Frank ‘The Ghost’ Martin survives scare in decision win over Artem Harutyunyan
Every once in a while, it’s good to get a scare—even for a ghost. Frank “The Ghost” Martin stared down a fright Saturday night at the Chelsea Ballroom in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on a PBC event on Showtime when he survived a jolt from little-known Artem Harutyunyan.
Martin, The Ring’s No. 6 lightweight contender, won by unanimous though close scores of 115-112 from Tim Cheatham and Max de Luca, and 114-113 on Steve Weisfeld’s tab.
The southpaw Martin (18-0, 12 knockouts) was trailing as late as the ninth round, when he found an energy surge going into the championship rounds of the WBC title eliminator.
“I just knew I wasn’t active enough as I normally am,” Martin said. “I saw some shots that I could have taken, but my reaction time just wasn’t on point tonight. (Harutyunyan) is definitely a tough opponent. I wouldn’t say it was too difficult. I would say my reaction time wasn’t working like it normally does for me. I couldn’t tell you (why). My timing seemed a little off.”
It was drastically off.
Harutyunyan won four of the first five rounds on the judge’s scorecards, and after nine, Martin trailed 86-85 on Cheatham and de Luca’s cards and 87-84 on Weisfeld’s card.
Martin, 28, came on to win the last four rounds to get the decision and keep his slate perfect.
“Before this fight, I wanted all of the champions,” Martin said. “I won’t let one off-performance fool anybody. I still want all of the top guys.”
Harutyunyan started as the busier fighter, pecking away with the jab. The 32-year-old 2016 Olympic bronze medalist for Germany mixed his punches well, working up and down, popping Martin with jabs to the body, and going up top with straight rights. Martin took a more cautious approach. He waited to throw. He slipped numerous punches, though was tagged 12 times over the first two rounds.
With 1:36 left in the third, Harutyunyan landed a right to the body. He had landed 15 power punches to Martin’s 10 through three.
— SHOWTIME Boxing (@ShowtimeBoxing) July 16, 2023
With 1:03 left in the fifth, Harutyunyan fell, which was ruled a slip. But tension began to build in Martin’s corner. His trainer, Derrick James, the 2022 BWAA Trainer of the Year, implored him between rounds to throw more punches. James sensed what was happening and wanted to put an end to it before Martin got too far behind.
Through five, Harutyunyan outlanded Martin, 49-46, but it seemed a larger disparity because of how much more active he was than Martin.
Then, with 1:42 left in the sixth, Martin found the space to put his foot on the gas. Martin tapped Harutyunyan with a right hook and had him retreating. He put the pressure on Harutyunyan, who was covering up. With less than a minute left in the round, Martin stayed on him, attacking the body and cleaving Harutyunyan up with straight lefts to the head.
It was Martin’s first solid, unquestionable round.
In the seventh, Harutyunyan froze Martin for a second with a right to the body and appeared to take command of the fight again.
With 2:22 left in the eighth, Martin showed some life again, tapping Harutyunyan with a hard right. Then, Ghost let up. With :05 left in the round, Harutyunyan nailed Martin with a right to the face. Before Martin walked out for the ninth, James kept repeating, “Don’t back up, don’t back up.”
With 2:00 left in the ninth, Harutyunyan bounced a quick combination off of Martin. Ghost did not back up, though he was eating punches. “You’re not doing enough,” James told Martin before he walked out for the 10th.
In the first 10 seconds of the 10th, Martin went after Harutyunyan, landing a straight left body shot that backed up Harutyunyan. Martin was moving with more alacrity, sensing the fight was slipping. Harutyunyan’s face began swelling and Martin had him backing up when the bell ended the round.
Martin was clearly winning the 11th. With :02 left in the 11th, a Martin barrage had Harutyunyan stumbling as the bell sounded.
Now going full throttle, Martin bolted out for the 12th, coming forward, being aggressive and attacking Harutyunyan, whose left eye was bothering him. Martin kept coming forward, going to the body and forced Harutyunyan to take a knee, down for the first time in his career with :56 left in the fight.
