POMONA, Calif. – The clash between Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan had high expectations, based on the probability of non-stop action between the two fighters. What happened Saturday night likely exceeded those expectations.
In an all-out war, Nery was able to slowly break down Hovhannisyan, dropping him once en route to a knockout win in round 11 before a boisterous crowd at the Fox Theatre.
Nery, who resides in Tijuana, Mexico, improves to 34-1, 26 knockouts.
The fight between Nery and Hovhannisyan was a WBC junior featherweight title elimination bout.
After a feel-out opening round, both fighters let go of their hands early in the second round, which would set the precedence for the high volume of punches both would throw throughout the fight. A right hand by Hovhannisyan caught Nery’s attention, prompting Nery to immediately grab Hovhannisyan. Later in the second round, both let their hands go, producing great exchanges that brought the crowd out of their feet.
Nery’s punches that connected produced swelling around both eyes of Hovhannisyan by the third round. As Hovhannisyan would mount an offense, connecting punches to Nery’s head, Nery would respond, landing two-three punch combinations to the head. Hovhannisyan smiled at Nery, acknowledging the punches did connect, but they did not hurt him.
Beginning in the fourth round, Hovhannisyan began walking Nery back against the ropes, connecting with a barrage of punches to the head. Late in the fifth round, Nery momentarily stunned Hovhannisyan with a combination to the head. Hovhannisyan attmpted to fight off the ropes, but Nery pummeled Hovhanisyan until the bell sounded to end the round.
A punch likely caused a cut along the right eye of Hovhannisyan during the middle rounds. Blood also began trickling out of the nose of Hovhannisyan. The bruising and swelling were targets that Nery kept throwing at, ultimately connecting with left hands to the head of Hovhannisyan.
There were great exchanges during the seventh round, but Nery’s punches looked more effective. Hovhannisyan began to show more signs of wear from the amount of punches he was receiving. Just when it looked like Nery had the upper hand, Hovhannisyan connected with a series of right hands to the head in round eight that caught Nery’s attention.
Hovhannisyan focused his attack to the body during the second half of the fight, which paid off as Nery’s punch output dropped. Both fighters produced excellent exchanges during the ninth round, which could likely be a candidate for ‘Round of the Year.’
The amount of punishment caught up to Hovhannisyan as he was hurt late during the 10th round. A combination from Nery dropped Hovhannisyan to the canvas, although he did beat the count and was able to fight back off the ropes until the bell sounded to end the round.
Hovhannisyan was doing well early during the 11th round, throwing and landing to the head and body. A sudden barrage by Nery stunned Hovhannisyan, prompting referee Ray Corona to step in and stop the fight at 1:51.
“I was surprised he took a lot of punches,” said Nery after the fight. “He’s an astute fighter. By the ninth round, I knew he had been weakened by the amount of punches he had received. He was not going to make it to the end of the 12th round.
Nery becomes the mandatory challenger to the winner of the Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue fight, which is penciled for May or June.
The southpaw Nery sees that fight as a 50-50 fight, but he would prefer to fight Inoue.
“I’m the real monster of 122 pounds, not him,” said Nery, who is promoted by Fernando Beltran.
Hovhannisyan, who is originally from Yerevan, Armenia and now resides in Los Angeles, drops to 21-4, 17 KOs. He challenged then-WBC world junior featherweight titleholder Ray Vargas in May 2018, losing by decision.
The 34-year-old had won his previous seven fights.
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]