“It was crazy, man, because y’ know, I live boxing. It’s my life. That’s how I pay my bills. I was trying to get a fight, so I was talking as much crap as possible to get a fight,” admitted Martirosyan last week before his training session at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood. “So finally I got a big fight, so that’s why I’m not saying anything bad about nobody or anything. It was nothing personal; I wanted a big fight and I wanted to prove myself and show myself to the world. And finally I got the opportunity to do that.”
So how much of this was shtick?
Martirosyan says, “I was just trying to get someone pissed off enough to fight me because I don’t really talk a lot of crap about nobody. I’m a nice person. I don’t like to talk a lot of sh*t. I was just doing it to get a big fight; finally I got one.”
Throughout this time, he didn’t land that coveted fight but he did get a rise out of the boxing aficionados who weren’t afraid to verbally spar with him. “It was crazy because I was getting bad responses from people. It was working though; people were talking back and forth so it was alright,” said Martirosyan, chuckling.
But did the vitriol ever anger him?
“It’s funny because it’s my job to get the big fights to make some money and to fight. People talking, I mean, I don’t talk about their jobs. They come in talking but I don’t know; it was weird but it was funny. I take it. And some of the stuff I laughed at but it was just business,” he said. But Martirosyan says some of what was hurled at him did anger him. Because of that, “I ended up talking more crap,” he says, laughing.
But that’s part of the deal; if you’re a public figure like Martirosyan (who currently has 5,158 followers as of press time), you will have stuff thrown your way that isn’t always a bouquet of roses. So does Martirosyan, generally a very friendly, good-natured young man, regret any of the back-and-forthing?
“A little bit,” he admits, “but I don’t mean anything by the things that I say because I’m not that kind of a person. So I’m not one of those bad fighters that talks a lot of crap. I just wanted a big fight; I was just tired of fighting this many years as a pro and not being able to get that shot.”
His tweets certainly got the attention of the brass at Top Rank. “My uncle was getting calls from Bruce Trampler and Carl Moretti telling him to get me the hell outta Twitter,” Martirosyan says, laughing loudly. “My dad doesn’t really get on the computer but whatever my uncle was telling my dad, he was telling me, ‘Don’t talk too much.’ I’m like, ‘Sh*t, I just want a big fight.’”
“Twitter can be a great thing and it can be a bad thing. So you just gotta use it wisely and I think there were points that he just tweeted in frustration more than anything,” explained Moretti, the V.P. of Boxing Operations for Top Rank, who adds, “The social media explosion has caused management and teams and promoters to really monitor it and see what goes on. The idea is to help promote, not take away leverage or negotiate in a different way. I think you see it with the NFL a lot and NCAA players, for sure, and boxers. There’s no question there’s a whole different dynamic than we’ve ever dealt with because it’s instantaneous and it’s such a common thing now. So you really gotta monitor it.”
Moretti (@CarlMoretti) makes sure he follows all of the fighters represented by Top Rank. “Absolutely, we set them up with Twitter accounts and Facebook; we encourage it. Because whether we want it or not, it’s here to stay, Facebook and Twitter, and it’s a great way of promoting yourself and your events - if it’s done in the right way. So it’s the quickest, most inexpensive way to do things and it’s only going to get bigger. But you gotta know how to use it and when to use it and really why to use it.”
Using Twitter to state you’ll fight someone for free or winner-take-all, well, that wouldn’t be the right usage of this platform. Moretti, a noted Notre Dame homer, jokes, “They’ll lose their Twitter account and whoever goes against Notre Dame is going to have a problem too.”
But why did it take so long for Martirosyan, who is undefeated in 32 pro outings, to get to this point? This fight with Lara is not only the headliner on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark”, it’s a WBC eliminator (the sanctioning body announced on Thursday that the winner of this bout would get the next crack at Saul “Canelo” Alvarez…although they could always change their minds). Even though he’s just 26 years old, Martirosyan feels this caliber of fight is overdue. “Yeah, that’s why I was talking a lot of crap on the internet to a lot of guys because I wanted a big fight and I’m happy I got it and as you see now, I haven’t said anything bad about nobody.”
