LOS ANGELES - He was knocked down in the first round, bloodied in the second round, bruised under both eyes by the fifth round and seemed finished in the seventh.
Despite looking beaten and battered a minute into the seventh round, Vanes "Nightmare" Martirosyan remained determined and resilient to fend off the first loss in his burgeoning boxing career.
In a tremendous show of perseverance and grit, Martirosyan stopped Saul Roman 2:58 into the seventh round with a technical knockout to earn the World Boxing Council Silver junior middleweight title.
"I'm blessed," the Glendale fighter said. "We did it. This has been a long time coming."
The 154-pound contender remained undefeated, improving to 30-0 with 19 knockouts despite the best efforts of the game Roman (34-9, 29 KOs).
Roman displayed his power in the first round, catching Martirosyan with a left hook that sent the former Olympian to the canvas.
"I told him, forget about the first round, start boxing this kid and you'll catch him," said Edmond Tarverdyan, Martirosyan's lead trainer for the fight. "You want to be a great fighter, you want to be a champion, you have to forget about the first round and he got stronger in the second round. He did exactly what I wanted him to do.
"I told him not to trade hooks with this guy and that's exactly what he did. He traded a hook with him and he got caught with a hook. The guy has heavy hands, but Vanes punches way harder. I told him not to gamble."
Martirosyan kept chasing Roman in the following rounds, using his jab to set up quick rights. But Roman countered, bloodying Martirosyan's nose in the second round and opening a cut under his right eye in the third.
"I'm happy the cut wasn't above my eye," Martirosyan said. "He was landing his punches and the head butt a lot. It was very frustrating because each time he kept coming at me with his head."
Added Tarverdyan: "All of [those things] are going to happen. He has to stay more focused and he will start getting more focused after this fight because he knows now he can take some shots and even when he gets down, God forbid, he's going to get up and finish fights. He will learn. Everything will happen in boxing. If you lose your head, the guy might be doing that intentionally, you're going to lose the fight."
Despite the difficulties in the ring, Martirosyan kept his poise and did not deter from Tarverdyan's instructions.
"I just tried to keep the boxing pace, whatever we've been working in the gym," Tarverdyan said. "Stick the jab, keep sticking the jab, don't jump into anything big. He just did that."
Entering the seventh round, Martirosyan trailed, 58-55, on judge Hubert Minn's scorecard, was ahead, 57-56, by judge Pat Russell's tally and was deadlocked at 57-57, according to judge Marty Sammon.
The seventh round had the crowd on its feet in the opening seconds.
Roman attacked Martirosyan from the start, pushing him against the ropes and unleashing numerous rights and lefts that staggered the local fighter. Martirosyan did his best to hold on to Roman.
Martirosyan regrouped and began his comeback.
A series of rights surprised and staggered Roman seconds later, reinvigorating Martirosyan and hurting Roman. Martirosyan floored Roman with a right hand with a minute left in the round.
"I knew I hurt him," Martirosyan said.
Added Tarverdyan: "Right when Vanes had him down, I told Vanes to jump on him because I knew the guy's legs were out. I told him to keep it nice and short and the referee is going to jump in and stop it."
After an eight count, Martirosyan continued attacking and Roman had no defense, forcing referee Jon Schorle to stop the fight and give Martirosyan a hard-earned victory.
"I knew he was going to do it," Tarverdyan said. "He did what he was supposed to do. The crowed loved it. He showed his heart."
Added Martirosyan: "He's fought against guys like [Yuri] Foreman, [Kassim] Ouma. It's an honor to beat a guy like him."
The bout, considered a WBC junior middleweight semifinal title eliminator fight, drew rave reviews from Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, according to Martirosyan.
"Bob said this was a great performance," Martirosyan said. "He said it showed a lot of heart."
The win allows Martirosyan to take another step forward in what he hopes is a WBC junior middleweight title shot against Saul Alvarez or Ryan Rhodes, who will fight for Alvarez' belt on June 18 in Mexico.
"After this fight, Vanes is going to learn much, much more," Tarverdyan said. "Even if he gets knocked down, he learns.