GLENDALE — When Art "Lionheart" Hovhannesyan sets foot in the boxing ring tonight at the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez to face the undefeated Archie Ray Marquez as part of Showtime's live "ShoBox" card, most would readily admit it will be the biggest fight and opportunity of his career.
"It's his biggest fight," said Hovhannesyan's lead trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan of the Glendale Fighting Club.
Adds cornerman and manager George Bastrmajyan: "[The] opportunity is Showtime and it's his biggest fight and he's fighting an undefeated guy who's seven years his junior."
But for the Armenian-born Hovhannesyan, he's in the minority when talking about his eight-round junior welterweight bout against Marquez, which will lead off the three-fight televised portion of "ShoBox," a series designed to feature up-and-coming boxers.
"It's my first TV fight and it's my first undefeated opponent," Hovhannesyan, 29, admitted, "but it's not my biggest fight in my career."
The Glendale fighter said he's fought more than 200 amateur bouts, and in those bouts he said he's fought former Olympians and world champions. Those are the bouts Hovhannesyan said were bigger. But while Hovhannesyan might define his biggest fights as those against his toughest opposition, tonight is clearly the largest stage he will have fought on and against the most arduous opponent he's faced in the professional ranks.
The 22-year-old Marquez, who's already fought on Showtime in the past, sports a 12-0 record with eight knockouts. The New Mexico fighter last fought in April and decisioned Johnny Frazier (2-6-3). He holds notable wins over Juan Santiago (13-7-1) and Derrick Campos (20-11), but this too will likely be Marquez' toughest opponent to date.
"We look at every fight the same. We look at [Hovhannesyan] as our equal," said Marquez's manager, Jacob Maes. "We know he's a tough guy and we respect him as a fighter, but every fight we get in there, we're confident."
Hovhannesyan (12-0-1, 7 KOs) and his camp are brimming with confidence just the same.
"I think Art's gonna take him out and it's gonna work out perfect for us," said Tarverdyan of the fight as it relates to progressing his fighter's career.
Despite his unbeaten record, the road to glory for Hovhannesyan hasn't always worked out, as the local boxer has often times had difficulty finding solid opponents and has been plagued with injuries, the most recent being a hand injury. Hovhannesyan and his camp say that's in the past though.
"Right now, I'm 150% for the fight," Hovhannesyan said.
Thus, while many would likely see Marquez, with his impressive record and past Showtime experience, as the favorite, the Glendale contingent is far from embracing any underdog role.
"Maybe he's the favorite to some because Vasquez has already been on Showtime, people know him better, but not in my eyes," Bastrmajyan said.
Hovhannesyan is on the heels of a fifth-round knockout win over Jose Alfredo Lugo in April and has won five of his last six fights by knockout.
Hence, the card — which is headlined by Glendale Glory veteran Lateef Kayode (16-0, 14 KOs) facing Matt Godfrey (20-2, 10 KOs) — could start with some fireworks as Hovhannesyan and Marquez bring a combined 15 knockouts in 26 fights to the table.
"It's a great opponent for us," Tarverdyan said. "He's a puncher. Nothing so dangerous for us, though, because Art can punch and he can box. We have a great game plan going into the fight and Art's in great shape right now."
Said Maes: "We look at it like may the best man win. We feel like we're the best man."
And though Hovhannesyan will not call this his biggest fight, he does believe it's his biggest opportunity to shine and he has plans to do just that.
"I will prove everything after [Friday]," Hovhannesyan said. "My power, my speed, I'm better than him."