'Lionheart' roars to sixth-round KO

SANTA YNEZ — With brilliant boxing and devastating power, Art "Lionheart" Hovhannesyan announced his presence to the fighting world live on Showtime Friday night.

Behind a ferocious straight right-left hook combination, Hovhannesyan knocked out the previously undefeated Archie Ray Vasquez at the 1:03 mark of the sixth round in their scheduled eight-round lightweight tilt, which led off Showtime's "ShoBox" televised card from the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez.

"I told everyone, in a couple of rounds, I can teach him how to box and then stop him," said Hovhannesyan, who knocked down Vasquez four times in the bout. "And I did that."

Hovhannesyan (14-0-1, 8 KOs) nailed Vasquez (12-1, 8 KOs) with a straight right and two follow-up left hooks to put down the New Mexico fighter just before the first round ended. Vasquez did not appear to be hurt, but his difficulty staying upright was a foreshadowing of Hovhannesyan's fortune to come.

"Art has a big punch and he's learning to sit down on it," said Hovhannesyan's chief trainer, Edmond Tarverdyan.

It was Hovhannesyan's sixth knockout in his last seven fights.

Hovhannesyan, who resides and trains in Glendale, floored Vasquez for a second time in the third round, once again using the power in his left hook to hurt his opponent before a grazing right put him to the canvas. Vasquez argued that it was a slip, but the referee ruled it a knockdown and Vasquez had clearly been staggered by the hook.

In the fifth round, Hovhannesyan landed his most impressive blow of the fight up to that point — which was saying something, considering he landed solid power punches multiple times in each round. The Jewel City fighter caught Vasquez coming in with a picture-perfect right that sent Vasquez to the canvas for a third time, though he popped up relatively quickly. Hovhannesyan went on the offensive right away, but Vasquez was game and kept himself in the fight until the sixth.

There was no doubt that Vasquez was done in the sixth round, however. Hovhannesyan landed a huge straight right that appeared to have his opponent going down anyway, but an immediate left hook sent Vasquez straight back, with his head bouncing off the canvas and the referee immediately calling a halt to the bout.

Aside from a brief feeling-out process in the first round, the bout was action-packed. During one span in the second round, Hovhannesyan rocked Vasquez with an uppercut only for Vasquez to stand tall against the charging "Lionheart," and appearing to stun the latter in retort.

"I didn't feel anything," Hovhannesyan said. "I was OK."

Though the second round was relatively close, Hovhannesyan easily took every other round besides the fourth, in which Marquez was busier, using his jab and landing the most telling punch of the round with his straight right. But besides his straight right and jab, Vasquez had little to offer Hovhannesyan, who danced around, slipped jabs, ducked punches, switched from orthodox to south-paw and offered an array of power punches with both hands.

"He did everything, it was great," Tarverdyan said. "We knew all [Vasquez] had was a straight right."

Heading into the bout, Vasquez was the more well-known fighter in boxing circles and seen by most as the favorite, including some at Showtime, who interviewed Tarverdyan on Thursday about a potential upset.

"I told them, 'Upset, what upset? We're not gonna upset him, we're gonna out box him and then we're gonna knock him out,'" Tarverdyan said.

While Friday night clearly worked out for Hovhannesyan and his camp, Tarverdyan is hoping the prominent and impressive victory also works out for the future.

"It was a great fight, I knew it was gonna happen," Tarverdyan said. "Hopefully we'll sit down with [promoter] Gary [Shaw] and we can get a 10-round, small title fight with him and then move on after that."

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