Friday, March 24, 2023  |


Azat Hovhannisyan has eye on another world title opportunity

Azat Hovhannisyan lands a right uppercut on Ronny Rios. Photo by Tom Hogan-Hogan Photos / Golden Boy Promotions

Azat Hovhannisyan is not about to let another opportunity go to waste. 

After failing to win a world title several years ago, Hovhannisyan is one win away from positioning himself to again challenge for a world title belt at 122 pounds. He must get through another contender, who is vying to return to the top.

Hovhannisyan will face Luis Nery in a WBC world title elimination bout Saturday night at the Fox Theatre in Pomona, California. The 12-round bout will headline a four-bout card that will stream live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

The Nery-Hovhannisyan bout is a compelling clash between contenders ranked at 122 pounds by The Ring. Hovhannisyan and Nery are ranked No. 4 and 6, respectively. 

The styles of both fighters make for action fights, making tonight’s bout a candidate for ‘Fight of the Year.’

Hovhannisyan (21-3, 17 knockouts), who is originally from Yerevan, Armenia and now resides in Los Angeles, California, challenged for a world title belt in May 2018, losing to then-WBC titleholder Ray Vargas by unanimous decision. Hovhannisyan earned the opportunity to fight for the title by scoring a knockout victory over Ronny Rios nine weeks prior to the Vargas fight.

Since the loss to Vargas, Hovhannisyan has put together a seven-bout winning streak, with six of those victories coming by knockout. In his last bout on April 9, Hovhannisyan stopped once-beaten Dagoberto Aguero in the second round. 

Other wins notched by Hovhannisyan have come against Lolito Sonsona, Glenn Porras and Franklin Manzanilla.

The 34-year-old is grateful for the opportunity tomorrow night. Hovhannisyan has a great deal of respect for Nery, a former world titleholder himself, but believes their styles make for a tough fight that will produce fireworks.

“When the contract came to fight Nery, I was so thankful,” said Hovhannisyan at a recent open workout. “I thought, finally the time has come. I’ve waited three and a half years for this opportunity. I respect Nery, but (the fight) will be a war. I think I will win.”

Hovhannisyan has proved he has never been in a bad fight as a pro. His style, which is to throw an abundant amount of punches while coming forward, has produced multiple knockdowns and knockouts against modest opposition. 

Nery (33-1, 25 KOs), who resides in Tijuana, Mexico, also throws a high volume of punches and comes forward. It is a fight Oscar De La Hoya, who is the Chairman of Golden Boy Promotions, believes this is an all-action fight, something that is void of more so in recent months.

“This main event fight was made by the actual fighters positioning themselves, and putting themselves in this place,” said De La Hoya at Thursday’s press conference. “This is an eliminator for the WBC – we have the No. 1 and No. 2 fighting each other, which is unheard of in boxing these days – but that’s what Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan bring to the table. 

“They are old school, they are fighters who understand exactly what it takes to become a world champion. It’s never an easy road. But winning, and going down that road and performing gets you to the big prize of winning a world title.”

To achieve that goal of becoming a world titleholder, Hovhannisyan has brought on people to his team, including manager Egis Klimas and Julian Chua, who trains former world title challenger Gilberto Ramirez and fringe welterweight Taras Shelestyuk. 

Hovhannisyan has been down that road before of fighting for a world title belt, only this time, he is confident he can win whenever that opportunity comes.

“I have a great new coach named Julian Chua,” said Hovhannisyan. “Luis Nery is a fighter with a good left hand. We are ready to put on a good show.”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached at [email protected]