- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The rematch between junior middleweight contenders Erislandy Lara and Vanes Martirosyan won't happen -- and for that, fight fans should be thankful.
Martirosyan and promoter Top Rank have declined the rematch.
In their first encounter on Nov. 10 in Las Vegas, fighting for the right to become the mandatory challenger for titleholder Canelo Alvarez, Lara and Martirosyan spent more time holding, grappling and banging heads than punching. The result was a ninth-round technical draw after the fight was halted and sent to the scorecards for a technical decision when Martirosyan suffered a bad cut over his left eye from an accidental head-butt and was unable to continue. One judge had it for Martirosyan, one found for Lara and one had it even.
So a rematch was ordered and Golden Boy (Lara's promoter) easily won the purse bid by offering $410,000 to beat Top Rank (Martirosyan's promoter), which offered just $62,500. I feared the rematch might actually happen.
HBO aired the November fight, which was promoted by Top Rank (which had won that purse bid) and, for obvious reasons, the network had zero interest in the rematch. But it was headed for Showtime, which puts on virtually all of Golden Boy's notable fights these days, on a Feb. 23 undercard. That was the date Golden Boy specified in the contract it sent to Top Rank after winning the bid.
We were all saved, however, when Martirosyan and Top Rank this week elected not to take the fight. The reason, according to Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti, was because Martirosyan's eye isn't completely healed from the cut he suffered against Lara.
"Vanes was training, but he wasn't going to be ready to be in a fight by that date," Moretti said. "Separate of that, Lara's style makes for a bad fight. And what are we fighting for? We all know that it's supposed to be [Floyd] Mayweather against Canelo in September, so what are we eliminating to? It's like being in a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it doesn't get you anywhere. All the talk is Mayweather-Canelo, so you know Vanes will be danced around the whole time. So we are pursuing other opportunities.
"We are in the process of putting another plan together that Vanes has signed on for and that makes sense."
Moretti said he expects Martirosyan (32-0-1, 20 KOs) back in the ring in April.
That will leave Lara (17-1-2, 11 KOs) to face whomever the WBC appoints to fight him in the eliminator. Or he could go in another direction, because he's not going to get Alvarez any time soon either, even though both fighters are represented by Golden Boy.
"We were really looking forward to fighting Vanes again," said Luis DeCubas Jr., Lara's manager. "We clearly thought we won the fight and showed we were the better fighter. We fought the fight on a Top Rank card, and now Vanes had the opportunity to fight Lara again on a Golden Boy card and he declined. I think his actions speak louder than words, which is that he doesn't want to fight Lara again. But I expect Vanes to go on to have success, and maybe he will be willing to step up and fight Lara again down the line."