By Mitch Abramson
Joe Greene Jr. doesn’t want to talk about it. Just leave it alone, he says politely. But it was the first loss of your career. Don’t you want to talk about it? Not really, he answers. The incident in question was his fight with Vanes Martirosyan on June 5, 2010 at Yankee Stadium. It was the biggest fight of Greene’s career. An amateur star in New York, Greene was expected to put on a show in front of his hometown fans. But rather than rise to the occasion, Greene fought tentatively, with little urgency. When the scores were read- a unanimous decision victory for Martirosyan- it couldn’t have come to a surprise to Greene, but that didn’t dull the pain or make it any easier to digest.
“It was devastating to him,” his father and trainer, Joe Greene Sr. said. “It was a fight that he thought he should have won. My son was throwing one punch a round and Vanes was throwing two punches a round and he got the decision.”
Greene Jr. went into a sort of hiding after that fight, so hurt by the results. His promoter, Greg Cohen, offered Greene, perhaps a “half dozen fights,” but Greene wasn’t interested. He was too busy mulling over what had happened, trying to put the pieces back together in his career.
“He was really upset by that loss,” Cohen said. “It weighed heavily on his mind. I offered maybe a half dozen fights and he wasn’t interested in. Mentally he wasn’t there. But he’s ready now.”
And he’s done sulking over the loss. Greene, 25, credits a move to Pembroke Pines, FL, in Broward County with rejuvenating his career and narrowing his focus. He left the comforts of home in Queens, NY around three months ago for the heat of South Florida, where he lives with a girlfriend and his sister, according to his father.
Greene, now training with Anthony “Chill” Wilson, returned to the ring on Oct. 1, stopping William Johnson in the sixth round to raise his record to 23-1 with 15 knockouts. It was the first bout for Greene since he dropped a decision to Martirosyan more than a year ago, and he was encouraged by the results. Leaving his hometown has allowed him to concentrate more on his career, which he felt wasn’t always the focus while he was in New York.
“It felt great to get back in there,” Greene Jr. said on Wednesday, back in New York for a few days. “It had been a while but I still felt good. I felt right at home. I didn’t miss a beat.”
Of his move down South, the soft-spoken Greene felt it was necessary: “There are just too many distractions in New York,” he said. “It’s just a little too convenient. When you get out of your element, you can focus more on other stuff. Where I am now, the only thing to focus on is what I’m doing now, which is boxing.”
He is scheduled to fight again on Dec. 8 as the main event for a card in Houston, TX against a yet-to-be determined opponent as a co-promotion between Cohen and Lou Savarese’s promotional outfit. If Greene is successful in that fight, Cohen is looking to get Greene relevant again in the junior middleweight division with a big fight early next year.
“He had one bad night and mentally and physically he’s moved on,” Cohen said. “He’s still one of the best junior middleweights in the world. He has the power, the speed and the chin. He’s in a hot weight class. In the spring of next year, I’m looking for Joe to get back in the mix. I don’t think there will be any more tune-ups for him after this in 2012.”
Cohen was not shy about naming potential opponents for Greene, mentioning every single big-name fighter, from Canelo, to Angulo, to Paul Williams, to Kirkland.
“He would love to fight them all,” Cohen said. “Joe is looking for world titles. The fight between Pawel Wolak and Delvin Rodriguez? Joe would love to get the winner. Joe is back and looking for big things for his career.”
Mitch Abramson covers boxing for the New York Daily News and BoxingScene.com.