Luis Nery warns Azat Hovhannisyan: You will see the fast, aggressive ‘Pantera’ looking for the KO
Two-division titleholder Luis Nery looks to take a step closer to regaining his old WBC junior featherweight crown when he meets fellow contender Azat Hovhannisyan in a WBC-title eliminator at the Fox Theater Pomona, Pomona, California, on Saturday.
Nery, The Ring’s No. 6-rated junior featherweight, has won two fights since losing his WBC 122-pound title to Brandon Figueroa (KO 7) and appreciates the importance of his fight with the rugged Hovhannisyan.
“It is a great opportunity to show that I am ready to recover the WBC junior featherweight championship,” Nery (33-1, 25 KOs) told The Ring. “I am happy to fight again in the United States and as the main fight.”
The 28-year-old Tijuana resident first gained notoriety when he went to Japan and unseated Ring and long-reigning WBC bantamweight titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka (TKO 4) in August 2017. The win was tinged in controversy when days later it was revealed he tested positive for the banned substance Zilpaterol. He was subsequently stripped of his Ring title and ordered to face Yamanaka in a rematch by the WBC.
When they met in a grudge match in March 2018, Nery missed weight by three pounds. The fight went ahead and Nery won by second-round stoppage.
Although he was cast as one of boxing’s bad boys, Nery remained unbeaten up at 122 pounds and was able to edge past lesser-known countryman Aaron Alameda (UD 12) to pick up the vacant WBC title before losing it in his first defense to Figueroa.
Hovhannisyan is his biggest test since then and the power-punching southpaw knows he might have to walk through fire to emerge victorious.
“He is a strong fighter, who has had good fights, has never been knocked out, I hope to be the first,” he stated. “It will not be easy to beat him, he is a boxer that has several KOs and I have to have a good defense, so he doesn’t surprise me.”
Since 2020, Hovhannisyan has fought three times, while Nery has fought four times. However, Nery feels he’s been more active, possibly pointing out it’s a year since Hovhannisyan last performed.
“I think that his inactivity, he’s only had few fights in the last few years, which is an advantage for me,” reasoned Nery. “I have fought more than him, and with better rivals. I was already the champion of this division and I am going to regain that title after this fight.”
When it comes to it, Nery expects their scheduled 12-round contest to end inside the distance.
“This fight is going to end by KO, we will both go [all] out to win,” he said. “I like action fights, and as I said before, I want to be the first to beat him by KO. I will seek to finish the fight before the decision. However long the fight lasts will be exciting, it will be a war, but I will not lose.”
Nery insists there will be none of the weight issues that have blighted his earlier career. He began training in Tijuana before moving operations to Mexico City in January to focus on training at altitude to help his conditioning away from the distractions of his hometown.
“I will come very well prepared,” he said. “In the ring, you will see that fast, aggressive ‘Pantera’ again looking for the KO of the whole fight. I know I have made mistakes in the past but I want to show that I am ready to give my best in boxing.”
Nery admits he’ll have one eye on the proposed WBC/ WBO junior featherweight fight between defending titleholder Stephen Fulton and pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue, which is tabbed to happen in late spring in Japan.
“I have always said that I want the fight with Inoue, he is not the monster that everyone thinks, he can be beaten,” predicted Nery. “I will be ready to fight him, wherever, Japan, the United States, that fight will happen, I’m sure.
“I always want to fight the best, I have shown it. We are going to regain the WBC junior featherweight championship and then to unify the entire division.”
As Nery mentioned, this has all the makings of a fan-friendly contest between two aggressive fighters with power, though Nery looks to be the more versatile boxer. Both men have always been pretty sturdy and I expect the bout will go rounds and be a grinding war of attrition that appears on paper to be 50/50 going in. The big question is: Who can outlast the other?
Hovhannisyan (21-3, 17 KOs), The Ring’s No. 4-rated junior featherweight, lost his debut and looked destined for a low-key future in the sport. However, he teamed up with hall of fame trainer Freddie Roach and improved immeasurably. He’s now coached by Julian Chua at the Brickhouse Boxing Club and the pairing has been successful thus far.
The 34-year-old Armenian-born puncher upset Ronnie Rios (TKO 6) to earn himself a shot at then WBC beltholder Rey Vargas (L UD 12). He has since rebounded with seven straight wins and six of them coming inside the distance.
Nery-Hovhannisyan, plus supporting undercard, will be broadcast on DAZN at 6:00 p.m. ET/ 3:00 p.m. PT.
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