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Martirosyan wins, fans and boxing lose again

17
Jan

Vanes Martirosyan begins his leap back to his feet after Kassim Ouma dropped him in the ninth round of their 10-round bout on Saturday. Despite scoring the knockdown and forcing the most of the fight, Ouma lost a lopsided decision. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

Prior to Saturday’s crossroads match between undefeated junior middleweight Vanes Martirosyan and veteran Kassim Ouma, Ouma’s promoter Russell Peltz said that his fighter doesn’t win fights when he trains in his adopted hometown of Palm Beach, Fla.

The 31-year-old former titleholder had lost four of his last five bouts going into the Martirosyan fight and he had trained in Florida, where he seldom prepares the way a world-class fighter should, for each loss.

Saturday’s fight, which was televised live on Fox Sports Net from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, was different. Ouma, who was offered the Martirosyan fight the week of Christmas, caught a flight from Florida to Las Vegas on Dec. 26.



Ouma put in three hard weeks at Johnny Tocco’s gym with his new trainer, Livingstone Bramble, a former lightweight champ who was determined to get the best out of the hardnosed but underachieving Ugandan southpaw.

“I spoke to Kassim on the phone the other day and he sounded nasty,” Peltz told RingTV.com on Wednesday. “That’s a good sign. Kassim is in a bad mood when his trainer makes him work hard. He’s been in Vegas since the second day after Christmas. Bramble is trying his best to instill discipline, so that’s a good sign.”

However, the hall-of-fame promoter would not predict a victory for his fighter or even allow himself to sound hopeful of Ouma’s chances.

Maybe after 40 years in the boxing business, Peltz knows how hard it is for a perceived “has been” to get a fair shake against a promising up-and-comer.

On Saturday, Ouma (26-7-1, 16 knockouts) appeared to recapture the relentless form he had as a 154-pound beltholder in 2004-2005, as his constant pressure and measured, but unpredictable punching appeared to give Martirosyan fits for much of their entertaining 10-round bout.

Ouma crowded Martirosyan in the early rounds, preventing the younger man from setting his feet and getting off. He almost casually walked Martirosyan down during the middle rounds, catching many of the talented 23 year old’s jabs and single power shots on his gloves as he landed his own jab and found a home for his right hook, which caused (along with a few accidental headbutts) severe swelling above the popular Armenian-American’s left eye.

To his credit, Martirosyan (27-0, 17 KOs) sucked it up and rallied in the late rounds when Ouma’s activity dropped, but a ninth-round knockdown scored with a right hook from the veteran seemed to tip the competitive fight in the former titleholder’s favor.

Not so in the view of the official judges, who scored the bout for Martirosyan by tallies of 97-92 and 97-93 (twice).

Last year was a solid one in terms of marquee matchups being made but it was marred by bad scorecards in high-profile bouts such as the Juan Diaz-Paul Malignaggi I, Ali Funeka-Joan Guzman and Paul Williams-Sergio Martinez.

This year hasn’t begun well and poor scorecards aren’t making things easier on the fans, who immediately made posts entitled “Robbery!” and “Boxing disgraced again” on boxing message boards and forums on the internet after the decision was announced for Martiosyan.

As with Diaz-Malignaggi I and Williams-Martinez, fan outrage wasn’t so much directed at who won the fight as it was to how much the victor won by on some of the scorecards.

Martirosyan-Ouma was a competitive fight, and one can make the argument that Martirosyan pulled out the fight by a point or two.

There were a few close rounds in the first half of the fight that Martirosyan may have stolen with sharp punches that landed in the final 30 seconds of the rounds. Ouma continued his pressure in the second half of the fight, but his punch output dropped — probably the result of some fine body punching from Martirosyan in the middle rounds — and the younger man took advantage of it by landing head snapping one-two combinations in rounds seven, eight and 10.

The knockdown in the ninth round was not a hard one. Martirosyan literally jumped back to his feet as soon as his back touched the canvas and then he won the rest of the round.

Martirosyan teed off on Ouma in the final 20 seconds of the 10th round, making some wonder whether he could have stopped the veteran if he had two more rounds to work with.

Who knows?

All fans know is that a 10-1 betting favorite struggled mightily with a supposedly faded fighter for 10 rounds. All they know is that the guy with the closed eye, the one who was dropped on his back, won a wide decision.

All they know is that an underdog fought his heart out and didn’t get any credit from the judges and they are not happy about it.

Martirosyan wasn’t happy with himself.

“I made the fight tougher than it should’ve been,” he said during his short post-fight interview.

Martirosyan will learn from Saturday’s experience and go on with his career.

Ouma, now the loser in five of his last six bouts, officially becomes a stepping stone for young fighters, but one who might be too dangerous for his own good.

Peltz said they were lucky to get the Martirosyan fight.

“We took the fight on 26 days notice because, honestly, we can’t get any fights,” he said.

That was after Ouma had looked sluggish and disinterested in a close split decision to journeyman Gabriel Rosado. What junior middleweight prospect is going to want to fight him after the way he looked against Martirosyan?

Maybe Martirosyan. Perhaps the Glendale, Calif., resident’s pride will convince him to rematch with Ouma. Maybe the second fight will be a 12-round bout.

It could happen.

Just don’t expect Peltz to get too excited about his fighter’s chances of winning a decision. He’s seen too much to have a positive attitude.

Sadly, so have the fans.

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