(Photo via HBO's Facebook page)
Junior middleweights Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan fought to a technical draw in Las Vegas Saturday on HBO, in an ugly fight marred by dirty tactics. The fight was stopped in the 9th round after a head clash between Martirosyan and the Cuban southpaw opened up a cut over the Armenian's left eye. The low landed punch statistics for the nine rounds, 74-43 in favour of Lara, tell the story of a boring fight.
For all the pre-fight bitterness, these two men simply couldn't combine to put on an entertaining show -- not that they put aside their differences afterwards, with Martirosyan calling Lara a dirty fighter in his post fight interview, to which a Sombreroed Lara responded by flipping Martirosyan the bird.
The bout seemed to be getting off to an OK start in the 1st round – Martirosyan (32-0-1, 20KO) looked for a right hand down the middle, while Lara (17-1-2, 11KO) fired elegant combinations including a vicious long left to the body. Both men were decorated amateurs, but Lara's better footwork and faster hands were obvious early.
In the 2nd, Martirosyan looked to bully Lara, while Lara seemed happy to hang back, countering and showing off his ballroom moves. In the 3rd, the pre-fight spite came to a head, with Lara putting Martirosyan in a vicious headlock, to which the Armenian responded by hitting Lara on the break.
Martirosyan just did more in round 3, 4 and 5. Lara posed and prodded, but there was nothing much in the way of legitimate action. In the 4th, Lara landed a hard, intentional-looking low blow which sent Martirosyan to the canvas. Martirosyan responded by hitting Lara on the break in the 5th.
But of all the nastiness, there was not that much legitimate action. Neither man landed more than a handful of punches in any round. Lara was simply too Cuban, picking his spots and picking too few of them.
In the 7th, Martirosyan landed an overhand right which opened a cut over Lara's left eye. Despite the gash, Lara managed to dial in his left a little more, probably stealing the round. The difference in the classic southpaw vs. orthodox power hand battle was Lara's angles – the Cuban wasn't hanging around to eat punches, while Martirosyan was moving straight back, still in the path of danger.
The fight ended abruptly in the 9th with Lara beginning to gain momentum, when a lunging head clash opened a gruesome gash over the left eye of Martirosyan. Under Nevada rules, the fight went to the scorecards, with judges having to score the 25 seconds of round 9 which had been fought. It was a close fight, and the scores of 86-85 to Martirosyan, 87-84 to Lara and 86-86 were fair enough. The HBO announcing team seemed keen on a rematch, they must be the only ones.
In the supporting bout, Mikey Garcia beat Jonathan Barros by technical knockout. Garcia knocked down Barros in the 8th round of the tense featherweight bout, and the Argentine decided not to continue. Garcia rises to 30-0 (26KO), while Barros falls to 34-4-1 (18KO).
The early part of the fight fit the script, with the slow starting Garcia waiting and probing for openings. The Oxnard fighter landed a hard overhand right towards the end of the 1st round, making Barros pay attention.
The following rounds were less eventful, with Garcia pumping his jab and waiting patiently. Barros, while bobbing and weaving, didn't let his hands go at all. Garcia closed the 4th with another hard right, to which Barros responded by coming out swinging in the 5th. All he earned for his troubles was a counter left hook, though he did succeed in pushing Garcia backwards a little throughout the round.
In round 6 it was Barros, rather than Garcia, that picked up the pace. He went to the body, but just couldn't steal the round, with Garcia doing more and punching harder in brawling exchanges in the middle of the ring.
Barros had his best round in the 7th, landing a hard left hook to start the stanza. Garcia's stiff jab continued to serve him well though, along with his high handed defence. It seemed like Barros' momentum was continuing in the 8th when Garcia landed a leaping left hook after an exchange, sending Barros to the floor. He rose at the count of seven, turning away from Garcia. Under questioning from referee Roberty Byrd, Barros admitted he wanted “no mas.” The official time of time of the stoppage was 2:24.