This week, undefeated World Middleweight Champion, boxing superhero and the new Cinco De Mayor GENNADY “GGG” GOLOVKIN returns to HBO and a Southern California boxing ring for the first time in over two years! Golovkin (37-0-1, 33 KOs), from Karaganda, Kazakhstan and boxing’s longest-reigning world champion (since 2010) will attempt to add his name to the history books when he makes his 20th consecutive and record-tying title defense. The man standing in his way will be two-time world title challenger VANES “THE NIGHTMARE ” MARTIROSYAN (36-3-1, 21 KOs), from Glendale, Calif. The 2004 Olympians collide Saturday, May 5, under the stars at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. The Golovkin vs. Martirosyan middleweight title fight will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing® beginning at 11:00 p.m. ET/PT. The HBO telecast will open with the CECILIA BRAEKHUS vs. KALI REIS World Female Welterweight Championship rumble. It is the first time HBO has televised a women’s bout live.
VANES MARTIROSYAN: We are very blessed to have this opportunity. We can’t wait – this is what we dream about having a fight like this. I am just so excited and every day I have a big smile on my face. I will get to show the world where I belong in this sport. I finally get a guy that wants to fight and come forward. Other fights I have had with fighters running away not wanting to engage. It’s a perfect fight for Cinco de Mayo because it is going to be two guys — Mexican-Style fighters — going head to head. It will be a perfect show for the boxing fans. They are going to enjoy this fight on the night.
How has it been for you the last couple of weeks once you took the fight? Has the backlash given you motivation?
VANES MARTIROSYAN: We are in the gym every day, whether we are boxing or doing strength work with Jesse Forbes — we are there every day — so when fights kept falling out we were getting depressed, because we were happy training for fights, then fighters were pulling out. When we got information about this fight being GGG’s next fight, we’re excited and so happy to get to work. Nothing but happiness and everything in camp has been going great. We went to SNAC for a week with Victor Conte and we trained up there then we came back. Everything is good. I have no excuses. People talk about taking the fight on short notice but we are ready. You could wake me up in my sleep and I am ready to fight. I’ve been doing this since I was seven years old. We have been waiting for an opportunity like this and we are happy that Tom Loeffler and GGG that they accepted it and so did we and we are going to put on a great show on the 5th.
How did it help you staying in the gym? Many guys say they do but really don’t.
VANES MARTIROSYAN: We were supposed to fight in June and then it was March – March 17, I was supposed to fight Sulecki and he pulled out. Then they told me I was fighting March 29, then it was April 9 – guys just kept falling out and we just stayed in the gym. When we got the call for the fight they asked me if I could be 176 by Thursday or Friday and I weighed in that day at 174 or 175 that day. One week before the fight we came in at 167 so we are in shape and we are good to go. My trainer Edmund always tells me ‘fight or no fight, stay in the gym and stay sharp. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a fight.’ I know some fighters when they don’t have a fight they just stay home chillin’ till they get the call to go in the gym. When you’ve done it for such a long time you get tired of training. The good thing about my team is fight or no fight – go to the gym for 30 or 40 minutes even if you’re going to watch sparring – we are always in the gym and always around boxing. We were happy to get the call and ready to go on the 5th.
VANES MARTIROSYAN: When we signed for the fight I need to be 176 lbs. a couple days after but I was already there. It was the WBC 30-day weigh-in and I stepped on a scale and I was 176 and then last week I weighed in at 167, so the weight has been good.
TOM LOEFFLER: That we had the WBC 30-day weigh-in requirement of a maximum of 176 lbs. – it was actually less than 30-days the day Vanes had signed. Two days after he signed he got on the scale and was under the weight.
Was there a point where you thought you might not fight on May 5th?
TOM LOEFFLER: I would have to say there were at least four different occasions when we thought we couldn’t save the May 5 date. It was really because Gennady was insistent on fighting May 5. He felt that just because Canelo wasn’t available or was suspended there was no reason why he shouldn’t fight. Then there was a long litany of different things that happened, from the date of May 5 being released at a very late stage in Las Vegas, for us to request a new date moving from T-Mobile to MGM, then a couple days later MGM saying, ‘look, this is too late of a date to effectively promote a fight at the big arena,’ and we literally didn’t have a signed agreement with an opponent at that time. There were names that we went through, and I have to say I can’t compliment Vanes and his team enough for had he not signed the contract in two or three days HBO would have said ‘this is too late for us to effectively promote and market a fight on HBO.’ To be clear, Vanes is the No. 1 rated WBC and there is a reason – some people point to the fact he hasn’t fought for two years but he was ready, willing and able – there were three different fights that fell out, and Don King had chronicled that he was ready to fight the opponents. Vanes was ready and he was the leading available contender and he is local here in the Los Angeles area. He has huge support form the Armenian community here and was very effective in doing interviews. How many champions do you know that would go to the challenger’s gym? That’s how much respect GGG has for Vanes and his trainer Edmund that we went to Vanes’ gym to do the media day. There is a lot of respect on both sides and this event was really saved by HBO agreeing to show this fight. It is a historic moment for Cecilia Braekhus being the first female boxer on HBO and we just think it’s going to be a great Cinco De Mayo event all the way around for the fans both at StubHub and on HBO.
