition than Martirosyan. He's a better athlete than Martirosyan. He's got superior technical skills to Martirosyan. And he probably has a better chin than Martirosyan too (based on the times I've seen Vanes put down against Ouma and Roman).
However, while Lara is fighting Martirosyan on a Top Rank production, Golden Boy (Lara's promotional company) will be putting on a card over 250 miles away. And when was the last time you saw Lara knock out anyone remotely on the same level of Martirosyan? Lara is in for a long night and I think he'll only manage to squeak out a majority decision.
Then again...a knockout wouldn't be all that farfetched. Ouma doesn't punch as hard as Lara and dropped Martirosyan with a jab, so, who knows. It could happen. If the KO comes I expect it to be from Lara's straight left hand right up the middle. I won't predict that Martirosyan stays down, but I do think he will be knocked down at least once in this fight. Lara by decision.
If Lara feels like being aggressive, this could be a fun fight -- Martirosyan can be convinced to mix it up, and even if he couldn't, Lara's speed is such that he'd sort of have to start fighting like hell if Lara decided to make it that sort of fight. Vanes is decent, but Lara is a massive leap up from is recent competition, and while it's easy to forget Vanes' fights with Joe Greene and Kassim Ouma that led to the big backpedal in opposition, it's also hard to forget how lackluster he was in both fights. I don't really want to say Martirosyan will be exposed, but what I will say is that Vanes is going to have to do something better than he has to date. Lara by decision.
After much debate, I've come to the conclusion that I'm only going to believe this fight is taking place when I see the ring walks. The lesser-spotted Martirosyan has been one of those strange quirks in boxing over the past few years, a supposed world-beater operating at a far lower level than he really should, and not getting away without a scare or two here and there. All of that said, he does have plenty of talent and a win here puts him right back to where he probably should be already.
This depends on which Lara turns up. On form, he's devastating - from this viewpoint a match for anyone at 154 (that's anyone, Oscar) - but he hasn't always looked infallible, and the version of the guy that fought Molina and, hey, even Freddy Hernandez, can clearly be got at. I'm just not Vanes is the man to do it. He'll start fast and pick up some rounds, but ultimately Lara is just plain better and this is too much, somehow still too soon, for Martirosyan. Lara by UD.
I wouldn't be surprised if this fight has some timid action. I could see both guys being cautious, especially in the early going. However, it's a match that both guys need to win so I think it will heat up as the fight wears on. I do feel the Paul Williams fight has caused some to overrate Lara a little bit. He's good, but he will not find most top boxers that easy to hit. Nevertheless, I will take him to win here. Maybe I'm picking a little more with my heart than with my head because Martirosyan annoys me, but I think Lara is the better boxer and has faced stiffer opposition at this stage of their careers. He will confuse Martirosyan at times with his footwork and angles while landing the cleaner shots. It may not be pretty but I like Lara to take a decision victory. Lara by decision.
Whilst this is a close fight on paper, there's only one winner in my eyes. Martirosyan has made slow progress in his seven years as a professional and doesn't look like anything special to me. With twenty knockouts on his record, he can clearly whack a bit but whether or not he can pin the slick and skilful Lara down is another matter altogether.
Lara has impressed me greatly, I thought he deserved the decision against Paul Williams in his only career loss. He's a couple of levels above Martirosyan in terms of skill, speed, ability and potential, and he's also trained by Martirosyan's former trainer, which can only help his preparations.
I can only see a Lara victory, with him countering Martirosyan all night long on the way to a mid to late rounds stoppage. Lara by stoppage.
Final Tally: Erislandy Lara 5, Vanes Martirosyan 0.