Vanes Martirosyan gets the biggest opportunity of his career tomorrow night on HBO, when he'll face Erislandy Lara in a WBC junior middleweight title eliminator in the main event from Las Vegas.
But while the 26-year-old Armenian fighter isn't looking past his Cuban opponent, he can't help but take a shot at Canelo Alvarez if asked about the reigning WBC 154-pound champ:
"To be honest I don't think he's a real Mexican fighter. Mexicans are warriors and he's protected. Everyone sees that. He doesn't fight the top guys and fights guys from lower weight classes. I have a lot of respect for Mexican fighters but Canelo doesn't fight any of the top guys."
It's certainly not a new criticism of Alvarez, to suggest that the young cash cow has been protected, and offered easy nights with washed-up opponents and naturally smaller men. It's also hard to argue with in some ways; he has faced a lot of smaller, faded foes, and it's right and totally logical to wonder still if he's as good as he's been cracked up to be. He very well may be that good -- personally, I'm a believer in the kid -- but he has yet to prove it against an in-prime junior middleweight, and that's a fact.
Still, it's kind of hard to take the "protected" stuff seriously from a guy whose last four opponents have been Bladimir Hernandez, Saul Roman, Richard Gutierrez, and Troy Lowry. None of those fights were competitive on paper, and Martirosyan's best win remains his W over Joe Greene, probably, and Greene was himself an unproven prospect at the time, whose career has sort of fallen off the tracks since then and stagnated.
But to be entirely fair to Vanes, here's another fact: He's the guy taking on a top junior middleweight tomorrow night, not Canelo, and maybe he's being totally honest when he says nobody wanted to fight him. I can say that it seems he's grown frustrated by the way he's been matched; he hasn't been outwardly critical of the people guiding his career, but he also hasn't had anything good to say, either, and he's been touchy about criticism.
Martirosyan-Lara is a good fight, and will result in a worthy contender to Canelo's title. Whether or not Canelo intends to fight the winner is another story, and for now, I can't say that it seems like that's in the cards.