By Keith Idec
Vanes Martirosyan is about a 3-1 underdog entering his fight against Erislandy Lara tonight in Las Vegas.
That perceived disadvantage leaves little room for Martirosyan to make the mistake of overlooking Lara.
The 2004 American Olympian is well aware, however, of what could await him if he is able to win what must be considered the biggest fight of his seven-year pro career. The Armenian-born boxer from Glendale, Calif., could secure a shot at unbeaten WBC 154-pound champion Saul “Canelo” Alvarez if he can conquer one of the most skillful southpaws in boxing in their 12-round, WBC elimination match (HBO; 9:45 p.m. ET/PT).
“My focus now is on Lara for Saturday night, but hopefully after that I’ll get Canelo,” Martirosyan, 26, told BoxingScene.com. “I think it’s about time that he steps up and fights somebody. I’ve read online and people have told me that [WBC president Jose] Sulaiman is forcing Canelo to fight his mandatory next. Also, Bob Arum told me to get through Lara and, ‘I promise I’ll get you Canelo.’ ”
Arum, Martirosyan’s promoter, is invested even more than usual in the Martirosyan-Lara clash because Lara is promoted by his rival, Oscar De La Hoya.
Martirosyan, meanwhile, must turn in his most complete performance if he is to defeat Lara. The 29-year-old Cuban defector’s lone loss as a pro was a much-maligned majority decision defeat to Paul Williams 16 months ago in Atlantic City, a fight the vast majority of fight fans and media are convinced Lara won.
“I love fighting southpaws,” said Martirosyan, who at 6-feet tall owns a four-inch height advantage over the 5-8 Lara. “I’ve always liked fighting southpaws. Even in the amateurs, any southpaw I faced I beat or I dropped. Skill-wise, [Lara] has that Cuban style. I’m kind of used to that style. I sparred with a lot of guys who were similar to his style, so I’m well-prepared. I know his style is tough, but we’re ready for anything.”
Martirosyan (32-0, 20 KOs) said he is at least 6-0 as a professional against left-handed opponents, but wasn’t sure if he has fought six or eight left-handed foes.
In recent years, he has out-pointed then-unbeaten Joe Greene (24-1, 16 KOs) and former 154-pound champion Kassim Ouma (27-8-1, 17 KOs) by unanimous decision in 10-round fights against southpaws. Ouma did drop Martirosyan in the ninth round of their bout, but he remains confident he can advance toward a championship fight by out-boxing Lara (17-1-1, 11 KOs).
“I fought a lot of southpaws in the amateurs and in the pros, also,” Martirosyan said. “That experience was great and now that I’m fighting one of the best southpaws in the world I get to use those skills against Lara. I know I’m going to come out victorious.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.