By Jake Donovan
A pair of super welterweight title fights that have been attached to a number of dates appears to finally have a firm timeframe and location.
Training stablemates Jermall Charlo and Erislandy Lara can both look forward to hometown title defenses. Multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com that plans are in place for the pair of Houston-based champs to defend in separate bouts on May 21 in Houston, Texas.
Charlo (23-0, 18KOs) is due to make the second defense of his version of the 154 lb. crown versus former champ Austin Trout (30-2, 17KOs). Their bout was once rumored to take place on April 30, but wound up one of several moving parts amid a busy spring schedule.
The other leg of the show would feature Lara (22-2-2, 13KOs) – who owns a win over Trout – in a title fight rematch with Vanes “The Nightmare” Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21KOs).
Venue and televised network have yet to be secured – or at least formally announced – for such a card, although early indications suggest it could head to Showtime. At present moment, there are no such plans for it to air as part of the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series.
Showtime is currently working to secure the rights to the May 21 heavyweight title fight between unbeaten champ Deontay Wilder and mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin. Such coverage would come during a special edition of Showtime Boxing International, via live feed from Megasport Arena in Moscow, Russia.
Media relations representatives for PBC and Showtime both declined comment on the subject. Sources from the fighters’ respective camps requested to not go on record, although Lara and Martirosyan have already taken to social media in leaking the preliminary details.
Martirosyan let the cat out of the bag via Twitter prior to last Easter weekend, only to scrub the post from his timeline moments later after being admonished by his handlers. The 2004 U.S. Olympian who hails from Glendale, Calif. by way of Armenia initially claimed his account was hacked and that the fight was not yet a done deal, but has since come correct on social media.
“May 21st, I will be champion of the world,” Martirosyan stated. “Nobody hacked ****; the fight was done a week ago, I just couldn’t say **** about it.”
The rematch comes more than three years after their inconclusive – and largely unwatchable – first bout, with both boxers fighting for separate super welterweight titles. Lara rallied from two knockdowns to claim a 10th round injury stoppage over Alfredo Angulo in their June ’13 interim title fight, receiving an upgrade to “regular” champ after Floyd Mayweather Jr. vacated his titles in favor of a career-ending run at welterweight.
Following the win over Angulo came a lopsided win over Trout in Dec. ‘13 and closely contested non-title fight points loss to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in July ’14. He has since added three successful defenses, scoring a decision win over Ishe Smith in Dec. ‘14 – whom Martirosyan outpointed in his most recent fight last September – followed by a pair of victories over Delvin Rodriguez and Jan Zaveck in a pedestrian-like 2015 campaign.
In agreeing to all terms, Martirosyan returns to his old training grounds, having previously worked with Ronnie Shields – who trains Lara and Charlo. There is also language in the contract calling for a third fight, though presumably enforceable only by Lara in the event he loses the fight and his title.
“They did everything they could to get the fight date and location where they wanted,” Martirosyan noted. “[A] rematch clause, also. [L]ooks like somebody’s having nightmares.
“I just signed off on everything. I said ‘(Let’s) do it’ because they don't know what I know!”
Martirosyan comes in on the heels of a hard-fought 10-round win over Smith, having scored two knockdowns en route to the well-earned victory last September. It was a strong rebound performance following a disputed loss last March to Jermell Charlo, Jermall’s twin brother.
Jermall Charlo claimed his version of the crown with a 3rd round knockout of Cornelius Bundrage last September, followed by a 4th round stoppage of Wilky Campfort last November to round out a three-win 2015 campaign. Both of the aforementioned fights aired live on NBC during Saturday afternoon telecasts.
Trout has been out of the ring since a 6th round knockout of Joey Hernandez in the inaugural installment of PBC on Fox Sports 1 last September. He has remained active in the gym, as well as behind the mic serving as an expert analyst for the PBC on Bounce TV series (Full disclosure: Jake Donovan also serves as a member of the broadcast team), but has been largely been kept in the dark about his next ring appearance.
The opportunity to face Charlo was accepted by the New Mexico-based southpaw, who reigned as a super welterweight titlist for more than a year, among his four successful defenses a career-best 12-round win over Miguel Cotto in Dec. ’12. The feat was met with his first career loss, dropping a hard-fought decision to Alvarez in their April ’13 unification clash, followed by a convincing loss to Lara later that December.
He has since claimed four wins, including knockouts in each of his last three starts.
As details for the venue and network are still being firmed, so too is the official fight night roster.
Also in discussion is efforts to add Jermell Charlo to the show. Jermell has been linked to a potential vacant World Boxing Council (WBC) super welterweight title fight with John Jackson, but plans haven’t moved since the announcement from the WBC for an eight-man elimination tournament. That concept fell apart the moment that many of it suggested participants – including Martirosyan and Trout – opted to move in another direction.
In doing so, both now land title shots straight away rather than wading through a series of fights for the same opportunity. It means hitting the road in efforts to wrest the respective titles from the local favorites - but knowing when and where the bout will take place means two less things to worry about than was the case prior to Tuesday's revelation.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox