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.