In an unbeaten career now 34 bouts, 160 rounds and more than eight years old, Vanes “Nightmare” Martirosyan has finally arrived upon the doorstep of claiming championship glory he believes he so richly deserves.
With a long list of titles won and battered opponents beaten behind him, Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan isn’t looking to fulfill any new championship quests at the moment, but rather to settle an old score.
On Saturday night, live on HBO and emanating from the American Bank Center in Corpus Chris, Tex., Martirosyan will look to fulfill championship dreams a career in the making, while fellow countryman Darchinyan will look to gain revenge six years in the waiting.
Leading off HBO’s televised Top Rank Boxing triple header at 9:30 p.m. EST, Martirosyan has finally secured his first-ever world title shot, as he’ll face fellow unbeaten Demetrius “Boo Boo” Andrade for the vacant World Boxing Organization light middleweight (154 pounds) title.
Darchinyan will follow, as he gets the rematch he’s craved for so long when he faces off with Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire in a 10-round featherweight (126 pounds) bout.
Though Corpus Christi is roughly 1,500 miles from Glendale, with the Jewel City’s Martirosyan and Darchinyan at the forefront, the night is likely to be the biggest, as it relates to the Sweet Science, in the city’s history.
“This is really great for Glendale,” said Main Event Sports Club’s Roma Kalentaryan, a longtime trainer and strength and conditioning coach for Martirosyan. “I think, if not everybody, 80% of the Glendale people should be watching.
“I think pretty much everybody from Glendale should be cheering on Saturday, everybody from Southern California really.”
Now 27, Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 knockouts) has fought twice before in world title elimination bouts, though neither resulted in the championship bout he’s clamored to receive. All the while, he’s endured criticism because his title quest has taken so long to come to fruition. Either way, Martirosyan’s chance at title glory is finally here.
“It’s a dream come true for me,” Martirosyan said. “I had a lot of opportunities slip away, I’m not gonna let this slip away.”
A 2004 United States Olympian, Martirosyan will face another former U.S. Olympian in Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs),a member of the 2008 squad.
A professional since October of 2008, Andrade is coming off a decision win over Freddy Hernandez (30-6) in which he won every round on the judges’ cards. Prior to that, Andrade, ranked eighth by “The Ring Magazine” at junior middleweight, won his previous four bouts inside the first four rounds.
Kalentaryan, for one, isn’t all that impressed with Andrade’s body of work.
“Everybody’s talking about how quick this guys is. In my opinion, he’s not that quick, he’s just got good timing. If anything, Vanes is quicker,” Kalentaryan said. “With pressure, it’s very hard to pick shots. Vanes is gonna bring his pressure like he always does.”
Indeed, it seems the plan for Martirosyan is to bring on his trademark pressure attack. Hence, the Glendale resident believes the key to the fight lies within his approach rather than what the 25-year-old Andrade brings to the dance.
“I’m not worried about him, I’m more worried about what I’m gonna do,” said Martirosyan, “The Ring Magazine” No. 5-ranked junior middleweight. “We’re very confident, we’ve got the game plan; we’re gonna pressure him. I think we can take him out by the eighth or ninth round, that’s how confident we are.”
With a good game plan at the ready, one of the best camps Martirosyan said he’s ever had and the right mindset going forward, it appears the timing is finally right for the championship shot that is long overdue, according to Martirosyan and those close to him.
“My opinion is he should’ve got this shot four or five years ago. We took our time, we were patient,” Kalentaryan said. “It’s all about these boxing politics.”
For the past few years, Martirosyan was on a quest to wrest away the World Boxing Council crown from Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but, despite a litany of smack talk from Martirosyan and reaching top contender status, it was a shot unfulfilled. After a technical draw against Erislandy Lara in November of 2012 in a title eliminator, the chances for the bout took an even bigger hit.
“I wasted two years chasing Canelo,” Martirosyan said. “When that didn’t work out, I had to change my path.”
That long and winding path has finally navigated its way through the politics of boxing into the promise of a title opportunity Saturday.
“He’s not nervous, he’s not worried about anything. He’s ready to go,” Kalentaryan said. “Physically, he’s been ready for this his whole life. Mentally, I’ve never seen him this strong.”
