HBO Boxing analyst Roy Jones Jr. uttered the words “I smell a rematch” before the fight between Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan went to the scorecards at Wynn Las Vegas in 2012.
Because of a giant gash over Martirosyan’s left eye, the close bout was forced to end 26 seconds into the ninth round.
Judges Ricardo Ocasio and Jerry Roth had the fight split as all ears turned to Dave Moretti’s scorecard. The veteran judge had it 86-86 for an outcome of a technical decision draw.
Martirosyan quickly thought about what Jones said. The Armenian slugger and the Cuban southpaw were destined for a rematch to settle the score, but it took 3½ years for the sequel to have a date.
Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 knockouts) will get a second crack against arguably the best junior middleweight in boxing when he and Lara (22-2-2, 13 KOs) headline a tripleheader Saturday at the Chelsea inside The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. Lara’s World Boxing Association title will be on the line.
John Jackson versus Jermell Charlo for the vacant World Boxing Council starts the Showtime-televised card, followed by Charlo’s twin brother, Jermall, battling Austin Trout for the International Boxing Federation crown.
“Every time I got calls from managers, promoters asking me who you want to fight, I always said, ‘Give me Lara, I want Lara, I want a rematch with Lara,’” said Martirosyan, who was born in Abovyan, Armenia. “I’m really happy that it’s finally here, and I just can’t wait.”
Martirosyan’s requests went unheard for years because of promotional issues. Lara left Golden Boy Promotions for Premier Boxing Champions with Al Haymon, and Martirosyan was with Bob Arum’s Top Rank. Haymon and Arum rarely work together.
The fighter who goes by “Nightmare” left Top Rank to join Haymon’s stable in 2014.
“It was the best thing that could happen to me,” Martirosyan said about joining Haymon. “It made it easier to set up the fight with Lara. I had a few fights to prove myself, and I finally got Lara.”
Martirosyan has fought some of the best junior middleweights since his draw with Lara. He went the distance with Jermell Charlo and Demetrius Andrade in losses and defeated Willie Nelson by unanimous decision. Martirosyan is coming off a majority decision over Ishe Smith in September.
Martirosyan thinks he defeated Lara, but said he could have been better if not for training issues.
The Glendale, California, native was trained by Freddie Roach leading up to the Lara fight. Roach left in the middle of training camp to work with Manny Pacquiao.
“I don’t want to make excuses, but the first fight there was a lot going on outside of the ring and in training camp,” Martirosyan said. “Freddie came back in the last week, and it kind of threw us off. The game plan changed.”
Martirosyan also recently split up with trainer Joe Goossen, who focused more on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., according to Martirosyan.
Martirosyan said there won’t be any trainer hiccups this time. He has spent the past 10 weeks training in Northern California with Roma Kalantaryan and Victor Conte.
Kalantaryan has been in Martirosyan’s corner since he was a teenager, and Conte specializes in high-altitude training and legal nutritional supplements.
“Training is going great,” Martirosyan said. “We’re all on the same page. I know everybody there won’t leave and be by my side. You’re going to see the best Vanes anybody has ever seen.”
The 30-year-old Martirosyan doesn’t think Lara is taking him seriously.
Lara, 33, has recently said he wants to fight Gennady Golovkin and tweeted he would fight Canelo Alvarez for free.
“He has to fight me first to get to those guys,” Martirosyan said. “He’s talking big, and he’s overlooking me a little bit. Let’s see how he does with me.”
Lara and Martirosyan collided in the ninth round after a right punch from the Cuban. The top of Lara’s head hit Martirosyan in the left eye to open a large, gruesome cut.
The doctors immediately stopped the fight.
Martirosyan constantly replayed the fight in his mind and hasn’t forgotten the low blows Lara dished out.
“It got dirty in the ring,” Martirosyan said. “I hope Lara is ready to fight. All he did in the first fight was run, run, run and throw a few jabs and run again.
“I just want to get in there and rip his body apart.”
Contact Gilbert Manzano at email@example.com or 702-383-0492. Follow him on Twitter: @gmanzano24