Are there concerns of GGG being frustrated?
TOM LOEFFLER: This is a very unique situation not only on the promotional side but also on the training side. Luckily Abel runs a very professional training camp. Gennady is real disciplined. It was really me working the late nights worrying and trying to figure out a solution on how we would save the date. Gennady just kept training and sparring and he’s focused but he was frustrated when Canelo first announced the positive test. He was extremely frustrated and disappointed when people were saying why this fight wasn’t happening in Las Vegas – Gennady was the person most affected by this because he had been training for the biggest fight in the sport of boxing then it was a big shock wave that came with the test. He is a professional and he wants to fight and if he is successful on Saturday he’ll tie the middleweight record that Bernard Hopkins set at 20 defenses and it is a very momentous occasion for his career. He is giving Vanes a huge opportunity – one of the biggest platforms that Vanes will be performing on HBO against arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. This is a huge opportunity for Vanes being extremely frustrated for not getting a fight for over two years now on the biggest stage in his hometown no less – it was the solution to save the Cinco de Mayo date for the fans.
If he does get the victory do you believe he will fight Canelo in September? Do you plan to fight Canelo next?
TOM LOEFFLER: That’s hard to project – everyone on our side is focusing on May 5. Whatever happens after that – I’ll tell you one thing, if GGG is not successful we won’t be talking about a Canelo rematch and Vanes is elevated instantaneously to the top of the sport of boxing. No one is overlooking this fight. This is a very dangerous fight. Vanes is from here and he is accomplished. GGG and Vanes know each other from the amateurs and in the Olympics in 2004. GGG tabbed Vanes as the best US representative on that team. Anyone that is familiar with Vanes’ career – he had a draw with Lara and a controversial loss to Charlo, he dropped Andrade in the first round – all world class fighters and this is a huge opportunity for someone that is as hungry and motivated as Vanes. This is a huge opportunity for him and that’s why no one can overlook this fight coming up on Saturday.
What kind of changes in training have you had to make to now prepare for GGG?
VANES MARTIROSYAN: Edmund is my head trainer and we have been training for fights so when we got the fight all I had to do – we went to SNAC – and that’s where Danny Jacobs was while he prepared for GGG – so we went there for about a week and a half training in the high altitude and we came back down here with Jesse Forbes – a great strength and conditioning coach, so we just got ready for Golovkin – we are fighters and styles do make fights and I think that GGG’s style and mine fit very well. I just want to see where I belong in the sport. I never had the opportunity to show. . I can honestly say, and I promise you guys that this is the first time of my life in camp that I have been so happy with my trainers, with my strength trainers – everybody’s working together and nobody is arguing about anything. The good thing about Edmund is he is like a friend, like a brother we are family. When you see how Gennady is with Abel and his team with Tom – they are a class act and for the first time in my life everyone is so classy – everybody is together, working together rather than people trying to take control over things. Right now I am in the gym sweating my butt off and that’s why I was a little bit late to this call, and I apologize for that, and I just want to say one thing about Golovkin and Tom and his camp – this is the first time in my life that I have seen gentlemen and everything has been so classy with everything – with the promotion and the press and everybody. There is no cursing trying to promote the fight – everybody knows how big this fight is for me and for GGG – he’s going for a record and I’m also going for a record – to beat the baddest man on the planet – just the thought of that alone is amazing.
What was the reaction of your fan base when they heard about this fight?
VANES MARTIROSYAN: All of my fans in Glendale were so excited. But I do have to say that most of my fans are also GGG fans.
And your wife . . .
VANES MARTIROSYAN: Well I do have to clear that up. We were watching fights ago and I asked my wife – who do you like besides me? I didn’t even know I was getting the GGG fight this was 4 or 5 weeks ago. She said ‘you obviously, there is no one else.’ And I said ‘no, you have to pick someone.’ My wife is actually Asian and she said ‘the Korean guy’ and I didn’t know who she was talking about. She said Gennady the guy is so nice and I said, yes, I think GGG is part Asian also, if I’m not mistaken. She likes guys that are humble. I think people took it the wrong way.
The fan reaction of you fighting GGG?
VANES MARTIROSYAN: I get messages from my fans saying ‘we are GGG fans but we are supporting you for this fight.’ All of the Armenians are big fans of GGG – I’m also a fan of GGG – the guy is a killer, he’s a good fighter and people respect that. The part I respect about him most is that he’s a clean fighter and he does everything straight – he doesn’t try to dodge anything and he’s a gentleman. He goes in there and he does his job and he gets out of there. There’s no yelling or hollering ‘I’m the baddest man in the world.’ Actions speak louder than words and he has proven that.
How are ticket sales going?
