For those who have followed the promising boxing career of Art "Lionheart" Hovhannisyan, they have come to expect a couple things — an all-out, entertaining fight and some bumps in the road to stardom.
Now 31, the Glendale slugger remains unbeaten, but a slew of injuries and fight cancellations have impeded his progress.
The latest setback was when opponent Logan McGuinness was forced to pull out of their bout — for a possible World Boxing Assn. contendership and the North American Boxing Assn. title — with an injury.
Thus, in times of struggle, sometimes all you need is a friend, and that’s what Hovhannisyan has in Alejandro Perez, who stepped in to take McGuinness’ place.
“He’s my friend — but outside the ring,” Hovhannisyan said. “Inside the ring, he’s my opponent. Business is business.”
And business is sure to be booming when Hovhannisyan and Perez put their friendship aside for 10 rounds in their super featherweight main event Friday night on Showtime’s “Shobox” at the Morongo Casino in Cabazon.
“I feel the same way,” said Perez, who’s sparred myriad rounds with Hovhannisyan at the Wild Card Boxing Club, run by renowned trainer Freddie Roach. “Out of the ring we can be the best of friends. We worked together a lot at Wild Card. However, once you’re up there [in the ring], it’s a business.
“We know each other very well. We know each other’s styles. I think that’s one of the factors that makes the fight so interesting.
“It’ll definitely be a very exciting fight.”
While a top ranking in the WBA is likely the largest prize in the fight, to the victor also goes the NABA interim title.
“It’s like my wishes came true — slowly,” Hovhannisyan said of the opportunity. “It’s my first title shot.”
Hovhannisyan (15-0-2, eight knockouts) will return to the ring after a hiatus of roughly seven months, while the 27-year-old Perez (16-11-1) takes the fight on a bit of short notice and a layoff of more than a year. But he said he’s more than ready to go.
“It’s been OK,” said Perez of taking the fight on late notice. “I always keep myself in the gym whether I have a fight [scheduled] or not.”
Perez’ last fight was an eighth-round knockout of Derrick Wilson in February of 2012, but he has split his last four bouts. Much like Hovhannisyan, Perez is seen as an action fighter and he believes their matchup will produce fireworks.
“He likes to fight toe to toe. He’s very aggressive.” Perez said. “I think it’s the biggest fight to date for me. I feel a real honor to fight a main event on ‘Shobox.’ We’re definitely gonna go out there and do what we do best, which is fight.”
Hovhannisyan has produced two of his career’s biggest wins on ‘Shobox.’ His last was likely his most high-profile bout in which he defeated Miguel Acosta via split decision in July of 2012 — Hovhannisyan’s last bout before Friday. Previously, he knocked out then-undefeated Archie Ray Marquez in June of 2011 on ‘Shobox’ in what was likely his most impressive performance.
“I can show myself to people how exciting I am,” Hovhannisyan said of fighting on Showtime. “I know they like the action fight.”
And, despite the distractions of a new opponent and a familiar one, at that, Hovhannisyan said everything’s in place for a victory.
“It’s perfect right now,” said Hovhannisyan of how his training camp went. “I’m so excited.”
The only concern that seems to come from Hovhannisyan’s Glendale Fighting Club camp is that the always tenacious Hovhannisyan might take it easy on his old friend.
“I just worry about him being so nice to him,” trainer Edmond Tarverdyan said. “I hope that he doesn’t put it in his mind that it’s Alejandro.
“They’ve known each other from day one.”
Of course, Hovhannisyan has assured that won’t be the case as he promises to take care of business and put friendship aside.
The fight also marks the start of a two-night stretch for the Glendale Fighting Club in which two of Tarverdyan’s charges will fight in the main event of major cards. Roughly 24 hours after Hovhannisyan faces off with Perez on Showtime, Ultimate Fighting Championship women’s bantamweight titlist Ronda Rousey, who also trains at GFC under Tarverdyan, will defend her belt against Liz Carmouche in the UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche pay-per-view main event to conclude what is easily the highest-profile weekend yet for the Glendale corner gym.
But Friday night is assuredly Hovhannisyan’s night to take his largest step forward in fulfilling the championship status he’s been fighting so arduously to accomplish.
Said Hovhannisyan: “I think everything’s beginning with this fight.”