by Cliff Rold
Professional clashes between former Olympians often carry their share of intrigue. This Saturday, fans get a rare clash of unbeatens that share in the tradition. That neither medaled may be why it’s not been a big part of the promotion.
The US entrant at Welterweight in 2004, 27-year old Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KO), and the US Welterweight in 2008, 25-year old Demetrius Andrade (19-0, 13 KO), square off for the vacant WBO professional crown at 154 lbs. If Andrade wins, he will be the first member of the 2008 US team, a team that managed only one medalist (Heavyweight Deontay Wilder, Bronze), to win a major professional belt.
If Martirosyan wins, he will be only the second member of the 2004 team, after Gold Medalist Andre Ward, to garner a title in the paid ranks.
Much has been made of the US fall from grace at the Olympic level. We are seeing it play out in the professional ranks. The positive correlation between Olympic success and professional success is evident is some pockets internationally. While some US amateurs opt out of the Olympic dream these days, skewing the pool of top amateurs that go professional, there is no denying an emergent negative correlation in the States.
Excluding the 2012 US team that failed to medal at all, and most of which is freshly turned pro, the US sent 29 fighters to the Games from 2000-08 with Rau’shee Warren appearing in two of his three Games. Of those, only four have won major professional titles: Ward, Brian Viloria, Jeff Lacy, and Jermain Taylor.
Compare that to the three teams that preceded them.
While America’s medal struggles were already becoming an issue in the 1990s, the teams from 1988-96 sent 36 fighters to the Olympics and translated that into 17 professional titlists. Among them were Roy Jones, Michael Carbajal, Riddick Bowe, Oscar De La Hoya, Vernon Forrest, Floyd Mayweather, Chris Byrd, and Antonio Tarver.
That’s a dramatic shift.
Some of the numbers can be explained through tough luck. 2000 US Olympian Rocky Juarez came very close to winning titles a couple times and received more than his fair share of shots. His Olympic exposure kept him viable where others might have faded away. Similarly, his 2000 teammate Jose Navarro was denied a title at 115 lbs. in a highly controversial decision against Katsushige Kawashima in 2005. Andre Dirrell of the 2008 team lost a closely contested WBC Super Middleweight title shot on the road in 2009 to Carl Froch.
Even if all those men had picked up titles, they’d still have a large relative gap to travel to catch up to the teams before them.
It’s partly against this backdrop that two former US Olympians attempt to bridge what is becoming a difficult divide between making the team and making the jump to professional glory. It’s a more dire moment for Martirosyan.
Slowly developed after exiting the second round of the 2004 Games with a loss to Cuba’s Lorenzo Aragon, Martirosyan looked ready to contend after a 2010 win over Joe Greene on the Miguel Cotto-Yuri Foreman undercard. It took almost two years to get to the draw with Erislandy Lara and another year for a title shot to develop. Only 27, this is a must win scenario.
It’s different for Andrade. He’s likely to have more chances even if he doesn’t win but expectations for him are probably higher. He lost a highly debatable decision in the 2008 quarterfinals, just missing the medal rounds. His overall amateur pedigree is impressive, featuring the 2007 World Championship Gold.
After some tepid early career performances, he’s begun to look like the talent many thought he’d be from the gate. An abundance of cautious matchmaking leaves him a question mark, but it’s been better since a 2011 win over veteran Grady Brewer.
The debate about which man is the best US talent off the 2008 team slides between Andrade and Featherweight Gary Russell. With this fight, Andrade takes a competitive step up that Russell thus far has not made. Win impressively, and Andrade will likely quickly become a darling of those who like their science more sweetness than violence.
Regardless, only one man will add to the champion’s roll call of their recent Olympic brethren while yet another will fall short.
Professional clashes between former Olympians often carry their share of intrigue. This is one of those times.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Weekend Report Card: http://www.boxingscene.com/golovkin-good-how-good-fly-post-report-card---71305
Segura Makes a Move: http://www.boxingscene.com/segura-moves-up-boxingscene-review-ratings-update--71334
BoxingScene Ratings Update: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
And TBRB Too: http://www.tbrb.info/
So Shane Mosley-Anthony Mundine is back on? Still not interested…Lamont Peterson-Dierry Jean? Very interested. Jean is hungry and Peterson can’t afford the loss. This could be fun…Miguel Cotto is essentially a lottery ticket holder right now and good for him. One has to wonder what Sergio Martinez does if Cotto goes after someone from the Golden Boy stable though. Given his layoff and recovery, could Gennady Golovkin build enough of a mandate to force an immediate fight by the time Martinez is back? Time will tell…Someone with the name Incognito should know better than to leave voice messages and texts…Fresno State might be four wins from their first BCS game. Will the human pollsters push them down to avoid it? It was suggested on BCS countdown this week. High drama…Enduring wishes for the healthy recovery of Magomed Abdusalamov.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]