Darchinyan has been biding his time for another shot at Donaire since the latter burst onto the scene with a fifth-round knockout of Darchinyan in July of 2007.
“I’ve waited for this fight for a long time,” Darchinyan said Tuesday in a Top Rank conference call. “I’m very motivated for this fight.
“I can beat him easy, I’m going to show all the world.”
The 37-year-old Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) has already penned a Hall of Fame career. A former undisputed super flyweight champion, Darchinyan has won championships across three weight divisions (flyweight, super flyweight and bantamweight) and is now looking to add a fourth in the future in the featherweight class.
“He’s our legend. I would say for the Armenian fighters, he’s the best [of all-time]. He’s the best fighter in featherweight history,” said Glendale Fighting Club’s Edmond Tarverdyan, who is now the lead corner man for Darchinyan, who resides in Glendale after previously living in Australia. “I want to see him get that title in a fourth weight class, I want to be there for that. It’s an honor to work with him.”
Darchinyan ran roughshod on his way to a 28-0 record, knocking out 22 opponents along the way before he was stopped by Donaire with a left hook in the fifth round, which marked the first knockdown and defeat in Darchinyan’s brillant career.
The victory propelled Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs) to stardom, as he would become the IBF flyweight champion and go on to become a three-division world champ, multiple outlets’ 2012 boxer of the year and a top-five pound-for-pound fighter. Much of that came to a halt when he lost to Guillermo Rigondeaux in April, losing for the first time in 12 years.
“I’m just trying to recall how I became world champion,” Donaire, 30, said on the conference call, “the whole process of it, the mentality, the desire. We’re very excited for this fight.”
Some in the boxing world believe the rematch has finally come to fruition, because, in Darchinyan, Donaire, ranked No. 1 in the junior featherweight division, believes he has a winnable fight to bounce back from a loss, while doing so in entertaining and impressive fashion for the fans. It’s a sentiment Darchinyan agrees with.
“I think so, yes, that’s why he’s choosing me after all these years,” said Darchinyan, ranked fifth in the junior featherweight class. “I will show all the world, it’s not about him, it’s about me.”
In order to do that, Tarverdyan believes Darchinyan needs to not be overly aggressive and do his best to showcase his boxing against Donaire. Not only in his loss to Rigondeaux, but also in a split-decision win against Glendale’s Kahren Harutyunyan in 2006, Donaire showed he struggles against boxers, Tarverdyan said.
“That showed that Nonito has trouble when people box him,” Tarverdyan said. “[Darchinyan needs to] keep his nerves controlled a little bit; stay calm, stay focused, stick to the game plan.”
Tarverdyan believes Darchinyan’s aggressive nature was his undoing in the first bout.
“Vic ran after him the first fight with his hands down, looking for the knockout,” Tarverdyan said. “Now he knows that Nonito is Nonito.”
In Tuesday’s conference call, Donaire said he believes both fighters have changed, but also indicated that what happened in the first fight could still be an indicator of what could happen again.
“We’ve grown so much since 2007. In terms of style and power, we’ve grown so much,” said Donaire before later stating that looking back on the previous fight would still provide incite. “It’s one of the keys. ... Everybody has habits and habits die hard.”
While Donaire said he was looking to be “the old me” and not just brawl and Darchinyan said he was smarter and that boxing was also a “chess game,” it’s quite clear that neither has any intention of going the distance.
“He’s gonna look for the knockout, I’m gonna look for the knockout,” Donaire said, “so I don’t think it’s gonna go the whole 10 rounds.”
While Darchinyan was a large favorite when the two first collided, that is significantly the opposite the second time around. But that matters little to him, as he’s finally got what he wants.
“I’m very, very motivated,” Darchinyan said. “I’ve been waiting for this fight and I can’t wait anymore.”
So Saturday night beckons with myriad story lines: a clash of Olympians, a chance for Martirosyan to realize his championship dreams; a showdown between old foes with decorated pasts, both hopeful of decorated futures and a shot at revenge for Darchinyan years in the making.
Alas, one certainty is it will be a big night of boxing for Glendale.
“It’s gonna be big,” Tarverdyan said. “In Glendale for sure, everybody’s on their feet.”