BY MANOUK AKOPYAN
GLENDALE—Two of the best pugilists Armenia has ever produced will be throwing fisticuffs Saturday night when Vic Darchinyan and Vanes Martirosyan head to the Lone Star State for their respective bouts.
Both fights will be showcased as featured attractions of the Nov.9 HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader. The matches will be televised live from the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. (6:30 p.m. PST / 9:30 p.m. EST)
Both Darchinyan and Martirosyan find themselves at a career crossroads.
For the 37-year-old Darchinyan, he battles Nonito Donaire, a man who he’s considered Public Enemy No. 1 ever since the Filipino brutally knocked him out in 2007. Avenging the loss would put another feather in the two-division world champion’s cap and catapult his name into serious Hall of Fame consideration. An unspectacular defeat would have many calling for “The Raging Bull’s” retirement.
For the 27-year-old Martirosyan, he finally finds himself in a fight of great magnitude – one that he has been yearning for well over three years now. He faces off against Demetrius Andrade in what will be a battle of two unbeaten former United States Olympians for the vacant 154 pound WBO championship. “The Nightmare’s” seven-year career has been somewhat stagnant in recent years as he’s fought a garden variety of gatekeepers. A victory would surly set him up for higher profiled fights. A defeat will delete his name from the sport’s rising star’s lists.
Asbarez caught up with both fighters and their camps earlier this week as they wrapped up training.
“I’m extra motivated for this fight,” said Darchinyan. “I’m going to do everything possible in that ring to destroy him, and send him to the hospital; I don’t care what will happen to him. I’m just coming to break his head, that’s all. That’s how bad I want this fight and a victory.”
Timing, precision, quick reflexes, and counter punching. Those are all obstacles Donaire, (31-2, 20 KOs), presents what many believe is a one-dimensional fighter who’s constantly looking to cook with his one-punch knockout recipe. The wily veteran says he feels just fine in the underdog role against the consensus 2012 Fighter of the year, who also finds himself in redemption mode following an April defeat to the hands of Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Darchinyan’s quick to note detractors that his two crowning achievements both came when he was the favorite to lose. The first came in 2004 when he knocked out undefeated IBF flyweight champion Irene Pacheco. The second was shortly after the Donaire fight when he became the first person to unify three 115 pound titles by knocking out super flyweight champion Cristian Mijares in 2009.
The 10-round bout with Donaire is contracted at 126 pounds, making it the first time both fighters are moving up to featherweight division. For the rematch, Darchinyan’s not cutting any corners like he did the first time he faced the Filipino, admitting that he underestimated him.
“I never trained for one fighter, or their style. I always trained for the sake of fitness and making weight. For this fight, I’ve been training for him and all the different possibilities.”
In addition to a new promoter in Top Rank – the same company that has handled Martirosyan’s career since he first turn pro – Darchinyan also has a new trainer. For the second fight in a row, he is working with Edmond Tarverdyan, who also trains UFC women’s champion Ronda Rousey.
“We respect Donaire as a boxer,” said Tarverdyan. “He’s going to come in with a champion’s mentality of redeeming himself. We want the best Nonito. He’s a puzzle we are going to have to solve, and we don’t want excuses. I have a big responsibility of training the best Armenian fighter in the world. We can’t let our fans down.”
Darchinyan, who has plans of a grandiose party upon his return to Glendale, knows that he can’t afford to lose. “My Armenian fans know that I’m not only fighting for my family, but I am fighting for my country, my flag, and for all of them. I will not disappoint.”
Rousey, who’s been training alongside Darchinyan at the Glendale Fighting Club, compliments who she calls her favorite boxer of all time, as well as a mentor.
“There is no one in the world that fights like him. I love his attitude, his intensity, his pace. The way he carries himself really sets him apart. He’s not one of those fighters who simply goes in there to win a match; he truly wants to beat up his opponent. There are cruel intentions with every punch that he throws. He cares about the show he puts on for fans, and that’s what makes him unique. I respect that about him.”
At 37, Darchinyan’s fire still burns, and his spirit has never been questioned. In addition to his all-action style, he’s never been shy to give opponents a landfill’s worth of trash talk, and he’s still not mincing words.
“I still have a lot to accomplish. I want to win world titles at 122 and 126. I’m a warrior. I want to prove that I am stronger than everyone,” he says. “I’ve been waiting for this fight too long. I’m going to demolish him. All I want to do is knock him out and send him into retirement. I made him, and I will break him.”
Less than two miles away at the Main Event Gym in Glendale, Vanes Martirosyan is fiercely focused at making his lifelong dream come true.
He finds himself in a battle of two unbeaten former Olympians for the vacant 154 pound WBO title. In a decorated amateur career, Martirosyan beat future champions Timothy Bradley Jr., Austin Trout and Andre Berto. A convincing victory against Andrade will put his career on the fast track to similar household names.
“I’ve been calling out fighters for years. Once I got this opportunity, I shut up and started working. I’ve been staying low key for the longest time now, just staying focused. This is actually my first interview in months,” said the soft-spoken Martirosyan. “I just can’t wait to get into the ring and prove how badly I want this. I’ve been training very hard and have a great game plan. Andrade is a great fighter. I hope he is ready to go to war. We are on HBO and I plan on stealing the spotlight that night with a very exciting and entertaining win for the fans.”
It was almost a year ago to the date when Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KOs) battled Erislandy Lara to a technical draw. It was his most legitimate foe to date. The fight ended in the ninth round after an accidental clash of heads opened a cut over Martirosyan’s left eyebrow. What the fight did do, however, was give Martirosyan new-found confidence as he proved he belonged in the ring with elite fighters. It also prepared him for Andrade who like Lara, is a southpaw.
“I love fighting southpaws. I know all their tricks. It doesn’t matter what he does. He needs to worry about what I’m going to do. The first issue is getting the victory. The second is looking good. I want to press the fight and initiate the offense. With a good win, I know I will become a commodity.”
Roma Kalantaryan, Martirosyan’s trainer who’s primarily worked with him since he was 13, said that the fight is happening at the right time for his fighter.
“We’re not overlooking Andrade. It will be a tough fight. We know Demetrius is not going to lay down for us, but I don’t see him bringing any fireworks. It doesn’t matter who Vanes fights, he’s going to find the key. Whether it’s in the first round, or the second, he’s going to find it. He has so much experience versus so many different styles.”
Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs), a two-time U.S. National Champion who’s stopped five of his last seven opponents, has an equal and comparative set of skills as Martirosyan does. The fight is a classic 50/50 matchup, as well as a dark horse to steal the show as soon as they let their hands go.
With a convincing victory, the proverbial door will be wide open for Martirosyan to fight high-profiled opponents, allowing him to seize his long-awaited opportunity of boxing stardom.
“When I become world champion, my two children are going to become world champion, my dad, my uncles – my entire family. Everyone who’s been with me since day one is going to become a world champion.”
Two Armenian trainers. Two Armenian boxers. One unified, common goal.
If – or as Darchinyan and Martirosyan promised – when they both leave Texas victorious, Nov. 9 will be a landmark date for Armenians.
“It’s going to be a great night for us and for Armenians,” Martirosyan said. “When all the punches have been thrown, at the end of the night, Vic and I are going to have our hands raised together. It’s going to end nice for us.”