Ugly Headbutt Robs Erislandy Lara of Victory
Lou Eisen / November 14, 2012 - 11:14am
Just as Erislandy Lara was starting to impose his will on Vanes Martirosyan, an accidental headbutt ended the fight early, much to the disappointment of both fighters and the fans in attendance and watching at home on HBO.
At the time of the stoppage, 26 seconds into the 9th round, Lara was dominating the fight and was repeatedly pot-shotting Martirosyan at will with his left cross.
This marks the second fight for Lara where he has looked great against a well-known American opponent and yet was still denied an official victory in the scorecards. The first time Lara was denied a sure victory occurred when he destroyed Paul Williams in Atlantic City for 12 straight one-sided rounds and yet found himself being cheated out of the decision by crooked judges, that purposely stole the fight from Lara and gave it to Williams. Those judges were later fined and suspended for their horrendous behavior.
The Martirosyan-Lara fight ended 26 seconds into the 9th round after an accidental clash of heads opened up an appalling cut over Martirosyan's left eye. The cut was 2 inches deep and very wide as well. The cut was much more than any cut man could handle and required immediate medical attention. Since the fight ended in the 9th round, the judges scorecards decided the outcome. The referee Jay Nady advised the judges to score the 9th round as if it were a full round.
The final outcome was certainly dissatisfying for the fighters and their respective fans. The bout was ruled a technical draw, meaning that a rematch in the future is a certainty. One judge scored the fight for Martirosyan while another judge scored the bout for Lara. The third judge scored the match dead even, thus resulting in a technical draw.
Martirosyan pressed the action for much of the early rounds. He was constantly the aggressor chasing Lara all over the ring, throwing punches in bunches. Most of Martirosyan's punches missed their mark. In fact, he was simply unable to find a home on Lara's chin for his vaunted right hooks all night long. Martirosyan has a tendency to telegraph his right hook. This enabled Lara to constantly duck under Martirosyan's right hand. The result was always the same. The momentum from Martirosyan's right hooks always left him dangling face first over the ropes every time he missed with the punch.
Rather than simply chase Lara in a straight line, Martirosyan would have been better served to move to his side, thereby effectively cutting the ring off on Lara. Martirosyan never made the necessary corrections for cutting off the ring and ended up expending a lot of energy he could ill afford to waste.
Lara certainly showed his defensive mastery throughout the fight. Lara, a true southpaw, kept continually circling clockwise around the ring, using lateral movement very effectively to stymie Martirosyan's wild right hands and lunging right crosses. Lara was able to retain his composure throughout the bout while the same could not be said of Martirosyan. His deep-seated hatred of Lara showed through in every round and prevented him from settling down and fighting to his strengths rather than chasing his Cuban foe all over the ring.
Boxing is the sport of controlled aggression. This is why the legendary Muhammad Ali always went out of his way to rile his opponents. He knew that an angry fighter is much easier to beat than a calm and controlled veteran boxer. Martirosyan was unable to match Lara's hand and foot speed. His frustration was clearly evident every time he lunged awkwardly and unsuccessfully at Lara.
Martirosyan was more successful when he simply let his hands go against Lara. The early rounds went to Martirosyan not because he landed that many more punches on Lara but rather, because Lara was concentrating more on defense than on offense in the early going of the bout. That being said, Martirosyan's fists of fury managed to open a mouse under Lara's left eye midway through the 4th round.
Lara's defensive wizardry was a work of art. Mind you, Lara's corner was constantly urging him in the early rounds to get busy on offense and to start letting his hands go more often. Lara's fancy footwork, head feints and shoulder rolls combined with his constant lateral movement made it very difficult for Martirosyan to land any telling blows on him. The fact of the matter is, Lara's game plan was to come on during the middle rounds and then win the fight in the later rounds. He was in the midst of executing his plan to perfection when the unfortunate and accidental head butt occurred, proving one of the oldest adages in all of sport, which is, "Boxing is the theatre of the unexpected."
After the decision was announced, Lara told HBO's Max Kellerman, "I officially won this bout." If the butt had not occurred, he most certainly would have officially won the bout.
Martirosyan struggled during the fight to match the speed of Lara, although the pressure he applied on Lara was effective early on. He did manage to touch up Lara at various times in the early rounds. Martirosyan was at least landing some telling blows on his wily foe. Lara smartly never allowed Martirosyan to set his feet long enough to get off more than one shot at a time.
Lara started to respond in the sixth and the seventh rounds, letting his hands go more and making Martirosyan pay for his over aggressiveness with hard, stinging left hand counter punches. Lara boxed beautifully in the eighth stanza, using his educated feet to constantly turn Martirosyan, thus making him more susceptible to straight left hand counters.
Freddie Roach, the trainer of Martirosyan, had this to say about his charge's performance, "It was a very close fight. Vanes won the early rounds when Lara was running so much. I told him, 'The fight's getting closer, back him up and throw more combinations.'" Martirosyan deserves credit for taking his trainer's advice to heart but he was unable to build up any consistency in his attack. Every time Martirosyan tried to back up Lara against the ropes, Lara would spin off and become the aggressor, or he would slide away along the ropes and out of reach of Martirosyan's shots.
The essential difference between the two combatants can best be explained in terms of racing. Martirosyan has a sprinter's mentality. He likes to get off to an explosive start and end matters as quickly as possible. Lara is more of a long distance marathoner. He is much more effective over the distance of a fight when he has the time and opportunity to institute his overall game plan on his way to victory.
CompuBox stats told the story of the fight in a nutshell. Lara landed 74-of-257 punches to Martirosyan's 33 of 243. Martirosyan managed to outland Lara in power punches 40 to 27. That stat would have been more significant and favorable for Martirosyan had the fight gone the distance. Lara's hand speed and footwork helped to create many different punching angles for his benefit during the bout. Martirosyan was more effective in close and in the clinches. This is why Lara kept moving laterally, in order to deny Martirosyan any punching opportunites.
Before he was whisked off to a hospital Martirosyan stated that he most definitely wants an immediate rematch with Lara. In fact, his eagerness for a second go-around with Lara was all too evident when he was asked when such a fight might take place. Martirosyan immediately shot back, "As soon as the stitches come out, I want a rematch."
Martirosyan's all consuming hatred of Lara was most evident by his post fight comments, such as, "He ran all night, it was tough to catch him. He's kind of a dirty fighter." Lara put his feelings towards Martirsyan aside when he said, "I was coming on and starting to pick him apart and dominate the fight."
When told by Kellerman that Martirosyan claimed the head butt was on purpose, Lara smiled and said, "That makes no sense. Why would I want to deny myself a victory in a fight I was clearly winning?" Ringsiders agree that Lara was beginning to dominate the fight at the time of the stoppage in the 9th round. From round 6 on, Lara was effectively landing his wicked left cross and left hook almost at will. Both fighters looked very tired when the bout ended.
Martirosyan is one of those awkward fighters against whom it is difficult to look very good. He is an excellent, exciting young pugilist with some rough edges that still need to be smoothed out by Roach. For Martirosyan the draw may have well been a loss because unless the terrible cut over his left eye heals quickly enough, Lara will just move forward with his career and fight Saul Alvarez for the WBC junior-middleweight world title. If Lara wins that fight and the title, then Martirosyan may have a much longer wait in front of him before he can ever get Lara back into the ring again.