GLENDALE — In what had to be nothing short of a boon of encouragement and validation to Vanes "Nightmare" Martirosyan, Top Rank Promotions CEO Bob Arum recently made a pitch to HBO for a March 12 fight between the undefeated Glendale boxer and one of the biggest names in the light middleweight division, World Boxing Assn. champion Miguel Cotto.
Unfortunately for Martirosyan's hopes of landing a long-sought fight with the high-profile Puerto Rican, HBO declined to televise the card, according to a report Thursday from ESPN's Dan Rafael, which was confirmed by Martirosyan's manager Steven Feder.
"Bob made a good attempt to try and get that fight, but our job is to get back in the ring and get busy again and that's what we're going to do," said Feder, who replaced Shelley Finkel as Martirosyan's manager when the latter retired in November. "We've waited around long enough and now the No. 1 thing is to get Vanes back in the ring."
Feder acknowledged on Thursday that the potential March 12 matchup with Cotto is now all but off the table and his client is instead focusing on a Feb. 5 tune-up match at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa against an opponent to be determined.
"I think it's a good move, we'll take the Feb. 5 fight, a little tune-up fight, get that out of the way and then go for the big guys after that," Martirosyan said. "It's actually a good thing because people are going to see a different Vanes and I can't wait to show them."
Martirosyan (28-0, 17 knockouts) has expressed a desire to take on Cotto (35-2, 28 KOs) since August, when it was first reported that Top Rank was considering the match. Cotto then decided to sit out the remainder of 2010, but Martirosyan was still reported to be in line for a big fight before the end of the year, with Pawel Wolak, Kelly Pavlik and Paul Williams among those rumored to be his possible opponent.
But the proposed December dates, including a Dec. 18 bout with Wolak for which Glendale High's Moyse Field was rumored to be considered for the venue, came and went silently.
"It sucks not being able to fight," said Martirosyan, who last fought on June 5 in Yankee Stadium, beating Joe Greene via unanimous decision. "It's been like a roller coaster, just on and off like a bad relationship. They tell me it's on, I go back to the gym for a couple days, then they tell me it's off. It's just like that."
Feder said that Martirosyan's immediate priority is getting back into the ring against a solid opponent and having a thoroughly convincing showing, rather than to keep chasing super fights. At this point, it's likely a good strategy for a fighter who, should he in fact fight on Feb. 5, would be coming off an eight-month layoff, the longest of his career.
But Feder also suggested his client won't back down from fighting the best of the division and even indicated that a quick turnaround from Feb. 5 to March 12 would not be out of the question if a marquee matchup with an opponent such as Cotto were to rematerialize.
Indeed, Martirosyan has not put Cotto completely out of his mind, even as he prepares for Feb. 5.
"That's the fight that I want," Martirosyan said of Cotto. "I would love that fight. It's an easy fight to make for Top Rank and I hope it gets made."
Even as machinations were ongoing for his clash with Cotto, Martirosyan took the opportunity to challenge World Boxing Council middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, telling boxingscene.com's Rick Reeno on Wednesday that he "would have no problem moving up in weight" to fight the Argentine southpaw.
Ironically, according to Rafael's report, Martinez (46-2, 25 KOs) was the reason HBO wouldn't bite on the proposed Cotto-Martirosyan fight. Martinez, a rising superstar who is coming off a second-round knockout of Williams on Nov. 20, is also set to fight on March 12 and, even without an opponent yet named, HBO is reportedly more intrigued by that event than a Cotto fight.
"I called out Sergio [Martinez] because I heard Sergio was having problems finding an opponent," Martirosyan said. "Me and him have a little history together going back and forth and, with our styles, I think it would be like a chess match and a good match for both of us.
"When we see each other it's all respect, but deep down, we both want to kick each other's ass."
Issuing public challenges is nothing new for Martirosyan, who just this year has called out Williams and Shane Mosley, who is slated to challenge Martirosyan's Top Rank and Wild Card Boxing Club stablemate Manny Pacquiao for the World Boxing Organization welterweight title on May 7.