Boxing returns on both HBO and Showtime this weekend with two fights that at least on paper, have all the makings of what should result in good scraps.
The HBO main event is at Wynn Las Vegas featuring a junior middleweight division showcase of rising stars undefeated Vanes Martirosyan (32-0, 20 KO’s, No. 3 Ring Magazine) and the WBC No. 1 contender against Erislandy Lara (17-1-1, 11 KO’s).
Lara is most known for his controversial loss to Paul Williams in what many consider the worst decision of 2011. Martirosyan , now 26, turned pro at 20 after representing the USA at the 2004 Olympics with fellow teammates Andre Dirrel and Andre Ward. He had an impressive amateur career where he was a National Champion and Golden Gloves Champion eight times, but he has not had that type of success at the pro level.
Although Martirosyan is co-managed by Shelly Finkel and fights under the Top Rank banner, this will be the first time he headlines a card. Previously he’s fought on the undercard of some major promotions, but the level of competition faced has left him a relatively unknown to the casual boxing fan. One would have to go back to 2010 when he faced Kassim Ouma at the Hard Rock here to find an opponent most fight fans would recognize.
Martirosyan has climbed the “rankings” ladder because of his potential and connections, rather than his accomplishments. He’s been trained in the past by Ronnie Shields, and for the past few years he’s had Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach in his corner. Therefore, Martirosyan has surrounded himself with top level promoters, managers, and trainers, so it’s time to see if he can now walk the walk.
Lara has had a storied amateur career of his own. He was the amateur world champion in 2005 after besting an Olympic champion and the favorite to win the title. Like plenty of Cuban athletes, Lara eventually defected with Guillermo Rigondeaux and has not been able to find many willing combatants to grow his name.
We can expect that to change now that Lara is being managed by Al Haymon. The fact he finds himself in a main event against a top contender, in what will climactically be a title shot eliminator, is another example of how things get done in the sport. That’s not very good news for other 154 lb. fighters because Lara is undoubtedly one of the top guys already, and seems to improve with every fight.
Lara is as technically sound as they come and he’s a slick southpaw that uses his boxing to set up his power. His record may not reflect one-punch knockout potential but don’t draw conclusions too hastily. The majority of finishes by Lara have come in the very first round.
Martirosyan has done a decent job of baiting fighters with a war of words and then somehow never facing them in the ring. This time around, he’ll have to meet one of those opponents he’s taken pot shots at through different channels.. I have yet to see a betting line but rest assured the sports books will be putting one out since this bout is on primetime cable.
In the second major fight this Saturday night we get to see the current WBC Super Bantamweight title holder Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KO’s) square off against Anselmo Moreno (33-1-1, 11 KO’s), the WBA Bantamweight Super Champion, who just signed a 4-fight deal with Golden Boy Promotions, the same banner Mares fights under.
For Moreno, this is a tremendous opportunity to showcase his skills and introduce himself to the casual fight fan. The hardcore ones already know him well, after he’s defended his WBA strap successfully on ten different occasions. The Panamanian is one of the best defensive fighters at his weight and possibly one of the top pound-for-pound. He has not tasted defeat since 2002 and his dominating performance against Vic Darchinyan put the other top featherweights on notice. Moreno will have both a height and reach advantage and the southpaw should be able to use his defense to remain elusive for most of the fight.
With Mares you know what you’re going to get – a fighter that is always trying to come forward and has shown the type of resilience that champions possess. Mares can throw all of the punches and has shown a willingness to take a shot for the opportunity to exchange and land some of his own. It will be interesting to see what game-plan Mares will come into this fight with and how he will try to penetrate Moreno’s stellar defense.
Finally, at this time we are all hoping to find out which fighter will emerge between Mares, Moreno, Rigondeaux who I touched on above, and Nonito Donaire, as the top guy at these weight classes. Mares is one of Golden Boy’s biggest names and a fighter with the potential and star qualities that have already made him a major draw.
Somehow I just don’t think they’d risk putting him in against an opponent they weren’t confident he could beat.
Record at Pregame.com:
Vegas-Runner, a pro sports bettor in Las Vegas, has been featured on CNBC/ESPN. Follow him on Twitter@vegasrunner, at Pregame.com and on AM 1100 ESPN (also FM 98.9) on Fridays and Sundays from 11 pm to midnight when he co-hosts First Preview. Contact Vegas Runner at [email protected].