SOUTHEAST GLENDALE — It was a dazzling debut upon the small screen and a dominating statement that was exactly what Art "Lionheart" Hovhannesyan and his camp were hoping for and predicting.
Hovhannesyan, an unbeaten Glendale lightweight, dismantled the previously undefeated Archie Ray Marquez live on Showtime on June 10 with a sixth-round knockout that has no doubt led to his next bout: tonight's 10-round tilt against veteran Cristobal Cruz in Santa Ynez live on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."
The two will tangle for the International Boxing Federation International title, but, perhaps more importantly, it is another step up and forward for the 29-year-old Hovhannesyan (14-0-1, eight knockouts).
"I think it's a good time for Art to shine right now," said Edmond Tarverdyan, Hovhannesyan's lead trainer at the Glendale Fighting Club. "He's not young, so I think this is his time to step up and he thinks so, too."
Tarverdyan was supremely confident heading into Hovhannesyan's bout against Marquez and it showed as Hovhannesyan outboxed and then out slugged Marquez, flooring him four times en route to the KO win.
"Art looked good with Archie Ray the last fight," Tarverdyan said. "TV's happy with him, promoters are happy with him."
And now, he will face a former world champion in Friday's co-feature, which will come before the main event featuring Tim Coleman and Vernon Paris and will also emanate from the same Chumash Casino in which Hovhannesyan dispatched Marquez.
"This is gonna be a step up," Tarverdyan said. "Cristobal Cruz is a good fighter."
A former IBF featherweight world champ, Cruz (39-12-2, 23 KOs) is 3-1-1 in major world title fights. Cruz has built a reputation being an extremely busy fighter, known to average 100 punches thrown per round. But Hovhannesyan is brimming with confidence.
"I'm in good shape," he said. "I feel very fast, very powerful."
Health doesn't appear to be a concern for Hovhannesyan, either, as his career has gone through plenty of setbacks due to injury, particularly problems with busted hands and knuckles. This time, it's actually Cruz who's coming off a long layoff.
It's been more than a year since the former champion last fought, losing his IBF title to Orlando Salido on May 15, 2010, via unanimous decision. His previous fight was a technical draw.
Another possible factor in Hovhannesyan's favor is that Cruz is moving up a weight class.
Still, the veteran is seen by most as a stiff test for Hovhannesyan, but Tarverdyan is confident in his charge.
"We have a good game plan, [we're] very confident," Tarverdyan said. "I think Art's too strong for anybody at this point.
"We know it's the toughest fight in his career at this point, but he can handle it."
Hovhannesyan's been handling every obstacle in his way as of late, winning six of his last seven fights by knockout, including his last two. Only a decision win over the iron-chinned Cristian Favela in July 2010 served as a speed bump, as Hovhannesyan broke his hand and looked largely unimpressive despite a lopsided win.
He bounced back to knock out Jose Alfredo Lugo at the Nokia Theater in April before the Marquez victory.
"That's my beginning," said Hovhannesyan of the Marquez win. "I believe in my speed and my power, I really believe in them.
"I'm excited, I'm happy, it's the first belt [I have a shot at].
"That's why I'm happy, I can show what I can do in the ring now."