CARSON — On a cool, crisp Southern California night, Vanes Martirosyan walked out to the ring and took center stage for the biggest bout of his career.
Four minutes and 53 seconds later, the cold reality of the conclusion many predicted came to fruition as Glendale's Martirosyan was knocked out by Gennady "GGG" Golovkin at 1:53 of the second round in the main event of Saturday's card at the StubHub Center and live on HBO for the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. middleweight titles.
The 36-year-old Golovkin (37-0-1, 34 knockouts), a huge favorite, tied Bernard Hopkins for the longest streak of title defenses in the middleweight division with 20 as he continued his run as the longest-reigning champion in boxing, stopping Martirosyan with a savage flurry, the most telling blow likely a left hook.
"It was like being hit by a train; not one punch, but all of his punches," Martirosyan said in the ring after the fight. "It was the hardest I've ever been hit."
For Martirosyan (36-4-1, 21 KOs), who took the bout on four weeks' notice after nearly two years of inactivity, it was his first defeat via knockout, but he stood up to the challenge and even backed up GGG with a left at the conclusion of the first round.
But as so many before him, Martirosyan, 31, couldn't stand up to Golovkin's staggering power.
"It feels great to get the knockout," Golovkin said. "Vanes is a very good fighter. He caught me a couple times in the first round. In the second, I was all business."
In the first round after some pawing jabs, it was Martirosyan who was the first to vary his offense, but Golovkin then landed solidly with a left hook. Martirosyan didn't go away, though, and landed some stiff jabs and a good one-two combo. Martirosyan looked good at the end of the round, connecting on a left hook that backed Golovkin off and got the crowd excited.
In the second round, Golovkin seemed to stun Martirosyan early on and it proved to be a foreshadowing of the destruction to come. Martirosyan landed a solid combo, but Golovkin returned with a big left hook that stunned Martirosyan. Moments later, Golovkin was unleashing a barrage from all angles, accentuated by a huge overhand right, a left jab, another overhand and a savage swarm of left and right hooks that sent Martirosyan to the canvas as he slouched briefly before falling forward. He got up to his knees to see the 10-count of referee Jack Reiss before falling back down.
Martirosyan, who like Golovkin was a 2004 Olympian, fought at 160 pounds for the first time, coming up from the super welterweight division. He took the bout on short notice after Saul "Canelo" Alvarez' proposed bout with Golovkin was canceled due to Alvarez testing positive for banned substances.
Martirosyan, who was cornered by Edmond Tarverdyan of the Glendale Fighting Club, fought for a world title for the third time in his career and came up short.
Only this time, it was against a fighter considered by some to be the best in the world pound-for-pound.
In the opening bout of the HBO televised portion of the card, women's world welterweight champion Cecilia Braekhus (33-0, nine KOs) defeated Kali Reis (13-7-1) via unanimous decision in a bout that was the first women's fight to air on HBO.