The last time Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan shared a boxing ring, opinions were evenly split as to who won the highly competitive yet prematurely stopped fight at Wynn Resort in Las Vegas.
A quick refresher: Squaring off in a 154-pound title eliminator in November 2012, Lara and Martirosyan each had their moments through eight rounds. Then 26 seconds into Round 9, an accidental clash of heads opened a nasty gash over Martirosyan’s left eye.
When the Armenia-born, Southern California-based fighter was unable to continue, the fight went to the scorecards. One judge favored Lara 87-84, another sided with Martirosyan 86-85 and a third scored it 86-86, resulting in a technical draw.
Although 3½ years have since passed, the combatants—unsurprisingly—remain steadfast in their belief of who should’ve gotten the decision.
Says Lara: “I was winning the fight easily, out-boxing him and out-landing him in every round. I was on my way to stopping him before he decided not to fight.”
Counters Martirosyan: “He came in dressed as a Mexican and he was wearing the Mexican colors, but he didn’t fight like one. It was disrespectful. The Mexicans didn’t like that, because he ran the whole fight.
“I feel like the headbutt was on purpose, the low blows were on purpose, and he’s not a clean fighter.”
Clearly, Erislandy Lara (22-2-2, 13 KOs) and Vanes Martirosyan (36-2-1, 21 KOs) have some unfinished business to tend to, and they’ll finally get that opportunity Saturday when they meet once again in Las Vegas. Only this time, there’s more at stake: Lara will be putting his 154-pound championship on the line—one of three 154-pound world titles up for grabs at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
Since their first clash, Lara and Martirosyan have each fought six times, with their careers going in noticeably different directions. Seven months after the draw with Martirosyan, Lara got his title shot and made the most of it, rising from a pair of knockdowns to score a 10th-round TKO of Alfredo Angulo.
Lara, a 33-year-old Cuba native, successfully defended that crown four times, most recently beating Jan Zaveck by third-round TKO on November 25. The southpaw’s only blemish since facing Martirosyan was a somewhat disputed split decision loss to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez—regarded as one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world today—in a non-title bout in July 2014.
While Lara has won five of his last six contests, Martirosyan has gone 4-2, with the losses coming to a pair of undefeated fighters in Demetrius Andrade (12-round split decision in a bout for a vacant world title in November 2013) and Jermell Charlo (10-round unanimous decision in March 2015).
Martirosyan, 30, did rebound from the Charlo defeat in his last outing in September, dropping Ishe Smith in the third and eighth rounds en route to a 10-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas. Interestingly, Lara also owns a victory over Smith, winning a wide unanimous decision in his second title defense in December 2014.
As they inch closer to their rematch, both fighters are determined to make an emphatic statement and leave no doubt in the minds of the fans or judges this.
In fact, about the only thing these rivals agree on is that their second meeting—like the first—will not make it to the finish line. Only both men insist it will be their fists, not their heads, that result in the early finish this time around.
“My power has increased and Vanes will notice that immediately,” says Lara, a defensive-minded boxer who was uncharacteristically aggressive and offensively dominant in his win over Zaveck. “Vanes definitely made some mistakes in our first fight, and I will take advantage of those things.
“It’s time to put a period on this fight and show why I’m the best 154-pounder in the world.”
Martirosyan begs to differ.
“I know Lara felt [my power] in the first fight, and he’s going to feel my power 10 times more in this second fight,” he says. “This fight’s going to end in a knockout in my favor. That’s how I see it. That’s what I visualize every night. I don’t have a round, I don’t have a punch, but he’s going to have some sore ribs.
“We’ll see who is going to stop who.”
For complete coverage of Lara vs Martirosyan, check out our fight page.