Lionheart toughs out fight with bad hand

RANCHO MIRAGE — While his unbeaten record was still intact, Art "Lionheart" Hovhannesyan walked away from the ring with a damaged right hand, a cut above his left eye and perhaps most noticeably, his pride wounded.

The Glendale boxer emerged with a unanimous decision victory in his eight-round junior welterweight bout with journeyman Christian Favela on Saturday evening at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort in Rancho Mirage, but neither Hovhannesyan or his Glendale Fighting Club camp were pleased with the performance.

"He could've done much better if his right hand was there and his mind was there," said Edmond Tarverdyan, Hovhannesyan's trainer.

Hovhannesyan improved to 12-0-1 in defeating Favela (19-28-6) by scores of 78-74 and 77-75 twice. The News-Press scored the bout 79-73 in favor of Hovhannesyan, who fought on the untelevised undercard of HBO's "Boxing After Dark" series.

Despite the victory, his 10th in a row, the end result was little consolation, as Hovhannesyan admitted to being thrown off by both injuring his hand and a jeering crowd.

Recovering from an injured right hand already, Hovhannesyan reportedly did not spar all that much with his right leading up to the bout and after the first had already reinjured it.

"[I was] a little bit scared to take that punch," Hovhannesyan said. "That's what I think messed up the fight."

Fighting in his first eight-round contest, Hovhannesyan, who's built a reputation as a fan-favorite, action fighter, came out noticeably less aggressive than in fights prior, taking the first and second rounds with little action to speak of and the growing crowd getting restless and vocal. Not helping matters was that the bout followed a four-round women's bout in which Rancho Mirage's Gloria Salas decisioned Katarina De La Cruz in a nonstop action fight.

Hovhannesyan, whose left hook to both the body and head proved to be his most reliable weapons throughout, doubled up on left hooks in the waning seconds of the third, both landing with the first clearly the best punch of the fight to that point.

Another left hook landed well and snapped Favela's chin, but did not appear to faze the Los Angeles fighter. It was a constant throughout the bout, as Hovhannesyan landed his fair share of solid power punches, but the game Favela rarely appeared to be hurt. Hence, Hovhannesyan's streak of four straight wins by knockout came to an end.

"[He has a] very good chin," Tarverdyan said. "That's why he hasn't been stopped."

The fifth and sixth rounds proved to be the closest to that point, with all three judges giving Favela the fifth and two giving him the sixth.

Standing as the most dramatic stanza was the seventh, however.

Not long after Favela slipped to the canvas, Hovhannesyan landed a big left hook that seemed to stun Favela for the first time in the fight. A strong jab by the Jewel City fighter snapped Favela's head back later in the round and another left hook also landed well.

It was a round in which Hovhannesyan seemed to fight with renewed aggression, much of it likely attributed to him getting fired up by a cut that was opened up over his left eye.

The fight ended with the two winging punches, but the eighth round was clearly won by Favela.

"He did well with only his left hand," Tarverdyan said of his 28-year-old fighter.

Going forward, Tarverdyan is hopeful that Saturday will be a lesson learned for Hovhannesyan in terms of the mental game and blocking out distractions, whether they're injuries and cuts or a jeering crowd.

"You fight fighters like this. … You gotta be always ready," Tarverdyan said. "It's not only about stopping people. You can't get mentally distracted, you have to be mentally ready."

Copyright © 2019, Glendale News-Press
EDITION: California | U.S. & World