Casper ready for his return

GLENDALE — It’s been just over eight months since up-and-coming welterweight Vito “Casper” Gasparyan last fought, a span in which quite a bit has transpired.

Gasparyan, who formerly trained at the Glendale Fighting Club, has had several fights canceled over the past months, all while putting down roots in a new gym with a new trainer.

All systems are go for his latest scheduled fight, however, when the effects of the layoff from actual fighting, good or bad, and his recently formed affiliation with Fortune Gym in Los Angeles will become evident.

“I’ve never been in such good shape before,” said Gasparyan (11-1-4, five knockouts), who will take on Jermell Charlo (8-0, four KOs) in a six-round affair tonight at the Toyota Center in Houston. “I can’t wait until I get there, do my thing and come back with a ‘W.’”

“I’m looking at this like a stepping stone for me, so if I win this fight a lot of opportunities are going to come forward.”

For Gasparyan, whose fights have largely been in gymnasiums and hotel ballrooms, it’s likely that a strong showing on the undercard of the HBO Boxing After Dark show presented by Golden Boy Promotions at the 19,000-seat venue will raise his profile considerably.

The main event features Juan “Baby Bull” Diaz taking on former 140-pound world titleholder Paulie “Magic Man” Malignaggi of Brooklyn, NY, while the co-featured bout will be International Boxing Federation Junior Lightweight World Champion Malcolm Klassen against Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero.

With a spotlight on hometown talent, the card features six Houston-based fighters, including Charlo, who has fought at Toyota Center twice previously.

The 19-year-old Charlo, a former amateur star, most recently beat Frederico Flores, Jr. via technical knockout 42 seconds into the eighth round in Tucson on June 26.

“It’s a good fight. ...The guy’s no bum and boxing’s a bitch of a business — anything can happen — you have to be on your guard and you can never take anyone lightly, whatsoever,” said Fortune Gym proprietor and former heavyweight contender Justin Fortune, a longtime friend and colleague of Gasparyan, who began to formally train him in April and will corner him tonight. “But it’s a good opportunity for [Gasparyan] to shine for Golden Boy and maybe he can have some sort of future with them.”

Gasparyan, 23, saw Charlo fight in a televised bout earlier this year and said he thought to himself that he could match up well with him. Serendipitously, the matchup became a reality shortly thereafter.

“I’ve watched a couple of his sparring [matches] and he’s a basic guy. He’s a good boxer with good amateur experience, but I don’t think it’s going to be a problem for me,” Gasparyan said. “We have our game plan. ...He’s a little bit taller than me, so I know what I’m gonna do. For one month, I’ve been getting ready only for this guy.”

Gasparyan last fought on the Glendale-based Art of Boxing Promotions’ Seasons Beatings card on Dec. 20, 2008 at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, where he beat Octavio Narvaez (7-5-1) via unanimous decision in a six-round bout.

He has changed his training approach since linking up with Fortune and promises to be a vastly different fighter when he enters the ring Saturday.

“I made my weight — first time in my life no weight problems,” he said. “I’ve had a great training camp. ... I don’t want to say nothing about my former trainers, they were good trainers, too. But Justin is a known as the best conditioning trainer.

“He gave me a lot of offensive moves, also defensive moves too, but he mostly improved my offense. I don’t recognize myself. He gave me a great game plan and everything.”

Fortune listed several keys to Gasparyan’s success tonight.

“He’s got more combinations, more body work,” Fortune said of Gasparyan. “When you’ve got some great body shots now and angles, you can keep on turning, keep confusing the hell outta the guy. When he can’t find you or see you, then he can’t hit you.”

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