It’s rare that anyone says it is difficult being a prodigy, but it most assuredly can be.
Anyone who has made the United States Olympics boxing team is arguably a prodigy.
So that would apply to both Glendale’s Vanes Martirosyan, a U.S. Olympian in 2004, and Demetrius Andrade, a U.S. Olympian in 2008, who are set to battle for the World Boxing Organization light middleweight (154 pounds) world championship on Saturday at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Tex.
Thus, though Martirosyan has compiled a 33-0-1 record with 21 knockouts, his progress has been questioned, despite him continuously clamoring for bigger bouts and title shots.
“It’s the fight of my life,” Martirosyan says. “It’s very important.”
As an amateur, Martirosyan gained the moniker “Nightmare” when, as a relative unknown, he blazed a path through what is now a who’s who of big money fighters — Andre Berto, Austin Trout and Timothy Bradley — to make the Olympic team. Andrade was also an impressive amateur. He won the United States Amateur Boxing Championship in 2005 and gold at the 2007 World Amateur Boxing Championships en route to making the Olympics squad.
Now the two will collide in an HBO triple header, though there were initial misgivings about televising their title bout.
It will be Martirosyan’s third bout on HBO and his first since a World Boxing Council title eliminator against Erislandy Lara on Nov. 10, 2012 that ended in a ninth-round technical draw. To most, it appeared Martirosyan pressed the action, but the bout and end result was seen as lackluster to most. Hence a rematch, never came about.
Nonetheless, Martirosyan, 27, remains hungry for the bigger fights and says he is ready for his chance at the title.
“I mean, we asked for bigger fights and I think when we took the Lara fight they were surprised the first time,” Martirosyan says. “We wanted the second fight, too, but I was talked out of it. The Lara fight I was in the best shape of my life. This fight I’ll be in the best shape of my life also.”
Those close to Martirosyan credit him becoming a family man as a big factor in giving him sharper focus, as well as the insight to refrain from repeating any past mistakes inside or outside the ring.
Perhaps his improved aptitude can be seen in his choice of new manager Cameron Dunkin, as well as his confidence in serving as a role model to his younger brother, Vache “Vic” Martirosyan, who at 21 recently made his own successful pro debut.
“You fight differently when you have mouths to feed,” Vache says. “You’re fighting for your family. It really does sharpen you up. I think this fight should be an exciting fight. After this he’ll be in more exciting fights. Cameron Dunkin played a big role in that.”
Adds Vanes: “I made a lot of mistakes as far as not taking this fight and that fight and listening to people. I try and give that knowledge to [Vache]. I tell him to take the fights. Some people can say don’t take this fight, it’s dangerous this and that. I want him to make his own decisions. Don’t let people influence you in any way. I sign with Cameron: one fight later I got a title fight. Cameron is the best. He gets the job done.”
Getting the job done with regard to finally receiving a world title opportunity has been a sore spot for Martirosyan, who’s been under the Top Rank Promotions banner for the duration of his career. Many close to him agree that it has been long overdue.
Former training mate and Art of Boxing fight promoter Kahren Harutyunyan, a Glendale High graduate, has had the benefit of observing Martirosyan’s professional career up close from the start.
Harutyunyan shares the opinion of many that Martirosyan was ready as early as June of 2011 after his seventh-round technical knockout of Saul Roman in a WBC semifinal title eliminator.
“Saul Roman is a tough opponent with a lot of experience and it was a challenging fight for Vanes,” Harutyunyan says. “He definitely showed heart and resilience. It was an official eliminator and I think he was ready for a world title right after that fight, but for some reason it didn’t happen.”
One reason that could be cited apart from promoter issues, politics and injuries would be a past bad habit of not always showing his ‘A’ game against lesser opponents.
“It’s possible that he didn’t have a good test,” Harutyunyan says. “He didn’t shine as well as what TV hoped for.”
Boxing Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach has been with Martirosyan since the dawn of his professional career with only a few exceptions.
Ernie Zavala, serving as head trainer while Roach is in the Philippines with Manny Pacquiao, and Roma Kalentaryan, Martirosyan’s strength and conditioning coach, have known Martirosyan since he was 7 and 13 years old, respectively.
