Multiple weight world champions Arthur Abraham and Vic Darchinyan are Armenia’s most decorated professional boxers of all time, and the closest the country has come to producing Hall of Fame-caliber fighters.
The quadragenerians, however, are no longer actively fighting, and the torch has been passed to a select few fighters who have the makings of becoming the country’s next champion.
Twenty-five-year-old Armenian-bred super middleweight Erik Bazinyan (25-0, 19 KOs) is ready for the opportunity.
The Montreal-based Bazinyan brings a decorated amateur background into the ring with a 109-1 record. Bazinyan and his family left Yerevan and moved to Quebec in 2011 when the fighter was 16-years-old, and he is now promoted by Golden Boy, Camille Estephan of Eye of the Tiger Management and is trained by the well-regarded coach Marc Ramsey.
“I’m sure I will be the next great Armenian fighter,” Bazinyan told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, I’m going to do everything to become the country’s next champion. I have a great Armenian fan base. They support me and are very proud of me. I’m not going to let them down.”
Last December, after cruising to a crushing KO over Saul Roman, Bazinyan moved to be the No. 1 contender to Billy Joe Saunders' 168-pound title. Now, he is currently ranked No. 4 by the WBO and No. 15 by the IBF and is ready to make himself a serious threat in the division.
“At my age, I am in my prime. It starts now. I had a good statement-win in my last fight. I have enough experience for a big-time fight. I am ready for a step-up fight,” said Bazinyan.
“I like to remain humble and not really talk about myself. If I were to describe my style, I’m a smart and technical fighter, but I can do everything. I have a great jab and boxing IQ. I do everything possible to win. I can brawl. I can box. I have good power. I concentrate on being an accomplished fighter. That’s what you have to do to be great in boxing and to make history. I try to do my best.”
Bazinyan said the plan was for him to be showcased on the May 2 undercard of the Canelo Alvarez versus Saunders fight in Las Vegas, an event that was scheduled yet never officially announced due to the global pandemic caused by Covid-19.
Now, Bazinyan plans to make his return in September in the United States during one of Golden Boy’s shows. Bazinyan said he is not one to call out names, but he said he’ll grow into that demeanor the day he becomes a champion.
“I leave it to my team to choose my opponents and manage my career. I trust them. I’m ready to fight anyone in the top 10,” he said.
In the meantime, Bazinyan is gaining championship-caliber confidence through his training mates. He is surrounded by top-tier talent including Ramsey fighters in fellow Armenian David Lemieux as well as Artur Beterbiev, Eleider Alvarez and Arslanbek Makhmudov.
Bazinyan has even served as a sparring partner and received heavy leather from the unified light heavyweight champion Beterbiev.
“I know what it feels like to get hit in the ring. If my opponents hit like a rock, now I won’t stress or panic because I’ve felt it before,” Bazinyan said.
Bazinyan has also crossed over to the MMA side and even sparred boxing with fellow Armenian middleweight and undefeated UFC touted prospect Edmen Shahbazyan at the Glendale Fighting Club in California.
Each of them is now looking to be the country's flag bearer in their respective sports.
Bazinyan joins a group of active up-and-coming Armenian fighters like Azat Hovhannisyan, Gor Yeritsyan, Narek Abgaryan, Aram Amirkhanyan — all of whom are trained by Freddie Roach — as well as Zhora Hamazaryan and Ferdinand Kerobyan for a shot one day at a world title.
WBA cruiserweight champion Arsen Goulamirian and WBA flyweight titlist Artem Dalakian are the only active Armenian crownholders produced from the country.
Could Bazinyan be next?
“I looked up to Darchinyan and Abraham, and they helped me a lot. They were national heroes for the Armenian people. We were very proud of them. They gave me the motivation to be like them,” said Bazinyan. “I want to make history and become a champion, and stay champion for a long time.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist and member of the Boxing Writers Assn. of America since 2011. He has written for the likes of the LA Times, Guardian, USA Today, Philadelphia Inquirer, Men’s Health and NFL.com. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan or via email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com.