“I saw every punch from him,” Harutyunyan said. “The last round my (left) eye got hurt very bad and that was the point where I had to take two seconds to recover. I think this (last) round was the only round that decided it and gave it to him. It was only my eye (why he took a knee). It’s hurt badly. I don’t agree (with the decision). I want to go further and my plan is become a world champion. I’m so happy to be here and I want to come back.”
Elvis Rodriguez and Viktor Postol, the former WBC junior welterweight titlist, had nothing to hide from each other. The two had sparred plenty of rounds against each other. Postol was looking to snap a two-fight losing streak, and Rodriguez, the Dominican southpaw, wanted to continue to build off his February victory over Joseph Adorno.
Rodriguez (15-1-1, 13 KOs) scored the biggest victory of his career by stopping Postol in the seventh round of a scheduled 10-round junior welterweight bout at a contract weight of 142.
Rodriguez happened to have in his corner Hall of Fame trainer Freddie Roach, who once trained Postol.
“Every fight we always have a plan, and today, maybe it helped a little bit that Freddie trained Postol, but there is always a plan for a different fighter,” Rodriguez said.
Early on, Postol (31-5, 12 KOs) was the more active fighter. He worked his jab well and had Rodriguez backing up. But that changed in the third, when Rodriguez landed a right to the cheek, followed by a straight left on Postol’s chin with 1:27 left in the round, Postol stumbled backwards and appeared to be in some trouble. Rodriguez ended the third landing a couple of right hooks.
In the fifth, Rodriguez pressured Postol once again, backing the Ukrainian fighter up and putting him on the defensive. In the last minute of the sixth, Rodriguez could sense blood, and then with a tight right hook to the chin, Postol folded downward with :15 left. It was the fifth time in Postol’s career that he tasted the canvas. He was fortunate to get out of the round.
“This all started in the fifth round, when I thought I fractured his nose, so in the sixth, I was going for the kill,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez began the seventh by clubbing Postol, already on shaky legs, with a right hook to the head with 2:47. That was the beginning of the end, because Postol was stumbling all over the ring. Seemingly defenseless, Postol was against the ropes when referee Celestino Ruiz intervened and ended it at :23 of the seventh.
“I felt I had him in the beginning of the seventh round, I gave him a hook and I could see that he was in trouble,” Rodriguez said. “Then the referee stopped the fight, so we knew we won. I’m ready for a world title. I worked too hard so far.”
In the opening TV bout, 6-foot-2 welterweight southpaw Freudis Rojas (11-0, 11 KOs) won by seventh-round stoppage over Diego Sanchez in a scheduled 10-rounder.
“This guy was a tough guy, and we knew that he was going to keep putting pressure on,” Rojas said. “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. I want to keep fighting. When I found out the news I was going to be on this card, I was jumping around like a little girl with some pom poms.”
The 24-year-old Rojas, who possessed a 72-inch reach to Sanchez’s 67½, got off to a great start, stabbing the shorter Sanchez (19-3, 16 KOs) consistently with the jab and landing straight lefts.
For the first time in his career, Rojas went beyond four rounds. It was an interesting twist, because in the fifth, Sanchez, facing only the second fighter with a winning record, began coming forward and forcing Rojas to fighting going backwards. It still did not stop Rojas from slamming straight lefts flush on Sanchez’s face. Through five, Rojas landed more shots, 50-45.
In the last five seconds of the sixth, Sanchez got through with a right to the head, and as he returned to his corner, he was warned by his corner that they would stop the fight if he did not show them something. They were honest with their fighter, telling him he had not won any of the first six rounds.
Sanchez’s corner then followed through and stopped it at :58 of the seventh round.
“I’ll just go back to the gym,” Rojas said. “I’m like rooster. Just throw me into the fight. Whenever they call me and there is a fight, I’m going to fight, because I love fighting. This is what I was bred to do. I’m in love with this sport and I can’t get away from it.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.
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