Undefeated opponents and televised bouts are nothing new for Gapo “The Ghost” Tolmajyan.
But as the Glendale boxer continues his hopeful ascent to becoming a world title contender, each and every fight becomes his most important yet.
That certainly describes Tolmajyan’s showdown against the unblemished Jose “Sniper” Pedraza in a 10-round co-main event of an ESPN2 “Friday Night Fights” card Friday evening at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon, with the televised portion airing at 7 p.m. Tolmajyan (14-2-1, three knockouts) and Pedraza (13-0, nine KOs) will vie for the vacant United States Boxing Assn. super featherweight title.
And, according to Glendale Fighting Club trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, Tolmajyan’s biggest fight will see the best version of Tolmajyan yet.
“He’s looking very sharp,” said Tarverdyan, who also trains boxers Vic Darchinyan and Art Hovhannisyan, along with Ultimate Fighting Championship mixed martial artists Ronda Rousey and Manny Gamburyan at GFC, among others. “His conditioning, his strength has improved greatly. It’s the best I’ve seen him. Everybody in the gym says it.”
Tolmajyan was originally scheduled to fight on “Friday Night Fights” on July 5 in Connecticut, but his bout fell through. It’s only prolonged training for the 27-year-old Armenian native, who exemplified readiness and confidence on Wednesday at GFC.
“I’m really excited,” Tolmajyan said through a translator, “I’m prepared well and I’m going to go out there and do great.”
Tolmajyan’s last trip to the Morongo Casino was another “Friday Night Fights” bout in March of 2012 in which he lost a unanimous decision to the undefeated Abraham Lopez. Since then, Tolmajyan’s recorded a pair of victories, including an impressive unanimous decision over the previously undefeated Jorge Maysonet Jr. in April, which also aired on “Friday Night Fights.”
“He always looks better when he steps up in competition,” Tarverdyan said. “He definitely gets more motivated when he gets a better opponent in front of him.”
Pedraza will be the sixth opponent to take on the Glendale fighter with an unbeaten record. Tolmajyan is 3-2 in those fights, with three of his last four fights against undefeated opponents and two of his last three wins handing his foes their first loss. Thus, combined with the spot on ESPN2 and a title at stake, Tolmajyan isn’t short on motivation.
“Yes, I love the fights on TV and I love [competing] versus undefeated opponents,” Tolmajyan said. “I’m gonna go out there and put on a great show.”
In the 24-year-old Pedraza, Tolmajyan faces an up-and-coming Puerto Rican fighter who’s reeled off three straight knockout victories. His last was likely his most impressive, as he scored a seventh-round technical knockout of Sergio Villanueva, who was 25-2-2, in June. Pedraza also brings the added perplexity of fighting from both right-handed and left-handed stances.
“He switches, he’s orthodox and southpaw. He does both,” said Tarverdyan, who added that Tolmajyan split his sparring rounds equally against southpaws and orthodox fighters. “We’re expecting a southpaw fighter and an orthodox fighter.”
With plenty of experience — which includes in the neighborhood of 400 amateur bouts, according to his camp — against undefeated opponents, Tolmajyan showed no signs of intimidation at the task and opponent at hand.
“I don’t care about his record, I don’t care about his punching power,” Tolmajyan said. “He’s a boxer, I’m a boxer; let’s go out there and fight, let the best man win — it’s gonna be me.”
At stake is the USBA strap. But likely of more importance is that Tarverdyan believes a win could put Tolmajyan within a couple victories of a world title shot.
“Til now, it’s one of the most important fights for me,” Tolmajyan said. “[It’s the] first step toward [a] world championship. I’m just going to open up doors for many championships to come. So, it’s very important.”
Tolmajyan will also begin a busy run of fights for combatants out of the Glendale Fighting Club. On Aug. 17 in Boston, Gamburyan will make his Ultimate Fighting Championship return, while recent GFC newcomers Levon Sargsyan and Melsik Baghdasaryan are set to make their muay Thai professional debuts in August and September, respectively. On Dec. 28, on what is predicted to be one of the biggest cards in UFC history, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Rousey will defend her title against bitter rival Miesha Tate.
Of course, Tarverdyan and the rest of his GFC stable are hoping Tolmajyan begins a successful run.
“I think Gabriel just needs to be himself,” Tarverdyan said. “Gabriel’s a great boxer. If he’s himself and he performs like he did against his last opponent, he’s gonna get the win.”
The main event will be a 10-round lightweight bout between Rustam Nugaev (24-6-1, 14 KOs) and Jose Hernandez (14-6-1, six KOs). Tickets are available at (800) 745-3000 or www.ticketmaster.com.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun