In the interest of full disclosure, late last year this reporter wrote a lengthy article in the Glendale New Press on Vanes Martirosyan and his preparations for his long desired and hard earned WBO light middleweight title shot versus Demetrius Andrade in Corpus Christi, Texas on November 9, 2013. From everything that I discussed and observed then, it appeared that all of Martirosyan’s ducks were in a row, and that this fight was going to be his time to shine come fight night. Unfortunately for Martirosyan, his family and his fans, nothing could have been further from the script on the day of the battle. In a lackluster performance by Martirosyan, and an equally tepid but more aggressive performance by Andrade, Andrade despite being knocked down in the first round rightfully won the fight and the title, turning what should have been a great night for Martirosyan into an honest to goodness nightmare. In relating what happened to him that night, Martirosyan is at great pains to effectively explain or quantify it:
Martirosyan: “Honestly I don’t know what happened. I just froze. I didn’t even realize that it was the 12th round when the 12th round came around. It was really weird. I never felt that way before. It was a nightmare. I just wanted to wake up.”
In expressing how he felt in the days and weeks after the fight however, Vanes is lucidly concrete:
Martirosyan: " When I came home I was depressed for a long time. We work so hard for so many years to get here and you got up there and shitted on yourself. I’m trying to find the answers. I don’t know what happened. I honestly don’t know. I’m never scared never nervous. I just don’t know why I just froze.”
In going over it with his friends and family, there was little for them to hold on to and pinpoint as the culprit or what lost him the fight because the Vanes they saw in the ring was simply was not the Vanes that anyone who knew him knew:
Martirosyan: “ My wife, she watched the fight and said, ‘that didn’t look like you in the fight. I felt like it was a different person. Like they hypnotized you or something.’ Everyone was shocked. People weren’t sad or happy. They weren’t sad that I tried my best and lost, they weren’t happy because obviously I didn’t win. They were just like what the F just happened?”
In the airport after the fight, Martirosyan ran across Roy Jones who had a very apt theory from his days in the game. In waiting so long and working so hard for all of those years, Vanes had simply lost his fire during the journey. Inconceivably, strangely, despite missing the great feast of the championship for all of those years, he was simply not hungry. He had to rekindle his desire not just to eat but to devour that man guarding the entrance to the grand banquet:
Martirosyan: “He (Jones) told me that it’s not your fault. He told me that my level of talent was so much higher than my opponent but the hunger that I had inside, it took so long to get there that I lost the hunger in the fight. He said it took me so long to get that title shot so many years that once I got it there was nothing there. It bugged me. He told me that I know that you’re not happy with your promotion.”
Behind the scenes, Vanes was deeply dissatisfied with his promotion and his coaching team for several weeks leading up to the fight. Feeling undervalued and second with the very people and key players that should have been bolstering him at this critical point in his career, he felt invisible.
Martirosyan: “I wasn’t happy with Cameron. He’s really good at work but it’s really hard to get a hold of him. I was calling Top Rank - they’re not answering my phone calls. They’re not even promoting my fight. I felt like nobody gave a crap about me and that kind of affected me. I’ve got a big fight coming up. Everybody was ignoring me.”
What also added to that sinking feeling for Martirosyan was the absence of Freddie Roach as the established and settling voice in his corner in training camp as well as on the night of the fight. With Roach’s well-known obligations to Pacquiao, Cotto and other fighters, Martirosyan felt lost in the shuffle and not a serious enough concern for Roach as he went into the most serious fight of his career.
Martirosyan: “ I don’t think that he (Roach) takes me serious. He doesn’t spend much time with me. He’s too busy with Pacquiao and other fighters. My career, I need the full attention right now. I respect him. He’s good at what he does but he wasn’t good with me.”
Indeed, during the fight in between rounds, it seemed as if no one in Martirosyan’s corner could penetrate Martirosyan's unresponsive attitude. Lead trainer Ernie Zavala kept urging Martirosyan to let his hands go as he was giving away the fight, but Martirosyan was unreachable. With regard to Martirosyan’s Achilles heel, it would seem that Martirosyan’s mental game was not there and subsequently he could not engage physically to his full capacity and potential.
Martirosyan: “Ernie, he’s a good guy but he just couldn’t get my attention. I couldn’t take him serious in the corner. It was like he was talking and I couldn’t hear anything he was saying. Something wasn’t there.”
All of these factors that Martirosyan and those close to him believe led to this vacuum have predictably led Vanes to clean house with regard his team. The result after much soul searching is that Vanes has changed his promotion from Top Rank to Goosen Tutor and switched from longtime trainer Freddie Roach to fellow Hall of Fame trainer Jesse Reid. Reid who has trained the likes of world champions Roger Mayweather, Lamon Brewster and Johnny Tapia is a good match for Martirosyan as they have worked together before during Martirosyan’s pro career to good outcome.
The Goosen Tutor switch would also seem to be a favorable one for Martirosyan as he already has another fight on the horizon scheduled for March 21, 2014 vs. Luciano Leonel Cuello at the Morongo Casino. While Martirosyan still isn’t out of the woods with regard figuring out if he has indeed solved what he needs to in order to regain his fight hunger, it would appear that this upcoming contest has successfully whetted Martirosyan’s appetite.
Martirosyan: “He (Cuello) has 36 fights, 33 wins and 3 losses. Those 3 losses were to Chavez Jr., Canelo and Willy Nelson, which a lot of people thought he won but gave it to the other guy. It’s a really good fight to be in. I can’t wait.”
But what if the freeze comes again when fight night arrives? Martirosyan readily admits that he still doesn’t have a precise grip on exactly what stopped him from performing in the biggest fight of his career. If he can’t self ignite, who indeed can light that flame?
Martirosyan: “I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way because the only good thing that happened, I thought about a lot. My father, he’s like, ‘listen son, if I thought you fought your fight, you lost to the better man. But that wasn’t you and you know that and I know that. If that was you, you would have destroyed him in the first round when you dropped him.’”
For his match up versus Cuello on March 21st, Martirosyan firmly believes that the key to him redeveloping that insatiable hunger to perform is as simple as remaining happy – which he wasn’t for a long time going into his title bout versus Andrade. Happy enough to rediscover the joy in boxing via hard old school boxing training, cross training and repeat. To this end, Martirosyan has gone as far as hiring his father to take over his strength and conditioning training as he did back when Martirosyan was still that unknown amateur burning up the Olympics.
Martirosyan: “We’re doing swimming, we’re doing core, mountains, running mountains and my dad’s doing sprints. Russian hardcore training like boot camp. We’re throwing 300 punches a round. I’m so happy right now. We’re working on a lot. I’m happy. I love it and it’s gonna be nice. I can’t wait.”
A happy fighter generally equals an entertainingly vicious fighter in the ring so from the bottom of our hardcore fight fan hearts we sincerely wish him luck.
by Kylie Krabbe
Credit: Chamber of Fear