Vanes Martirosyan is a talented, highly-ranked professional boxer, with 32 fights under his belt. So why was he in such a grotesque mismatch on Saturday in San Antonio? (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
On Sunday morning, junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan took to Twitter to retweet all his congratulations and thank everyone who gave him props for his absurd mismatch victory on Saturday night over Troy Lowry.
He also mentioned that he'd never do any interviews with this web site, because we're a bunch of haters -- to be fair, I don't think he meant anyone but me, so let's rephrase that: He won't do interviews with this site because I'm a hater.
That's fine. For one thing, I'm a lousy interviewer. It's just not my strong suit. (Some would question whether or not I have a strong suit, but that's another story.)
Second, too often boxing interviews amount to PR material and very little more, and it's one of many games played with fight media. You get these guys calling everyone "champ" all the time and congratulating them on this or that. This is not the worst crime in the world or anything, and I honestly do get it, but did any media at the post-Super Bowl press conference call Eli Manning "champ" and try to be his buddy when asking him questions?
But this part is entirely unimportant. What's important here is the fight itself.
As for me being a hater, well... I already said this to Vanes on Twitter (as well as I could within 140 characters), and he probably doesn't care and maybe you don't either, but indulge me and let me tell you exactly what I hated so much about his fight with Troy Lowry on Saturday night, and exactly what I hate so much about every fight like that.
Boxing is already sometimes questionable as a sport. When you make a fight like Martirosyan vs Lowry, it really stops being a sport and becomes something uncomfortable and a bit disgusting to watch unfold.
About 12 seconds into that fight on Saturday evening, Martirosyan hit Lowry with a punch that sent the 41-year-old club veteran reeling back a bit. From that moment on, it was clear that this wasn't a competition. You could have guessed that going in, but these fights are always worse in reality than they are on paper, even though they're hideous on paper.
It became, as these fights often do, a disgraceful beating of a pure inferior who doesn't even belong in there. Martirosyan is 25 years old and was competing in his 32nd pro fight against Lowry. He's not some greenhorn, like Ivan Najera or Alex Saucedo or Adam Lopez, who also competed on the undercard in relative mismatches. Those guys are learning the sport, getting their feet wet.
Martirosyan may not be a true veteran -- he's still a young fighter, and in theory still has upside remaining -- but he's not some rookie, either. He's no longer in the position where he's honing his skills in mismatches. He's well past that.
It became, very quickly, something akin to watching a bully beat up a weakling. I know Troy Lowry is a grown man and was there of his own volition, and was paid for his troubles. Lowry wound up bloodied and pummeled with ease by Martirosyan and looked like he wanted out before referee Laurence Cole stopped it in the third round, but maybe when all was said and done, he was happy for the payday and the opportunity.
That's the warm side of the story, and boxing loves to sell warm stories. But the cold reality is that this was an unnecessary fight that shouldn't have happened, and if athletic commissions really gave a crap about this sort of thing, shouldn't have been sanctioned.
I actually saw Lowry's last fight, as it was part of the "Fight Like a Champion" card featuring Mike Lee at Notre Dame, which Top Rank streamed last September. Lowry won that night, beating a guy with a pretty record (20-0 coming in) but no tests on his sheet. It was a fun fight -- a club fight where both threw down hard in the fifth round, and it wound up Lowry winning the slugfest.
That was Lowry's first win since 2005. Coming into that fight, he was on a streak of six straight losses, five in a row by stoppage. He was 1-8 in his previous nine fights.
Martirosyan is a contender. He's world ranked by sanctioning bodies, if that means anything to you, ranked by Ring Magazine, and ranked, believe it or not, by this web site. He is a well-regarded fighter, and there's a reason for that: He's very talented, and has been considered a top prospect and an emerging contender for a few years now.
Let me make this clear: It's not Vanes Martirosyan specifically I don't want to see in these fights. I wouldn't have wanted to watch the gross beating of Troy Lowry at the hands of Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, K9 Bundrage, Carlos Molina, Austin Trout, Erislandy Lara, James Kirkland, or Delvin Rodriguez, either. Why would any boxing fan want to see that?
To put Martirosyan in the ring with someone like Troy Lowry at this point in his career is pathetic, insulting to the audience and to Martirosyan as a fighter. Cheering him for dismantling a guy with no hope to even be remotely competitive just strikes me as odd, even a bit creepy.
