By Thomas Gerbasi
For most pros with nearly a decade of experience, a set of regional title belts and a world championship fight on their resume, starting over and getting some tough love in the gym isn’t the preferred option, but Vanes Martirosyan is embracing the newest chapter of his career, one that begins this Friday night with an ESPN Friday Night Fights bout against Mario Alberto Lozano.
“When I went to Joe, I had never sparred 15 rounds in my life, and he had me sparring 15 rounds,” said Martirosyan, who is now being coached by Joe Goossen after a long stint with Freddie Roach. “He even started laughing when he asked me how much rope I jumped before I started. I said three rounds. He said ‘I can do three rounds; you should do eight rounds.’ Everything was surprising, everything was different, and you felt like it doesn’t come that easy – you need to work your butt off. And when he speaks, he gets to me really well. My father loves it, I love it, and we’re going to do good things together.”
The Lozano fight is Martirosyan’s first since losing a split decision to Demetrius Andrade in a WBO junior middleweight title fight last November. Following the bout, the 2004 United States Olympian was released by promoter Top Rank, and then came the split with Roach, who had two stints in the corner with Martirosyan which were bookended by a run with Ronnie Shields.
Enter the Goossens, promoter Dan and trainer Joe, and with a new team in place, the rebuilding began.
“The number one thing that I love is that he (Goossen) is with me in the gym a hundred percent,” he said. “He’s with me every day, and every single thing I’m doing, he’s standing there watching me. Trainers from the past, they would always just tell me ‘go jump rope, I’ll see you in ten minutes.’ Joe is standing there no matter what I’m doing in the gym. And the intelligence that he’s shown me, I’ve learned so many new things – how to fight on the inside, and how to turn my punches – he’s making me into a better fighter than I ever was. I had all this talent before, and all these fights I won, I won on my talent and I never really improved, I think, and that’s because I never had a trainer with me a hundred percent to show me what’s right and what’s wrong.”
There’s always a tendency when fighters switch team members to love everything about the new situation and deliver some hits – whether subtle or vicious – to those who used to go into battle with them. Martirosyan makes it clear that his split from Roach wasn’t a personal issue, just one where he felt he wasn’t getting the attention he wanted due to the renowned trainer’s stacked schedule and high-profile roster.
“I don’t want to talk down on Freddie, but he was never really in the corner with me,” said Martirosyan. “He was just a name in the corner, and he would have assistants working with me. I felt like if I had a trainer who was a hundred percent dedicated to me to show me, I would have improved a lot.”
Whether his claims hold water or not, Martirosyan got pretty damn far since turning pro in 2005 after the Athens Olympic Games. Owner of a 33-1-1 record, the Armenia native could look spectacular on some nights, pedestrian on others. But no matter which version of “The Nightmare” showed up, he found a way to win. The only time he didn’t was in a controversial technical draw with Erislandy Lara in 2012, and in the Andrade fight. And while he may have issues with his former training situation, he takes blame for his lone pro defeat.
“In the Demetrius fight, I learned a lot,” he said. “I was still fighting a little bit amateurish and I wasn’t a hundred percent Vanes. It would be okay with me if I fought a hundred percent and I lost – I would understand and take it like a man. But what hurts most is that you didn’t do your best, it wasn’t you in there, and then you lost.”
Martirosyan didn’t blow off the loss as an off-night. It hit him hard, and having to basically start over wasn’t easy, especially since he went into the Andrade fight - and the one against Lara - convinced that he would win, even if he was seen as the underdog in both bouts.
“I wanted those matchups because I believed in my talent and that I could beat those guys,” said the Glendale, California product, who wouldn’t mind rematches with the fighters who put the two blemishes on his record.
“I love those fights and I want those fights after this one,” he said. “I want a Lara rematch, I want to fight Demetrius again, and I know that I can knock both of them out because I feel like I’m getting the attention I deserve and my skills are sharpening up. Everything has been different.
“I feel like I just turned professional, basically,” Martirosyan continues. “I feel like a pro for the first time in my life. That’s because from the promoter’s aspect and the training, it’s been totally different.”
At least half of success is believing in it. Martirosyan believes that coupled with his new team and new start, he is a different fighter than he was just four months ago. He may very well be, but we won’t see that for sure until Friday night. And if he is, at just 27 years old, he’s got plenty of time left to get that world title belt around his waist. It almost doesn’t feel like 10 years since the Olympics, does it?
“It does now that you say it and I think about it,” he laughs, but when he gets back to business, he expects that just like he surprised the boxing world by making the Olympic team a decade ago, he will surprise people once again in 2014.
“After this fight, I want to go right back in the gym and the ring and I want to keep fighting,” said Martirosyan. “This is going to be my year, and I want to be the Comeback Fighter of the Year and show everybody that this is the real me.”