With his famed trainer imploring him to get a knockout, Frank “The Ghost” Martin rallied late and dropped Artem Harutyunyan in the twelfth round to solve his more experienced opponent, capturing a close but unanimous decision in the toughest fight of Martin’s career in a WBC lightweight title eliminator on Saturday on Showtime from The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (photo by Ryan Hafey)

Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) had to gut through what he described as an off performance against Harutyunyan, a previously undefeated Olympic bronze medalist from Germany who traveled to the United States for the first time in his professional career and fought aggressively and confidently. Still, with his promoter and stablemate Errol Spence Jr. cheering him on from ringside, Martin won by scores of 114-113, 115-112 and 115-112 and nearly closed the left eye of Harutyunyan.

“I just knew I wasn't active enough as I normally am,” said Martin, who won his second fight at The Chelsea in eight months and relied on his elite stamina to carry him in the later rounds.

“I just think my reaction time just wasn’t on point tonight. He definitely was a tough opponent. I wouldn't say that it was too difficult, it was just my reaction time wasn't working like it normally does for me. He was definitely tough. I hit him with some big shots. He stood up, he bounced around in the ring like a ping pong, but he stood tall. I take my hat off to him.”

Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs) led 58-56 on all the judges’ scorecards after six rounds but Martin won the last four rounds from the judges’ perspective to seal the win. After his trainer Derrick James told him he needed a stoppage, Martin thundered out of the corner to start the tenth round and appeared to hurt Harutyunyan with a left to the body. With Harutyunyan’s left eye closing, Martin again pressed the action in the twelfth, chasing him around the ring. Harutyunyan took a knee with 53 seconds left in the fight, the first knockdown of his career, as Martin landed a barrage of rights and lefts. The break did Harutyunyan good, as he was able to recover and dance away from danger.

On Harutyunyan taking the knee, Martin said, “No, I wasn’t surprised. You know after a while, after I've landed so many body shots, I can get to wearing guys down. I didn't land as many body shots as I normally do, so, you know, he stood in there.”