by Kieran Mulvaney
A clash of heads and a nasty gash above the eye of Vanes Martirosyan brought a premature end to the junior middleweight's clash with Erislandy Lara on Saturday night. If one of the two men is to emerge as the official challenger to the belt worn by Mexico's Saul Alvarez, he will have to do so via a rematch, after Saturday's aborted clash resulted in a technical draw.
Martirosyan, 32-0-1 (20 KOs), began the contest brightly, attacking Lara from the outset, looking to close the gap between himself and his foe and land solid right hands behind stiff lefts. Lara, 17-1-2 (11 KOs), appeared initially discomfited by Martirosyan's aggression, reluctant to mix it up or allow his opponent to close within striking range. Lara's relative paucity of professional bouts belies his extensive international amateur experience, and he used that experience to judge the distance to his opponent and to anticipate when Martirosyan sought to close that distance. Each time Martirosyan took a half-step forward to put himself in punching range, Lara took a half step back, and then moved to the side so that his foe's punches fell short or glanced off his shoulders.
For the first several rounds, however, Lara did enough only to reduce the effectiveness of Martirosyan's punches without offering much return fire of his own. That began to change in the fifth, as Lara, having seen plenty of what his foe had to offer and beginning to find it wanting, started to time Martirosyan's assaults and meet them with short, sharp, straight counter left hands. By the seventh, that timing was almost perfect, and Lara was landing virtually at will, using Martirosyan's aggression against him by steering the Armenian-American's face onto his fist. In the eighth, Lara was even beginning to step forward with his punches, turning aggressor for the first time in the contest.
There is always a danger, however, when a southpaw such as Lara meets an orthodox fighter like Martirosyan, and that danger manifested itself just 26 seconds into the ninth. Martirosyan lunged forward, Lara tucked his chin, and the Cuban exile's head crashed into Martirosyan's face. Martirosyan wheeled away in obvious agony, dropping hard to his knees. The investigation by the ringside physician was cursory and needed to be nothing more; the gash was deep and the fighter made it clear he could not see.
As a result, the fight went to the scorecards, and the judges' verdict -- 86-85 Martirosyan, 87-84 Lara and 86-86 -- left the fight without an official winner, which candidly felt like a fair result.
"He ran all night," protested Martirosyan. "This isn't the amateurs, it's the professionals. He was running all night."
"He's a good fighter," said Lara, "but I hit him with everything."
A rematch seems inevitable.
In the co-main event, Miguel Angel ‘Mikey' Garcia showed just why boxing insiders frequently rave, and ever-so-occasionally slightly despair, over a style that is methodical and patient with sudden eruptions of explosiveness.
The undefeated Garcia, 30-0 (26 KOs), began his bout with Argentina's Jonathan Barros as he so often does: behind a high but relaxed guard, picking off the punches that his opponent threw at him with seemingly effortless ease, and taking his time to study his foe's weaknesses, all while keeping him occupied with a stiff left jab and occasional right hand.
Barros, 34-4-1 (18 KOs), seemed ruffled early on by some of Garcia's hard rights, and spent several rounds circling, throwing punches in bunches that seemed designed less to hurt Garcia or pile up points and more to keep his opponent busy and at a safe distance. Beginning in the fifth, however, the Argentine increased his punch output, landing flurries to the body and head as Garcia stalked patiently forward. The combinations didn't hurt Garcia, but they were beginning to score points, and there was a sense that, on the scorecards at least, Barros was hauling himself back into the contest.
But the more he opened up, the more Barros left himself open, and in the eighth he paid the price. As Barros launched a right hand, a beautiful left hook from Garcia landed over the top, high on the Argentine's head. In a delayed reaction, Barros sent out a left jab and then fell down on his face. He hauled himself to his feet but turned away from the referee, and emphatically verbalized that he wanted ‘no mas.'
"It's just about patience," said Garcia. "It's not about getting wild. We wanted to play it safe. We have bigger fights ahead."