So why did it take so long? After all, Top Rank is one of the leading promotional firms in the world and Martirosyan had built up his record. But for the past year or so, his career had stagnated. Martirosyan still can’t figure it out. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “The politics in boxing and my job is to be the fighter but you can ask them that.” When Moretti is pressed for an answer, he states, “A lot of reasons; his one time on HBO, he was in a great situation at Yankee Stadium but he was in against a guy [Joe Greene] who didn’t really want to fight. The ’54-pound division really went in a different direction; we played political games with the different organizations. We’re still playing them right up to now.” What Moretti is referring to is Martirosyan has fought for various titles and this isn’t his first WBC eliminator. And after his rather unimpressive victory over Greene in June of 2010, HBO soured on him. “So I think he got to the point where he didn’t want to take the small fights and he was just looking for bigger fights and when you’re looking for a big fight, that’s usually a time you can’t get one. Instead of doing it the other way, it’s usually when they come along,” Moretti concluded.
So now after facing the likes of Bladimir Hernandez, Saul Roman, Richard Gutierrez and Troy Lowry, he faces the talented Cuban in a fight that could propel him to where he really wanted to go all along.
“He’s a good fighter; I know Ronnie Shields’ style a little bit,” Martirosyan said of his former trainer, who works with Lara. “He’s a good fighter; it’s going to be a good fight. I’m in great shape; we watched tapes on Lara. Lara’s a good fighter but I think on the 10th, we’re going to show him something he’s never seen before.”
Word is that Top Rank might be co-promoting the January 19th show at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, where Gennady Golovkin is scheduled to defend his WBA middleweight crown with Top Rank bringing aboard the fight between WBO featherweight titlist Orlando Salido and Mikey Garcia (who faces Jonathan Barros on this weekend’s edition of “B.A.D.”) and the Puerto Rican grudge match between Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Juan Manuel Lopez.
K2 Promotions (which handles Golovkin) has put a hold on the venue and put in the application for this date with the New York State Athletic Commission. The problem is they don’t have much of a stable and HBO had concerns on whether they could provide them with a suitable co-feature on this night. If this happens, that problem is solved.
As for who Golovkin will face, it looks less and less likely that it will be South African, Thomas Oosthuizen.
On Thursday, Hall-of-Famer Carmen Basilio passed away at the age of 85. I was much too young to have any real recollections of him but here’s how veteran broadcaster Rich Marotta remembered him:
“The earliest recollection I have of the sport of boxing is from my early childhood. It was in 1957; I was just a little kid and I was living in Hollywood, California. My dad was going out with a bunch of his buddies one night to a local theater to watch the live, closed-circuit telecast of the Carmen Basilio-Sugar Ray Robinson middleweight title fight. My dad explained to me, ‘Now son, we are Italian and Carmen Basilio is Italian, so it’s very important to us that he wins tonight. So you listen to the fight on the radio and root very hard for the Italian, Carmen Basilio, to win. Being a good, obedient son, I sat down in the kitchen that night and while my dad was at the CC telecast, I listened to the blow-by-blow call of the Basilio-Robinson fight, all 15 exciting rounds of it, and was thrilled by it. When the announcer was yelling, ‘Basilio wins! Basilio wins!,’ I was jumping up and down in the kitchen. It was my introduction to just how great boxing could be. In succeeding years when Basilio would fight on television, I would dutifully sit next to my dad and cheer for him.
“Decades later, as a member of the Board of Directors of the World Boxing Hall of Fame, I got to meet Carmen Basilio and he got a great kick out of it when I related that story to him. Basilio was not only fan-friendly in the ring but out of it. He would come to those dinners each year, tell stories too, take pictures with and sign autographs for the fans. He was a great delight to be around. Now on the heels of losing other great old-timers Angelo Dundee, Burt Sugar and Emanuel Steward, we send Carmen Basilio into history with them. I’m richer for having known all of them and boxing was the better for having experienced them.”
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