Super featherweights Art “Lionheart” Hovhannisyan and Alejandro “El Alacran” Perez have had a lot of practice trying to knock each other’s block off. They’ve sparred dozens of rounds, helping each other get ready for their fights.
Now, they get an opportunity to do it for real this Friday, Feb. 22, at the Morongo Casino Resort in Cabazon, Calif.
Make no mistake: The Armenia-born Hovhannisyan (15-0-2, 8 KOs), of Glendale, Calif., and the Mexico-born Perez (16-3-1, 11 KOs), of Salinas, Calif., are good friends outside the ring. But the buds insist that ferocious flurries of fists will fly when they collide in what should be an exciting 10-round main event.
“Before we agreed to this fight, my manager asked me about fighting Alejandro,” Hovhannisyan said. “He was worried I might hold back. But I assured him I would not. Friends are friends but business is business. I need to take advantage of all my opportunities, no matter if I’m fighting a friend, brother, cousin, whatever.
“I’ve trained hard for this. I’m ready. I’m looking forward to having a great fight. I’m waiting for my big shot. I want to fight for a world title, but my job is to win. After the fight we’ll hug and continue to be friends, but during the fight it doesn’t matter who you’re up against. I’m excited about this fight and Friday night.’’
Perez is also looking forward to it. “Art and I used to train together,’’ he said. “We’re friends. (That we’re fighting is) part of the sport. That’s going to make this an even more exciting fight. We know each other’s style. Fans pay to see a fight, and those watching at home want to see a fight and that’s what they’ll get. Whenever I’m in the ring, I like to give the fans a fight. That’s what they pay for and that’s what they’re going to see."
Hovhannisyan is coming off back-to-back fights on ShoBox against former world champions Miguel Acosta (last July 20) and Cristobal Cruz (Aug. 5, 2011). In a fast-paced, competitive bout, he earned a career-best victory with a hard-fought 10-round split decision over former WBA lightweight titleholder Acosta; his entertaining bout with ex-IBF featherweight champion Cruz ended in a fourth-round technical draw.
“Hovhannisyan has shown to be very fan-friendly in his ShoBox appearances and that he definitely wants to fight,’’ said ShoBox expert analyst and boxing historian, Steve Farhood. “He’shad some spectacular knockouts. But at 31 he is older than the average Shobox prospect so he has to make his move in 2013, and this fight begins that move.’’
The fight with Acosta was the aggressive-minded Hovhannisyan’s first in 11 months and also the first time he went 10 rounds. He dropped Acosta with a solid right hand in the closing seconds of the first round. Acosta, who was shaken and fortunate to survive the round, registered a flash knockdown in the fifth when Hovhannisyan’s right hand touched the canvas after he got cracked with a right by Acosta.
“Hovhannisyan’s fight with Acosta was very close,’’ Farhood said. “He scored an overwhelming knockdown in the first and the fact Acosta survived was a miracle in itself. But Acosta scored a flash knockdown in the fifth and took control of the fight before Hovhannisyan regained control in the last couple rounds to get a decision that could have gone either way.’’
The WBC’s No. 16-ranked contender, Hovhannisyan has managed to endure even though his career has been hampered by numerous injuries -- his right hand and/or thumb has been broken in six different places – and by numerous fights falling out. The 5-foot-7 crowd-pleaser was scheduled to fight in November and his original opponent for this fight, Logan McGuiness, withdrew.
“I like Art and think he can fight,’’ said RingTV (Ring online) editor Doug Fischer. “He’s a well-rounded, durable boxer who has good footwork, an effective jab and decent power. I thought he proved that he’s ready to face contender-level fighters with his split-decision over Acosta.’’
Perez is a sharp, accurate puncher with punching power. Adept at working the body, especially with the left hook, he’s tough, determined, durable and experienced against good opposition. He’s 2-2 in his last four starts, including an eighth-round knockout over game, hard-trying Derrick Wilson in his last bout on Feb. 4, 2012. He scored four knockdowns in the action-packed slugfest, decking Wilson in the second, fourth, fifth and eighth.
This will be the third start on ShoBox for Perez and his third at 130 pounds. He moved up from the junior featherweight division for two fights in March and July 2011, but weighed 126 pounds for Wilson.
“Perez is 0-2 on ShoBox, but the losses were to a pair of undefeated prospects at the time, (now world-ranked) Diego Magdaleno and Rico Ramos (who would become a world champion),’’ Farhood said. “He gave spirited efforts in each fight. Alejandro is definitely a tough guy.’’
The 5-foot-6½, 26-year-old Perez knocked down Magdaleno, but he lost a 10-round decision on July 15, 2011. He was outpointed across eight thrilling rounds by Ramos on Nov. 28, 2009.
Max Boxing lead columnist Steve Kim is one of those impressed with Perez’s work ethic and fighting spirit and would not be surprised if he manufactured a minor upset in this one.