Vanes Martirosyan's team isn't happy with the WBC ordering him to face Erislandy Lara, but there's more to the story than just the ruling. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan are up for a shot at the WBC junior middleweight title currently held by Canelo Alvarez, as the sanctioning body has ordered what it's calling a final eliminator for the title opportunity.
Martirosyan (32-0, 20 KO) reportedly feels as though he's already earned his shot at the title by winning an eliminator last June over Saul Roman, which also put the vacant WBC Silver title on him. He then defended that title, rather ridiculously, against Troy Lowry in a terrible fight on February 4.
But while I cannot mention the Lowry fight without noting that it's a travesty it ever was booked, there's more at work here. Martirosyan vs Roman was a "semi-final eliminator," meaning that the winner of that fight and the winner of another semi-final would meet.
That fight happened on March 24, when James Kirkland won a disputed DQ over Carlos Molina. So we're talking nine months after Martirosyan won his semi-final, the WBC got around to making another one. And what did they wind up with? Why, it's the red flag: Martirosyan is promoted by Top Rank, Kirkland is promoted by Golden Boy. That fight wasn't going to happen, same as Martirosyan vs Alfredo Angulo didn't happen last year. I can't in good conscience blame Martirosyan for that. His promoters don't work with that guy's promoters.
But Kirkland is on the shelf right now as a result of shoulder surgery, so the WBC has now decided that an eliminator should happen between Martirosyan, ranked No. 1, and Lara (16-1-1, 11 KO), ranked No. 3 by the sanctioning body. Lara is coming off of a first round TKO on Friday over the horribly overmatched Ronald Hearns.
Martirosyan vs Lara would be a fine fight. But there's a problem: Lara is also promoted by Golden Boy. So once again, it's a no-go. It doesn't even really matter that Martirosyan and Top Rank are unhappy with the ruling or that they say they've already fought an eliminator, which was a semi-final and as I recall was always listed that way. It doesn't matter because this fight can't reasonably be made unless the promoters actually let it. Someone's going to have to sacrifice their ranking here, and that's bunk for the fighters if, as we should assume, they would both take the fight if it could be made.Sanctioning body rankings are bullshit, but these guys earned their way there by doing what was asked of them. Now somebody's going to have to give that up because the promoters are too busy squabbling.
If I had to hazard a guess, it'll be Martirosyan and Top Rank forfeiting the ranking. The titlist is Canelo Alvarez, promoted by Golden Boy and a WBC favorite. Vanes could probably move up to 160 and get a shot at Julio Cesar Chavez Jr later this year (because let's be honest and not entertain the thought that the WBC is going to strip Chavez if he doesn't fight Sergio Martinez), but there's a problem there, too: Martirosyan and Chavez are both trained by Freddie Roach.
I have criticized Vanes Martirosyan's opponents plenty, and I stand by that. But this whole situation totally stinks for him. If this plays out as I expect, many are going to just accuse him of ducking Lara, the same as some accused him of ducking Angulo, but I can't see it. There's nothing he can do to get into the ring with those guys. The wealthy men who make things run don't want to do that. It doesn't matter how much the fighters want it. Unless something dramatically changes in the Top Rank-Golden Boy relationship, or one of them is released from their promotional deal, Martirosyan vs Lara will not happen, and the WBC has made yet another pointless "ruling."