I thought pretty much the exact same thing about Austin Trout's November fight with Frank LaPorte, and I said pretty much the exact same things then:
In the main event, WBA "regular" 154-pound titleholder Austin "No Doubt" Trout beat the crap out of a hopelessly overmatched Frank LoPorto in a fight that was even worse in practice than it was on paper. While the live crowd stood on their feet and cheered, a TV camera inspection of the fight revealed a disgusting mismatch that should never have taken place at all.
In the first round, LoPorto was put on the canvas with a close right hook. After the round, he went back to his corner, already looking like he'd lost the fight. "He's too fast," he told his trainer. But out LoPorto went, round after round, increasingly growing desperate for someone to stop what became a one-sided beating of a clearly inferior fighter who shouldn't have been in there at all, in a ridiculous fight that the WBA never should have put together in the first place.
I like Austin Trout. I didn't like anything about that fight with LoPorto, though. I think Vanes Martirosyan is a pretty decent fighter. That doesn't mean Saturday's sanctioned drubbing was a good fight or deserves acclaim.
I said yesterday, and will say again, that someone has to be called out in a situation like this. In the Trout situation, it came down mostly to the WBA for ranking the hapless LoPorto No. 14 in the world and thus allowing him an undeserved title shot. Even in an era of watered-down paper belts, they mean more than that, or at least they should.
And even though Vanes Martirosyan only holds the WBC silver title at 154 pounds, the fact that that relentlessly idiotic sanctioning body actually signed off on Martirosyan vs Lowry as any kind of title fight -- let alone what is just an interim world title with a different name -- puts a lot of the blame squarely at their feet, too. If these organizations had even an ounce of respect for the sport, fights like these wouldn't happen with their blessing.
If Vanes Martirosyan is purposely taking these fights, then he should be called out, or perhaps just written off the way a lot of big-talking fighters who don't back it up have been written off over the years. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr draws immense criticism for the careful and selective matchmaking he's had in his favor over the years, but his schedule is Murderer's Row compared to Martirosyan's recent slate. If this is a result of the matchmakers at Top Rank, he should call them out before anyone else does, or learn to accept the criticism that is going to naturally come with taking weak fights.
His recent competition has been awful -- Lowry was the worst, but what about the rest of his recent opponents? Bladimir Hernandez had lost three straight, all by stoppage. Richard Gutierrez had lost three straight and really wasn't competitive in any of those fights. He did fight Saul Roman between those two guys, who had won two straight following three losses. And that turned into a good fight.
Maybe too good of a fight for the liking of Martirosyan's team, same as the Kassim Ouma fight in January 2010. Ouma and Roman are OK fighters, but Vanes was expected to cruise in both fights. He did not. A lot of this dates back to his HBO slot on the Cotto vs Foreman card from Yankee Stadium, when both he and another hyped prospect, Joe Greene, both managed to disappoint with their performances.
Has Top Rank pulled him back on purpose? It's hard to look at the facts and say that's not the case. Plenty of PR push was behind him before he struggled with Ouma, and then didn't look good against Greene. Since then the competition has been scaled back pretty significantly, and the hype has faded. As it stands now, he's treading water at best.
Martirosyan says often that he wants big fights. He made a grandstanding challenge to Victor Ortiz recently, which was never going to happen. Boxers and boxing not always being quite on the level, anything anyone says can draw skepticism. Thus far, like it or not, there are no signs that anyone involved is trying to get him into the ring with top fighters. On the contrary, in fact -- it keeps getting worse. Whether that's his fault or not, it's happening. There is no questioning that Martirosyan has talent, but there's plenty to question in the confidence level of his team these days. There are a lot of guys out there who'd love to fight for that WBC trinket he carries around. He's not fighting them.
A lot of this probably sounds like direct criticism of Martirosyan, and it is in some ways, but it's not personal, and I admit I don't know if he's as frustrated or even angry about the direction of his career as some fans are. If he isn't, he should be, unless he doesn't see a problem. Problem is, there's a problem here.
I know these fights have always happened, I know they happen all over the world, and I know they'll continue to happen. But I don't have to like it, and I don't have to go, "That's just the way boxing works." I stand by the criticism of the fight and the matchmaking, and will criticize the same fights the same way in the future, no matter who it is involved.
As for being truly critical of Martirosyan before his matchmakers or other factors, the jury is largely still out on that, in my book. The proof, as Floyd Mayweather has taken to saying lately, is in the pudding. Lately it's been spoiled tapioca for Martirosyan.