Boxing wastes marquee weekend to grab a whole lot of attention

The highest-profile fight of Vanes Martirosyan’s 13-year professional boxing career materialized not because of a victory over another ranked opponent, but because of a failed drug test.

Not his. Canelo Alvarez’s.

Only last month, Martirosyan was waiting for a fight, any fight, as the politics and business practices of the sport had conspired to sideline the Glendale-based boxer against his will for nearly two years. Alvarez’s suspension presented Martirosyan with a chance of a lifetime, to be a last-minute replacement for a showdown with middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin on one of boxing’s signature dates.

Still, Martirosyan cares about boxing. And as appreciative as he is of the opportunity to challenge Golovkin on Saturday at StubHub Center, he is upset over the sequence of events that made it possible.

Martirosyan knows what everyone else does: Alvarez’s positive test was a nightmare for boxing. The sport that specializes in self-sabotage reverted to its worst behavior.

“The Canelo situation really made me frustrated,” Martirosyan said. “I like the kid. He was getting better every fight. He was doing good. But then something like this happens, you lose all respect for somebody. It’s like everything you do doesn’t mean anything. Now, you’re asking, ‘How long have you been doing it?’ ”


Alvarez blamed the Clenbuterol discovered in his system on consuming contaminated meat. Whether he’s telling the truth is immaterial at this point, since there’s no fail-safe method to prove the validity of his claims. The sport’s top box-office attraction will be viewed with suspicion for the remainder of his career.

Almost as dispiriting is how boxing wasted one of the couple of chances it has each year to capture the sporting world’s undivided attention.

Calamities like this are part of boxing’s natural cycle, as it’s always only a matter of time that an act of stupidity or greed destroys whatever positive momentum the sport has built.

Boxing was due for some bad news, considering the encouraging developments of the last few years. There was the emergence of two overrated but nonetheless recognizable heavyweights in Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder. The two fighters were part of a new generation of stars that also included Golovkin, Alvarez, Vasyl Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia and Terence Crawford. And some of these brand-name fighters were actually fighting each other, the most noteworthy being Golovkin and Alvarez, who fought to a 12-round draw in September.

Boxing has only itself to blame for the cancellation of the rematch, which was scheduled for Saturday in Las Vegas.

The sport is about as convincing an argument there is against libertarianism, demonstrating time and time again what happens when regulations are almost nonexistent. In this particular case, boxing’s arbitrary anti-doping measures created an environment in which a fighter with tens of millions of dollars at stake was bold or careless enough to flunk a drug test.

But if boxing promoters are anything, it’s flexible. Golovkin’s promoter, Tom Loeffler, is especially so.

Consider this: When heavyweight Luis Ortiz failed a prefight drug test last year, his replacement to fight Wilder was Bermane Stiverne, an unremarkable 39-year-old who was nearly three years removed from a previous defeat to Wilder. Stiverne showed up for his rematch with Wilder with the body of a sportswriter. He fought like a sportswriter, too, as he was flattened by Wilder in the first round.

By that standard, Loeffler is a magician. The 32-year-old Martirosyan is a former U.S. Olympian who is sturdy and skillful enough to last six or seven rounds with the hard-hitting Golovkin, which is about as much as can be expected in what amounts to a stay-busy fight for the champion. The Armenia-born Martirosyan also figures to attract plenty of Armenians and Armenian Americans from his hometown of Glendale. StubHub Center should be a fun place to be Saturday night.

Loeffler has remained in contact with Alvarez’s promoters with the intent of staging the rematch between Golovkin and Alvarez after Alvarez’s six-month suspension expires in August. Loeffler is once more doing what he can with what he has.

Of Alvarez’s positive drug test, Loeffler said, “I think it helps the rematch. Even though it was unintended, controversy sells. There was a lot of controversy, first over the test, then second over Gennady’s comments and then Canelo’s response to Gennady’s comments.”

Golovkin called Alvarez a dirty fighter, which elicited vulgar retorts from Alvarez on social media.

Loeffler continued: “[You’re] going from the first fight where you had a mutual respect for each other to now [where] they really don’t like each other. Gennady feels like Canelo didn’t respect him or the sport to take it seriously enough while he was tested in Mexico. Canelo, I’m sure, has taken offense to some of the things Gennady has said. It’s really devolved into a situation where they don’t like each other. If the fight happens, you’ll see a whole different type of promotion, but you’ll also see a much different fight with both guys being more aggressive than in the first.”

Loeffler is making the best of a disastrous situation. Chances are this won’t be the last time he has to do that.

Twitter: @dylanohernandez