By Francisco Salazar
Yuriorkis Gamboa. Mohammad Abdulaev. The Klitschko brothers.
These fighters were amateur stars who became world champions or strong contenders in their own right.
While Gamboa is unbeaten and holds a world title belt and the Klitschkos hold court in the heavyweight division, one former amateur champion who is not mentioned as often is eager to prove he can dominate a division.
“I can beat anybody at 130 pounds.”
Those are the words of Art Hovhannisyan, an unbeaten fighter who has so far backed up what he has said after 17 professional fights.
He will attempt to demonstrate why he is one to keep an eye on at 130 pounds when he fights Alejandro Perez in a 10 round bout tonight at the Morongo Casino Resort and Spa in Cabazon, CA.
The bout will headline a “ShoBox: The New Generation” card, which is presented by Gary Shaw Productions. The bout, along with the Tureano Johnson-Willie Fortune fight, will be televised on Showtime at 11PM ET/ 8 PM PT.
Beating any of the top fighters at 130 pounds is a bold statement, especially from a soft-spoken fighter in Hovhannisyan. So far, his fists have done all of the talking, impressively breaking down fighters or grinding out victories in recent fights.
The Armenian-born Hovhannisyan (15-0-2, 8 KOs), who resides in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, became well-known to fight fans after impressively dismantling former prospect Archie Ray Marquez in June of 2011.
After a technical fourth round majority draw against Cristobal Cruz two months later, Hovhannisyan won a hard-fought 10 round split decision over world title belt holder Miguel Acosta. Hovhannisyan dropped Acosta in the first round before being dropped himself later in the fight.
“It was good that the fight did not end in the first round,” Hovhannisyan told Boxingscene.com earlier this week. “Because Acosta has a name and is a former world champion, it looks good on my record that I went the full 10 rounds with him. He’s a good fighter, but the victory spoke volumes because I defeated a guy with a lot of experience.”
Before fight fans are caught up on Hovhannisyan and demonstrating his physical and mental fortitude from the Acosta bout, the 31 year old has over 240 victories in the amateur ranks and has sparred against the likes of Manny Pacquiao.
While one can assume because of his age he should already be fighting the likes of Acosta or another top contender, Hovhannisyan believes that any fighter young or old can still learn in the gym.
“You never stop learning.”
Apparently, competition in the gym is something that Hovhannisyan thrives on. While champions and contenders enjoy sparring against other world class fighters, especially in Southern California, Hovhannisyan enjoys the camaraderie and competition from an unlikely person.
Hovhannisyan shares the gym and his trainer Edmond Tarverdyan with female mixed martial arts star Ronda Rousey. Both have put in time at the Glendale Fighting Club and have cheered for one another at recent fights. Rousey was ringside when Hovhannisyan fought Acosta.
While both have reportedly done light sparring against one another, Hovhannisyan has been impressed with what Rousey has accomplished and her work ethic.
“We train hard and I can see that her success is from the blood, sweat, and tears in the gym. Her success doesn’t surprise at all. We push each other in the gym and we do compete against one another. It gets competitive, but it benefits each other.”
“Art is the hardest worker I know,” Rousey told Boxingsecene.com in a recent interview. “It seems that I have to match everything that he does in the gym when we work out. We push each other every day in the gym. I think I get more nervous for him because I think that boxing is more dangerous than mixed martial arts. I care a lot about my team.”
If Rousey believes Hovhannisyan is in a more dangerous sport than mixed martial arts and believes he is a hard worker, than she believes he is capable of fighting and winning a world title belt.
Hovhannisyan does not need anyone thinking he has the goods. Instead, he knows he is the best fighter at 130 pounds.
Although Alejandro Perez, whom Hovhannisyan is facing tonight, has pulled off an upset here and there and was impressive in beating Derrick Wilson in his last fight in April, Hovhannisyan knows it is just an obstacle to get to a title shot.
“I’ve sparred over 80 rounds with Perez. I know him very well, especially when he comes forward or when he wants to box. As long as I can dictate the pace, I’ll be fine.”
Whether he could beat any 130 pound fighter remains to be seen. However, one could give him credit for being very confident for believing he has the goods. So far, so good and he is yearning for that world title opportunity.
“I know I’m capable of beating any title holder at 130 pounds. Give me enough time to prepare and I could beat any of them. I know I could beat them. When the time comes, I will prove it.”