TOM LOEFFLER: Ticket sales are going well. We have the bleachers set up and we added some $100 tickets, as a Fight Week Special, a category that had been sold out previously. GGG had set the ticket sales record at StubHub so we expect with the popularity of Vanes and his fan base here in Los Angeles that we are going to break that record and we are going to have a full house of May 5. The floor seats are mostly gone and the second price category. There is no bad seat in the StubHub Center – even the bleachers are close to the ring. We expect a great crowd and everyone will be celebrating on Cinco de Mayo. The Tecate Fan Fest goes from 3-7 pm – HBO starts at 8 pm PT / 11 pm ET. We have a tremendous undercard which will be announced shortly so it’s going to be and we are looking forward to a great weekend for the Southern California boxing fans.
Edmund, can you tell us why Vanes will beat GGG on Saturday?
EDMUND TARVERDYAN: Well I can’t really give away how we are going to beat GGG but I have worked with Vanes and guys like Vic Darchinyan. I took Ronda Rousey up to Abel’s gym and he was so nice to us for a couple of camps and I watched GGG spar. Inside information from a person that knows Gennady, I actually followed his career before he turned professional, and before he came to the United States and I told people like Dana White that there was a fighter you should keep your eye on and Dana White became a fan of his. We went up there for two camps and Abel gave us a key to the gym and I got to train with GGG and Ronda and I understand him very well and I know what it takes to beat him but it’s not an easy puzzle to solve – he’s a great fighter and Vanes is ready. Vanes has movement and speed – he is quicker than GGG and younger and hungrier and that night he is going to show his skill. Vanes moves very well and people that count him out shouldn’t be doing that because if you know boxing, you have Amir Khan who doesn’t have a chin fights somebody like Canelo and gives Canelo a hard time until he gets caught. Amir was ahead at the time on the cards then Canelo gives Gennady a good fight and GGG won with his jab, but Canelo gave Gennady a good fight. Now Amir started at lightweight and Vanes is a big 154-pounder and Gennady is a small 160-pounder. Two days ago he weighed 162 and Vanes is bigger than him. So I am very confident that Vanes and GGG are going to have a great fight.
Vanes, can you tell us why you will win on Saturday night . . .
VANES MARTIROSYAN: The hunger, you know, and being out of the ring for so long. I love boxing with all my heart and all we do every day is just wake up every morning, go online and read boxing news. I’ve just been hoping and waiting for this opportunity and I can honestly say this will be the best version of me. A lot of people see me as my nickname “Nightmare” and they don’t really know how I got that name. I didn’t pick that name – that name was given to me when I fought Timothy Bradley. I’m the last guy he lost to before he turned professional. I beat Austin Trout three times, I beat Andre Berto and the fans gave that name to me. They were like ‘I don’t know who this kid is but he’s like a nightmare.’ At one of my fights someone yelled ‘the Armenian Nightmare’ through the crowd and that’s how that name stuck with me. This fight is going to be a nightmare. We are trying to beak our record, he’s trying to break a record and the StubHub is going to break a record. I’m trying to break a record by becoming the middleweight champion of the world. For the Armenian’s and for all fans it’s going to be a great fight.
TOM LOEFFLER: There will be no running on Cinco de Mayo. Both of these guys are going to give the fans a great show. There will be fireworks in the ring. I know Edmund doesn’t train Vanes to be defensive or to run around the ring like you’ve seen from some of GGG’s past opponents. I think both guys are going to put on a tremendous show for the fans.
VANES MARTIROSYAN: Most of GGG’s opponents – when they got into the ring they already lost. They already thought about the power before they got in the ring and they fought defensive. Gennady is a monster and the he hits really hard. So they got in the ring scared and I don’t get in the ring scared. I am going to do my thing, just go in there and have fun to see where I belong in this sport and to see what this man is about. I never turn down fights. If you look at my last five fights – Andrade, Ishe Smith, Charlo, Lara and Alberto Lorenzo – those are just my last five fights. I don’t back down from anyone. I take all fights and this is another one and you are going to see the best of me.
Do you consider it an advantage that you will be the bigger guy in the ring?
VANES MARTIROSYAN: I always fought better at higher weight classes. Whenever there was a catch-weight in my career I always did better. I think it’s going to be good because I don’t have to kill myself to make 154. I remember when I fought Lara they day before the weigh-in I was 162 and I had to cut eight pound to make 154 – 24 hours before the weigh-in. At times I had trouble making 154 but I always made it – the struggle is like that for all fighters. For a short camp like this it is perfect. The weight is good and everything is good and I can’t wait to rock and roll. I’m strong at 160. I might be bigger and I think 160 is a great weight class for me and I’m going to be there for awhile I think.
In Closing . . .
EDMUND TARVERDYAN: I want to thank Tom and Abel and Gennady for this opportunity and also Don King, Vanes’ promoter and thanks to everyone doing the interviews.
VANES MARTIROSYAN: Thanks to everyone for doing these interviews and Tom and Gennady and HBO and Don King thank you and remember there is not a bad seat in the house. I have been there to see Bradley fight Provodnikov and Rios – Alvarado and they are always good shows. It’s good for boxing and there is not a bad seat in the house. Big drama show!