By Jake Donovan
Kiko Martinez repeated his success over Arsen Martirosyan, this time going on the road to pull out a 12th round knockout in their 12-round super bantamweight bout Friday evening at Palais des Sports de Gerland in Lyon, France.
The early rounds were fought on relatively even terms, coming down to style preference. Martirosyan was landing the more telling blows, but seemingly reluctant to throw in combination. The short and stout Martirosyan worked well behind the jab, a strange means of success for the Frenchman who was at a considerable disadvantage in height and reach.
Martinez began to take over the fight in the middle rounds, his earlier body work paying off in spades. At one point the busier fighter, Martirosyan was reduced to winging wild shots as Martinez looked sharp while coming straight up the middle.
While no knockdowns were scored through the first 11 rounds, Martirosyan was rocked on a few occasions. A right hand sent the fringe contender reeling in the fourth round, while a left hook created a huge opportunity for Martinez to do damage in the eighth round. Martirosyan never stopped coming forward, but his attack was less effective with each passing round.
Martinez’ blatant disregard for defense kept the fight closer than should have been the case. No matter how far behind Martirosyan began to fall, he would still land the occasional stray combination that had no business connecting. The issue was due in part to Martinez struggling to catch his breath – particularly late in the fight – but also from tough-to-break lazy in-ring habits.
Martirosyan caught a second wind late in the fight, taking the fight to Martinez and perhaps forcing a faster pace than the Spaniard preferred. Forcing a brawl was his best chance at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, as Martinez was the far superior fighter when able to box in center ring.
Regardless of who was winning rounds, the hometown crowd never gave up on Martirosyan. A furious two-way exchange at the end of the tenth round drew a standing ovation, as well as cut into Martinez’ lead as his leaky defense led to unnecessary punishment absorbed even while trapping his opponent along the ropes.
The championship rounds were all-action, initiated by Martirosyan’s burst of energy as Martinez suddenly found himself in reactionary mode. A lazy jab from the visiting fighter produced ugly results, but straight right hands helped change the course of the fight. Martirosyan was drawn in when Martinez dropped his left hand, falling for the trap as he was knocked off balance by an overhand right.
Cheers and applause filled the arena heading into the 12th and final round, providing Martirosyan with a much needed spark. Sadly, it awoke a sleeping giant in Martinez, who overcame a rough start to turn the tide with a single left hook to produce the bout’s lone knockdown.
Martirosyan hit the deck hard, but somehow managed to right himself in time to convince the referee to extend the fight. It proved to be a mistake, as Martinez landed a dozen or so unanswered head shots before forcing the third man to intervene and bring a halt to the contest midway through the final round.
The win makes it six straight for Martinez, who improves to 26-3 (18KO). Included over that stretch is a points win over Martirosyan in Sept. ’10, in Dublin. Back-to-back losses to Rendall Munroe and Takalani Ndlovu in 2009 knocked him out of title contention, but the scrappy Spaniard remains dangerous as he continues to claw his way back up the super bantamweight ranks.
Heading in the opposite direction, Martirosyan appears destined for opponent status in regards to the divisional title picture. The stout journeyman falls to 18-5 (8KO) with the repeat loss to Martinez. The defeat snaps a two fight win streak and also marks the first time in his eight-year career in which he has been dropped or stopped.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]