With his famed trainer imploring him to get a knockdown, Frank “The Ghost” Martin rallied late and dropped Artem Harutyunyan in the 12th round to solve his more experienced opponent, capturing a close but unanimous decision in the toughest fight of Martin’s career in a WBC Lightweight Title Eliminator.
Martin (18-0, 12 KOs) had to gut through what he described as an off performance against Harutyunyan, a previously undefeated Olympic bronze medalist from Germany who traveled to the United States for the first time in his professional career and fought aggressively and confidently. Still, with his promoter and stablemate Errol Spence Jr. cheering him on from ringside, Martin won by scores of 114-113, 115-112, and 115-112 and nearly closed the left eye of Harutyunyan as Martin’s supreme stamina and relentlessness allowed him to finish strong.
“I just knew I wasn't active enough as I normally am,” said Martin, who won his second fight at The Chelsea in eight months. “I just think my reaction time just wasn’t on point tonight. He definitely was a tough opponent. I wouldn't say that it was too difficult, it was just my reaction time wasn't working like it normally does for me. I couldn't tell you know, just my timing seemed a little off tonight. He was definitely tough. I hit him with some big shots. He stood up, he bounced around in the ring like a ping pong, but he stood tall. I take my hat off to him because he took some big shots.”
Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs) led 58-56 on all the judges’ scorecards after six rounds but Martin won the last four rounds from the judges’ perspective to seal the win. After his trainer Derrick James told him he needed a stoppage, Martin thundered out of the corner to start the 10th round and appeared to hurt Harutyunyan with a left to the body. With Harutyunyan’s left eye closing, Martin again pressed the action in the 12th, chasing him around the ring. Harutyunyan took a knee with 53 seconds left in the fight, the first knockdown of his career, as Martin landed a barrage of rights and lefts. The break did Harutyunyan good, as he was able to recover and dance away from danger to survive Martin’s onslaught.
“I don't agree,” Harutyunyan said of the decision. “If it's possible I will fight him again, but if it's not, not a problem. He's just a fighter. He's not Errol Spence. I'm a big fan of Errol Spence. My plan is to be become a world champion, or at least fight for the world title, maybe against Devin Haney or Gervonta Davis. I can go up one weight class, it's not a problem for me. But I'm so happy to be here and I want to come back.”
On Harutyunyan taking the knee, Martin said, “No, I wasn’t surprised. You know after a while, after I've landed so many body shots, I can get to wearing guys down. I didn't land as many body shots as I normally do, so, you know, he stood in there.”
Harutyunyan blamed his eye for causing him to take a knee in the final round.
“He's a good fighter. But I saw every punch on him,” Harutyunyan said. “The last one my eye got hurt very bad, so that was the point where I had to take a few seconds to recover [on the knockdown]. I think this round was the only round that decided it and gave it to him.”