By David Robinett
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
Despite an eight-year, 33-fight unbeaten streak to start his career, 2004 United States Olympian Vanes “The Nightmare” Martirosyan was considered by many a slight underdog to untested young contender Demetrius Andrade in a fight for the WBO light middleweight title last November. In that fight, Martirosyan briefly showed flashes of the brilliance that once had him on the fast track to stardom, knocking Andrade down in the first round and threatening to make short work of his opponent. But over the course of the remaining eleven rounds, Martirosyan failed to capitalize on his quick start and lived down to more contemporary expectations, losing a split decision to Andrade that most ringside observers felt was not as close as the final scores indicated.
Four months later, Martirosyan, (32-1-1, 21 KOs) returns to the ring tonight for the first time since that loss, armed with a new trainer in Joe Goossen, a new promoter in Goossen Tutor Promotions, and the optimism that comes with a second chance for a fresh start.
“I feel like I’m starting 0-0 again,” Martirosyan told FightNews.com. “Goossen is bringing the best out of me and on Friday night people will get to see and realize this is the start of something big.”
Martirosyan explained that he felt his development had stalled under former trainer Freddie Roach, not because of anything Roach did wrong, but mainly due to the practical reality that there was only so much of the Hall of Fame trainer to go around.
“When Top Rank signed me they had big expectations, but the reason I didn’t [realize my potential] is because nothing was 100%,” explained Martirosyan. “I mean, I go to the gym and Freddie’s not there. I ask, ‘Where’s Freddie?,’ and someone will say he’s at a press conference. I had no idea where he was a lot of the time, it was a surprise every day I walked into the gym whether he was going to be there or not.”
Martirosyan continued, “Freddie’s name was in my corner but there was always an assistant working for him so we never really had a chance to work together except for maybe one or two fights. Every time I had a fight, Pacquiao had a fight. Or he had to go train Cotto or whatnot, and I think a lot of outcomes I’ve had in my fights and the way I performed was because of that. I think I could have been better if I had my trainer instead of assistants with me all of the time.”
Martirosyan was quick to note that he felt no ill will towards Roach, but expressed his optimism that his new promoter and trainer would help revitalize his career.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting Freddie down, Freddie’s a great coach,” said Martirosyan. “If Freddie would have given 100% of himself to me I’d be a world champion already, but I never got the luxury of Freddie like that and that’s what sucks. But Joe [Goossen] gives me 100% all the time, he’s with me from the time I walk into the gym until the time I walk out. Every single activity I do in the gym he’s with me every step of the way. I’ve never had that before in my career and I like it.”
Martirosyan also emphasized his belief that the change in trainers would not just pump new life into his career, but that what he’s learning in the gym now will help him take his skills to another level.
“Joe already knows what I can do with my boxing and he’s teaching me other things to add to it which is good stuff that we can use in the ring,” explained Martirosyan. “So far working on the inside and working on my power more, he says I have more power than I show and he’s bringing that out of me, and I’m moving my head working on the inside more so its been really good. So far everybody I’ve sparred with I’ve dropped them with the body shot, which I haven’t really done before either. He’s bringing out things in me that I didn’t know I had. The other day I sparred fifteen rounds, and I never sparred fifteen rounds before. It was amazing that I felt I could go fifteen rounds like that with three or four different guys. I feel like I’m getting closer to my peak now but I haven’t peaked yet, I’m just starting.”
Standing in the way of Martirosyan’s comeback Friday night is Mario Lozano (27-4, 22 KOs), a hard-punching Mexican who was brought in to replace original opponent Luciano Cuello. “He’s a powerful guy, he comes to fight, and we’ll be ready for whatever he brings,” said Martirosyan.
But despite the fact that Lozano is a replacement in what is considered a tune-up level fight, Martirosyan acknowledged the importance of not just winning but showing the form that made him a teenage Olympian with a bright future back in 2004 in Athens.
“Its do or die now,” admitted Martirosyan. “There’s more pressure now because you’re thinking about the loss, how it affected you and the depression after the loss was really bad. I was sad for a long time and I wasn’t talking to anybody, which ended up creating a very bad environment for me. Then one day I just woke up and sat down with my wife and just said we need to make changes and here’s what we’re going to do. I just woke up, shook myself up and said you know what, this is not me, I’m not going to let this put me down.”
Martirosyan continued, “Right now we want to go out there and make a statement on Friday and then after that we’ll go after the next fight. I’m pretty sure Dan [Goossen] has all these ideas and plans already, but I’m just focusing on the next fight.”
Vanes Martirosyan takes on Mario Lozano for the WBO Inter-Continental middleweight title on tonight in the main event on ESPN Friday Night Fights at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, California. The card is promoted by Dan Goossen of Goossen Tutor Promotions. Doors open at 3:30p and the first bout is at 4:30p. The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights begins at 6p. Tickets are still available at the box office.