GLENDALE — Vanes "Nightmare" Martirosyan and "Mean" Joe Greene hail from opposite coasts, but hardly come from different worlds and the two undefeated junior middleweight contenders, both 24, have a lot more in common than meets the eye.
Martirosyan, who fights out of Glendale by way of Yerevan, Armenia, and Greene, a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who fights out of Jamaica, Queens, carved out identical paths toward promising professional careers by shooting up through the amateur ranks and faring well in the same United States Olympic trials in 2004.
That's where their courses diverged, as Martirosyan was the only one of the two to make it to Athens, an opportunity he parlayed into a contract with Top Rank Promotions and the services of star trainer Freddie Roach, with the rest being, as they say, history.
But both have gone on to equally impressive professional careers and now the fighters' paths are about to meet head on, as they are set to open the HBO World Championship Boxing live broadcast of Saturday night's "Stadium Slugfest" at the new Yankee Stadium as the co-main event for the World Boxing Assn. super welterweight fight between Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman.
It will be the first boxing event in the ballpark that opened in 2009. The former Yankee Stadium, which closed in 2008, was home to some of the biggest prizefights in boxing history, most notably the second meeting between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling on June 22, 1938. Rocky Marciano had several classic bouts there and many other greats fought within its confines, including Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Robinson and Rocky Graziano.
On the line in the 10-round bout set to begin at 7:15 p.m. will be Martirosyan's NABF and NABO 154-pound titles, but the biggest prize is likely the undefeated record that the victor will carry forward.
"It's a good matchup," Martirosyan (27-0, 17 knockouts) said. "I've had a lot of good sparring in the gym and we're ready for Joe. I know Joe very well and it's my time.
"[My trainers], they see me in the gym, they see how good I can be and what I can do. In the fights, nobody has ever seen that. I'm just really excited because, for the first time, I'm gonna go out there and give 110%, rather than people seeing 70% or 60% of Vanes, and I'm happy that it's going to be on HBO for the world to see."
Greene (22-0, 14 KOs) is managed by his father, Joe Greene, Sr., who said his son is excited about the opportunity to fight Martirosyan in the first boxing event at Yankee Stadium since Ken Norton fought Ali there on Sept. 28, 1976.
"It's every boxer's dream, it's what we've worked so hard for all these years," Greene, Sr. said. "We respect Vanes a lot, he's a good fighter, but we think our fighter is superior.
"We're gonna show the world that all this hoopla with Freddie Roach and the Olympics doesn't mean anything when the bell rings."
Martirosyan is coming off a win by unanimous decision over Kassim Ouma on Jan. 19, but has spent much time since then fending off criticism that he didn't look comfortable or perform especially well against the veteran Ugandan southpaw and isn't quite ready for the next level of competition.
"This is the best camp that we've had as far as how strong I feel," Martirosyan said. "Freddie got to spend a lot of time with me and same with [strength and conditioning coach] Alex Ariza. I feel really good and strong and I think this is the best camp so far."
Greene fights southpaw, as well, and although hesitant to read too much into the Ouma fight, Greene, Sr. said Greene will stay on the attack much the way Ouma did.
"We don't try to judge a fighter by one fight, anyone can have a bad night," said Greene, Sr., whose son is coming off a win by unanimous decision over Chris Gray on April 2. "We know [Martirosyan] doesn't like a lot of pressure. We're gonna keep the pressure on him and box him and we should be OK."
Unless Martirosyan can adapt better to that style from the young and quick Greene than he did against Ouma, who was widely seen as a diminished fighter, it could be a tough night for him.
"I definitely know [Greene] is the stronger athlete and he's gonna be the faster athlete," Greene's trainer Andre Rozier said. "Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza might make a mistake in thinking that Joe Greene doesn't have quick enough hands or foot speed to keep up with Vanes. They will be truly surprised."
Martirosyan wasn't tipping his hand about strategy, but is confident in Roach's game plan.
"I usually leave that up to Alex, Freddie and my dad and [corner man] Roman [Kalantaryan]," Martirosyan said. "They watch the fights. I don't really want to watch the fights any more and I just want to do my thing and go out there and fight.
"I trust in my team and I have a great team. We're gonna do what we have to do, we're gonna come up with a stoppage."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times