Roach, Zavala and Kalentaryan know Martirosyan well and acknowledge his issues in the past with regard to lesser opponents. Today, they are unanimous in seeing this as a matter that has been settled with experience and a non-issue versus bigger and better opposition like Andrade.
“He's had 34 fights now,” Roach says. “I think Top Rank babied him little bit too much. They just haven't put him in a real fight and this is it.”
Adds Kalentaryan: “Every talented person on the earth has some sort of issues. But with Vanes, he's talented, but I don't see a lot of issues with him. He's not a young kid anymore where he could just do all sorts of wrong things and make wrong decisions.”
Zavala, in the unique position of having known Martirosyan both as a sparring partner and a coach, agrees with Kalentaryan.
As the leader of Martirosyan’s training camp and the one who will be in the corner as head trainer on Saturday, he is confident Martirosyan is having a great training camp and is ready to get down to business.
“I’ve known him since he was a kid and we’d run into each other. I feel confident and Freddie feels confident,” Zavala says. “Vanes is quicker than Demetrius. He’s stronger, he’s more athletic, so basically he just has to do what he does — stay busy and throw punches and combinations. Vanes is a kind of guy where if you challenge him, he’ll step up to that level. I think he fights to the level of his competition, which is good in some ways. But he has to be challenged and if he is and feels that confidence, he’ll step up to that level.”
Glendale’s Edmond Tarverdyan, the lead corner of Vic Darchinyan, who is also fighting on Saturday, has trained Martirosyan in the past.
Tarverdyan believes that, in many ways, Martirosyan’s career has been a product of the crazy world that boxing can be at times.
“Some people are great amateurs and it takes them a bit of a time to get ready for the professionals. There are great amateurs that don’t do so good in professionals. Vanes has learned a lot,” Tarverdyan says. “Top Rank did baby him, but the fighters that they had at 154 — Vanes didn’t have a big draw. Lately, he’s been having big fights in front of him — the Lara fight. There have been times when, yes he’s been injured and that fights fell out here and there, but it is what it is. So, some people might win the title when they’re younger and then they lose the title earlier. He’s more mature and smarter now. He has the experience and if he wins the title, he’ll hold on to the title longer and make some money.”
Ruminating on past missed opportunities still stings, but Martirosyan chooses to use them as a lesson. He has moved on and is all about the title opportunity in front of him.
“That’s the past now. I don’t care about that,” Martirosyan says. “As much as Andrade's been talking, I hope he comes to fight, too. The way he's been talking, if he does, it'll be a great night of boxing and it'll be great for the fans.”
All talking aside, with regard to Andrade’s skills, they are respected by Martirosyan’s camp, but his camp believes the title firmly belongs to Martirosyan if he just does what he does best and lets his hands go.
“I think Vanes is a better puncher than he is, he’s as good a boxer as Vanes, but if Vanes lets his hands go he will be world champion,” Roach says.
Andrade has had a lot to say with regard to performance. In particular, there is Andrade’s well-publicized claim that if he had been a part of the 2004 Olympic trials, the “Nightmare” would have never have happened and Martirosyan would have never made the team.
“It’s easy to say when I wasn’t there. He can say whatever he wants — he knows he’s wrong,” Martirosyan says. “But I’ve never been beaten three times. He lost to Shaun Porter three times in amateurs. He needs to worry about that. Not talk like he was some super amateur, which he wasn’t. If he was he would have gotten a gold medal in the Olympics.”
Roach is a bit more to the point.
“Well, he was an Olympian in 2008 and he couldn’t medal there, so let’s stick with that,” Roach says. “I mean he wasn’t there so let’s not be hypothetical about it and see who wins the fight.”
If Andrade is most comfortable fueling his inner fire with trash talk, it would seem that the “Nightmare” gathers mental fortitude from dreams. By his own admission, his biggest triumphs have been foreshadowed in his dreams.
“I always dreamed about having a son and a daughter and I did. I always dreamed about the Olympics,” Martirosyan says. “I always pictured myself in the Olympics and I made it to the Olympics.
“I dreamed it and it came true. It sounds like a story, but it's really weird.”
When asked about what he is dreaming now, Martirosyan hesitates only slightly.
“The world title,” he says.