The rising lightweight remains undefeated, overcoming a spirited challenge from the game Harutyunyan Saturday night on SHOWTIME.
There comes a point in many elite fighters’ careers where they make the mistake of crossing the line separating confidence, which is good to have, and possible overconfidence, which can be very, very bad. Example A might be the world’s expectation that Mike Tyson would wipe the floor with Buster Douglas in Tokyo, an anticipated blowout that Tyson, it would appear, fully bought into, to his detriment.
Was sizzlin’ hot lightweight contender Frank “The Ghost” Martin assuming, as Tyson had against Douglas, that Saturday night’s PBC on SHOWTIME main-event opponent, Armenian-born, German-based Artem Harutyunyan just a tasty dish of wienerschnitzel flown in from Hamburg, Germany, for him to wolf down? Maybe not, but Martin’s pre-fight comments suggested that he might already have been looking ahead to bigger and better things.
“I’m going to bring the dog out in this fight,” Martin said. “I’m going to dominate.”
Well, he did, to a point. In stretching his professional record to 18-0 with 12 knockouts at the Chelsea of the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Martin scored a close 12-round unanimous decision over Harutyunyan (12-1, 7 KOs), a bronze medalist for Germany at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But he had to stomp on the accelerator in the last three rounds, winning each, with the likely difference on the three official scorecards being the knee that Harutunyan took in the 12th round, perhaps strategically to buy a bit of extra recovery time as Martin fought as if keeping his unblemished record depended on it.
That two-point round for Martin enabled him to come out ahead, 114-113, on the card submitted by Steve Weisfeld, while the other two judges, Max DeLuca and Tim Cheatham each saw it as 115-112.
Martin landed 167 of 539 total punches (31%) to 117 of 442 (26.5%) for Harutyunyan. “The Ghost” also won the statistical battle via CompuBox in power punches (106 of 251, 42.2%) to 91 of 299, 30.4%) and jabs (28 of 243, 18.2%).
Most of those disparities owe to Martin’s biggest rounds, while the rounds banked by Harutyunyan were tighter squeezes. Martin outlanded his opponent, 30 to 11 in round six, 23 to 3 in round 10 and 22-7 in round 12.
Martin’s victory in the WBC lightweight eliminator earned him a No. 1 rating from the world sanctioning body. But the late-round urging by his trainer, Derrick James, for him to pick up the pace belied any notion that he had the fight all wrapped up in a pretty box with fancy ribbon.
“I just knew I was not active tonight, as I normally am,” said Martin afterward. “I seen a lot of shots that I could have took, but my reaction time just wasn’t on point tonight.”
Of Hartutyunyan, Martin said, “He’s definitely tough. I hit him with some big shots. He stood up and bounced around like a ping-pong (ball). He stood tall. I take my hat off to him.”
his part, Hartuyunyan said he’d like to come back to Vegas for a do-over with Martin, although the likelihood of that would seem to be remote, at least in the near future.
“Congratulations to Frank Martin,” he said. “He’s a good fighter. But I saw every punch from him. But the last round, my eye got hurt very bad. That was the point where I had to take a few seconds to recover. I think (the eye is) hurt badly.”
So, did Hartuyunyan agree with the decision?
“I don’t agree. But if possible, I would like to fight him again.”
Elvins Rodriguez shines in stoppage win over Viktor Postol
In the co-feature, top super lightweight contender Elvis Rodriguez continued his rapid ascent with an impressive seventh-round TKO of former champion Viktor Postol, who was stopped on his feet for the second straight fight at this venue.
Rodriguez, who has notched four straight wins since dropping a majority decision to Kenneth Sims in 2021, floored Postol with a right hook in the final seconds of the sixth round and hurt Postol again with another right hook in the seventh round as referee Celestino Ruiz stopped the bout at 23 seconds of the frame as Postol stumbled into the ropes after absorbing a barrage of punches. Rodriguez led 59-54 on all three judges’ scorecards.
The Freddie Roach-trained Rodriguez improved to 15-1-1 with 13 knockouts, while Postol fell to 31-5 (12 KOs) and has now lost three straight in his storied career. Postol was taken to the hospital for observation following the bout and wasn’t available for comment.
“For every fight we always have a plan,” Rodriguez said. “Today, maybe it helped a little bit that Freddie trained Postol, but it's always a plan for a different fighter. This all started in the fifth round. When I hit him, I thought I fractured his nose, then I gave him a nice look in the fifth. So, in the sixth I was going for the kill. I felt I had him from the beginning in the seventh round. I gave him a hook and I saw that he was in trouble. And then the referee stopped the fight. So we knew we had won. I'm ready. I'm ready for a world title. I've worked too hard so far. Thank you.”
An interesting sub-plot of the match was the presence of famed-trainer Freddie Roach, who was in Rodriguez’s corner on Saturday and had also recently trained and guided Postol. Their familiarity extended to Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Gym in Los Angeles with the two frequently sparring. The experience favored Rodriguez as he hurt Postol with a jab-right combination midway through the third round that had Postol retreating for the remainder of the round.
Rodriguez landed a right hook to the top of Postol’s head with approximately 20 seconds left in the third as Rodriguez began sitting down on his punches and opening up. Rodriguez hurt Postol with a left-right combo to the body with 20 seconds left in the fifth that nearly doubled Postol over and had him dancing away to end the round. Rodriguez caught Postol with a right uppercut to start the sixth and later stunned Postol with a hard right jab as Postol’s left eye began to close and Postol’s nose and mouth filled with blood before the bout was stopped.
Freudis Rojas stops Diego Sanchez in seven
Freudis Rojas, a slick, 6-foot-2 power-puncher from Las Vegas, dominated the very game Diego Sanchez in the telecast opener, stopping Sanchez at 58 seconds of the seventh round of the welterweight bout and extending his record to 11-0 with 11 knockouts when referee Tony Weeks intervened to wave off the action at the request of Sanchez’s corner.
Sanchez’s corner halted the bout after their fighter absorbed 159 punches while only landing 51, according to CompuBox stats. Rojas landed 47% of his power punches and averaged 23 punches landed per round and was landing too many unanswered shots when the bout was stopped. The photogenic Rojas, who won every round on the three judges’ scorecards, was giddy with emotion in the ring afterward as he discussed the excitement of fighting on national television for the first time.
“You know this guy was a tough guy. We knew that he was gonna keep putting pressure on,” said Rojas, who was extended past the fourth round for the first time. “I'm glad I got the rounds in because that's what we need in the pros. The more rounds the better, and I know the fans like that. This was the biggest blessing. Like I said at the press conference, when I found that the news [I would fight on the telecast] I was jumping around like a little girl like with some pom poms, man ‘cause it's such a blessing. I think this is gonna open a lot more doors for me.”
The southpaw Rojas relied on his long reach and lanky frame to keep the 5-foot-7 Sanchez at bay as he unleashed a steady diet of jabs and left hands. Sanchez’s left eye started to close slightly early in the second frame as Rojas peppered Sanchez with snappy punches. The game Sanchez (19-3, 16 KOs) soldiered on and kept walking forward, even landing a stiff right hand and a left uppercut with a minute left in fifth that caught Rojas’ attention. Still, it was a dominant performance from Rojas, who owns an amateur win against the headliner Martin and has sparred with elite talents like Terence Crawford, Jaron Ennis and Alberto Puello. All of Sanchez’s losses have come against undefeated fighters.
For a closer look at Martin vs Harutyunyan, check out our fight night page.