NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — Azat Hovhannisyan and Luis Nery had scheduled sparring sessions throughout the years that just never came to be while both fighters were trained by Freddie Roach in recent years.
Now, they will get to slug it out for real in a high-stakes, sink-or-swim fight this Saturday at the Fox Theater Pomona in California. The bout will be a 12-round WBC super bantamweight title eliminator and headline a Golden Boy card on DAZN.
The 34-year-old Armenian Hovhannisyan (21-3, 17 KOs) is a former world title challenger who is looking to catapult himself back into championship contention by beating the former two-division crownholder Nery (33-1, 25 KOs) of Tijuana, Mexico.
Hovhannisyan is riding a seven-fight winning streak ever since his last loss against then WBC super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas in 2018.
“The question becomes who’s going to get hit first,” Hovhannisyan told BoxingScene.com in an interview. “The second either one of us gets clipped, it’s going to be a fight right away. I like to take my time and break down my opponents. But if he wants to initiate a fight I am not going to shy away from it. And Luis Nery is the same exact way. We both have balls of steel. I think within the first minute we will see who has the body and the chin to last. I expect a war within 30 seconds.
“He’s a tough guy who’s done good for himself. He spars with no head gear on. There is no question he loves to fight. We’re going to have a great all-out war. There’s been a lot of criticism as far as some of his professionalism in the past, but I cannot disrespect a man’s fighting spirit and what he brings in the ring.
“He better not be overlooking me. He’s in for a real fight.”
At the age of 28, “Pantera” Nery is looking to resurrect his career after past infractions around testing positive for a banned substance, missing weight several times, and suffering his only pro defeat against Brandon Figueroa in 2021 via seventh-round knockout.
Nery rebounded with a pair of wins last year, including a shaky split decision victory versus Carlos Castro.
In addition to Roach, Hovhannisyan has also been trained by the likes of Robert Garcia and Edmond Tarverdyan throughout the years. He’s now coached by Julian Chua at the Brickhouse Boxing Club.
Hovhannisyan said Chua has helped him become a more cerebral fighter.
“Julian has helped me slow down a little bit more,” said Hovhannisyan. “I don't have to be a warhorse. That fits my personal style a lot more. I can go 100 miles per hour and bulldoze an opponent but I feel a lot better when I'm fighting smarter with chess-like moves.”
Chua said Hovhannisyan “is an elite-level fighter who has all the materials you look for in a world champion.”
“Azat has had time to recover his body. He’s not dealing with the nagging injuries to his hand like he was before. We got that taken care of by the fantastic Dr. Shin. Now you’re going to see an even better Azat than ever before,” Chua told BoxingScene.com in an interview.
Chua said Nery’s biggest weakness is getting hit with straight right hands in the middle of exchanges, and they will look to exploit that.
“I don’t care if they know that,” said Chua, a former amateur boxer who currently trains Gilberto Ramirez, Joseph Diaz Jr, John "Scrappy" Ramirez and serves as an assistant coach to Stephen Fulton.
“Nery gets very wild when he is aggressive. There are a lot of moments where we can capitalize. But he’s a great champion. I’m looking forward to seeing Azat show up for this test. This is absolutely going to be a fight-of-the-year contender.”
Manouk Akopyan is a sports journalist, writer, and broadcast reporter. He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the MMA Journalists Association. He can be reached on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube at @ManoukAkopyan, through email at manouk[dot]akopyan[at]gmail.com, or via www.ManoukAkopyan.com.