The life cycle of every prospect eventually reaches a crossroads where everyone finds out whether he has the ingredients to move on to the highest levels of the sport. Julio Cesar Chavez's long apprenticeship arrived at that crescendo against Sergio Martinez and Vanes Martirosyan's will take place Saturday in a final title eliminator against another amateur standout in Erislandy Lara.
Factors that may influence the outcome can be found in their respective CompuBox pasts, which will be chronicled here:
Lara Versus Height: The 5-9 Lara will concede three inches to Martirosyan but the good news for the Cuban is that he has fared well against taller fighters. During his majority decision "loss" to the 6-1 Paul Williams, Lara overcame "The Punisher's" punishing 87.2 punch-per-round pace with excellent accuracy (42%-19% total, 28%-14% jabs, 49%-21% power) to forge connect advantages of 224-220 (total), 46-39 (jabs) and 178-161 (power) despite throwing nearly half the punches (530 to 1,047).
Lara destroyed the 6-1 Ronald Hearns in 94 seconds, landing 48% overall (12 of 25) and 77% of his power punches (10 of 13). In his most recent outing against long, lean volume-puncher Freddy Hernandez, Lara duplicated the dynamics he encountered against Williams, for he threw far less (710-561) but crafted dominant connect gaps (246-128 total, 29-13 jabs, 217, 115) with excellent accuracy (44%-18% total, 13%-6% jabs and 64%-23% power). Lara counteracts height with supreme timing and given Vanes' chin vulnerabilities that may play a decisive role in the final result.
Martirosyan's Last Three: The 2004 U.S. Olympian's recent efforts revealed different sides of his fistic profile. In June 2011 against Saul Roman, Martirosyan suffered a first round knockdown, butt-induced cuts over and under the right eye and over the left eye and roughed up on the inside. But Martirosyan conjured a huge rally in the seventh by scoring his own knockdown, then pounding Roman on the ropes to induce a referee stoppage. His surge enabled him to seize the lead in total punches (129-128) and power punches (86-75) as well as lengthen his percentage leads in all categories (38%-31% total, 25%-24% jabs, 49%-37% power)
Martirosyan was workmanlike and disciplined in out-pointing veteran Richard Gutierrez, averaging 35.1 jabs per round and piling up connect advantages of 171-85 (total), 74-49 (jabs) and 97-36 (power) against a constantly advancing foe. His most recent outing saw him blast out journeyman Troy Lowry in three rounds by averaging 75 punches per round, landing 41% overall and 53% of his power shots and limiting Lowry to 8% overall, 9% jabs and 7% power. He out-landed Lowry 92-10 (total), 30-7 (jabs) and 62-3 (power). This versatility will help against the multi-dimensional Cuban.
Martirosyan Versus Left-Handers: The only world-class southpaw Martirosyan has faced also posed one of the most severe threats to his undefeated record, for Kassim Ouma lost a disputed unanimous decision in January 2010. Ouma's angles and better work rate (60.1 to 47.7 per round) enabled the former 154-pound titlist to out-land the prospect 181-146 (total), 65-32 (jabs) and 116-114 (power).
The lefty stance affected Martirosyan's effectiveness. Against right-handers Lowry, Gutierrez and Roman Martirosyan threw 57.4 punches per round landed a combined 34.2% overall and 47.3% power but against Ouma he averaged 47.7 punches per round landed 30.6% and 35.7% respectively. Martirosyan also tasted more blows -- 30.1% overall, 24.7% jabs and 34.3% power as opposed to a combined 25% overall, 20.5% jabs and 36.7% power against the right-handers.
Prediction: It will take an excellent fighter to beat Martirosyan, but unfortunately for the Armenian-American Lara is an excellent fighter. Lara's sharpness and excellent timing will wreak havoc on Martirosyan's goal of long-range control and Martirosyan's vulnerable chin -- he's been dropped three times, twice in his last six fights -- will be a factor. Martirosyan's skin also tends to puff and he gets visibly annoyed when the fight doesn't go his way. If Lara hurts Martirosyan, he'll finish him. Lara by mid- to late-round TKO.