LOS ANGELES — With a packed luncheon and press conference Wednesday at the Wilshire Grand Los Angeles and a weigh-in to follow Friday at Staples Center's Star Plaza, the countdown has begun for Vanes "Nightmare" Martirosyan's much-anticipated Saturday night matchup with Saul Roman.
The HBO-televised 12-round clash of unbeatens Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. and champion Sebastian Zbik for the World Boxing Council middleweight title dominated Wednesday's press conference and will anchor Saturday's card at Staples Center.
But, as he's the closest thing to an actual hometown hero on the card, Martirosyan's 10-round fight is generating plenty of interest, considering the WBC Silver light middleweight title and WBC light middleweight semifinal title eliminator bout has the potential to catapult the undefeated Glendale native toward superstardom.
"This is my hometown fight and once again I'm thankful to have a great promoter like Top Rank to put me in a great fight like this in my hometown," Martirosyan (29-0, 18 KOs) said. "I promise I won't disappoint. …I guarantee Saturday night I'm going to win and I'm going to win big by knockout."
The winner of Saturday's fight would assume WBC top-contender status, but would reportedly have to win a final eliminator bout to land a WBC light middleweight title shot against either Saul Alvarez or Ryan Rhodes, who will square off for Alvarez' WBC light middleweight belt on June 18 in Guadalajara.
"I'm very excited," Roman said through a translator. "This is a moment I've been waiting for, I've worked hard for this and hopefully I come out with a good result."
Roman enters at 34-8 with 29 knockouts and in the past four years has fought such notables as Yuri Foreman (loss, 10-round unanimous decision), Kassim Ouma (win, 10-round split decision) and Sergio Martinez (loss, fourth-round TKO). He also shares common opponents with Martirosyan in Ouma, Nelson Estupinan and Michael Medina, whom Roman handed the third loss of his career via second-round TKO on Jan. 29.
While mindful of Roman's resume and knockout ability, Martirosyan is approaching the fight in typically confident fashion.
"He has a lot of guys that he's fought like Sergio Martinez under his belt that he has the experience from," Martirosyan said. "He's a tough fighter, but I think the way I'm going to beat him, it's going to look so easy. I just hope I get the credit for it.
"It's boxing, if you get caught, you get caught, but I'm not afraid of his power. I don't think he can hurt me."
As much as it's a stepping stone for the future, Saturday's fight also seems to be a chance to bury the past, as Martirosyan sees it. His last two marquee fights, an HBO-televised clash with Joe Greene at Yankee Stadium on June 5, 2010 preceded by a bout with Ouma five months earlier — both for the North American Boxing Federation light middleweight title — failed to win him rave reviews despite unanimous decision wins in both 10-rounders. Some even questioned whether Ouma was robbed of a win by the judges.
Martirosyan alluded to past disappointments in his remarks to the media on hand Wednesday and expanded a bit on the topic later.
"I know that before I think I've disappointed, I didn't come through," Martirosyan said. "This time I'm going to come through and I'm going to deliver and it's going to be a big fight for me."
Glendale Fighting Club proprietor Edmond Tarverdyan, Martirosyan's lead trainer for this and his previous fight, a second-round knockout of Bladimir Hernandez, agreed that Martirosyan is ready to move forward with a strong showing against Roman.
"He's ready to go, he's in good shape, we've had a great training camp," Tarverdyan said. "I think Vanes is really motivated. His last [big] fight with Joe Greene a lot people were saying he didn't look so great when he was on HBO and he knows that and he knows what the mistakes were. We've been working on that throughout the camp, but we put that aside. I told him there's always another day."
Martirosyan's training camp has consisted of three days a week of intense sparring at the Wild Card Boxing Club, the home base of his head trainer Freddie Roach, and training at GFC the rest of the time. Most notably, Martirosyan did his share of sparring with Chavez, Jr. as both Roach pupils prepared for their respective fights.
On Wednesday, as he spoke about Chavez, Jr., Roach even publicly thanked Martirosyan for the quality sparring, but it seems that Martirosyan has gained the most from the much-talked about sessions, as news of his impressive form has spread quickly along with the video footage.
"Everybody's talking about the sparring sessions, he's looking totally different," Tarverdyan said. "If he can do whatever he was doing during the sparring sessions, then he's going to be great."
With his famous father in attendance, Chavez, Jr. (42-0-1, 30 KOs) took center stage at the press conference, but the exchange of remarks between he and his austere looking German opponent Zbik (30-0, 10 KOs) remained civil and vanilla, as it was with most of the fighters.
Twenty-two year veteran and WBC light middleweight women's champion Christy Martin (49-5-3, 31 KOs) will take on Dakota Stone (9-8-5) in a rematch of their Sept. 2009 fight that Martin won by majority decision.
On Wednesday the two traded barbs about neither being at their best in the previous meeting, but things didn't really heat up until fellow veteran lightweight Mia St. John, a late arrival to the press conference, stood up in the middle of the room and began to loudly challenge Martin to a rematch of their 2002 fight, which Martin won by unanimous decision.
With the aid of the microphone, Martin was eventually able to shout down the fired up St. John, although the verbal sparring continued for several minutes with Martin's attorney Gloria Allred even firing off a couple zingers in a somewhat surreal scene.
Top Rank also unveiled the new opponent for Miguel Angel Garcia (25-0, 21 KOs), Rafael Guzman (28-2, 20 KOs), who stepped in for Miguel Beltran after the latter suffered a broken hand. Garcia and Guzman will do battle in a 10-round affair for a collection of featherweight titles that is scheduled to lead off the HBO broadcast.
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