Nery stops Hovhannisyan in 11th round of fight of the year contender
WBC junior featherweight title eliminator produces non-stop action
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In an all-out battle that surely will be a contender for fight of the year honors, Luis Nery and Azat Hovhannisyan slugged it out with reckless abandon into the 11th round before Nery got the stoppage victory in a WBC junior featherweight title eliminator on Saturday night in the main event of a Golden Boy Promotions card on DAZN at the Fox Theater in Pomona, California.
Nery, a former junior featherweight and bantamweight world titlist, who scored a 10th-round knockdown, earned another shot at a 122-pound title, becoming a mandatory challenger for unified titleholder Stephen Fulton.
“I feel good. We knew it would be a hard fight,” Nery said through an interpreter. “We had a hard preparation for this one but we expected to get the victory. We expected a knockout. We knew it was gonna be a knockout. Azat is a tough fighter but we got the knockout. It was good for the fans.”
It was a hard-hitting and thrilling fight from the opening bell, just as most expected it would be. There were constant bursts of toe-to-action and both fighters were visibly rocked at various times in the fight.
A left hand from Nery opened bloody cut under Hovhannisyan’s right eye in the third round.
In the fourth round, Hovhannisyan had Nery on shaky legs from a series of shots before he rebounded with a damaging combination off the ropes, including an uppercut, which rocked Hovhannisyan as they were both hurt in the final seconds.
Nery inflicted a second cut on Hovhannisyan in the fifth round, opening a wound on his right eyelid. The blood flowed but Hovhannisyan brushed it aside and continued to plow forward.
Round after round, they simply traded punishment with referee Ray Corona merely a spectator because there was so little for him to do.
Both fighters were shaken from the constant blows in the brutal ninth round and then Nery (34-1, 26 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Mexico, finally broke through in the 10th round. He landed a left cross and a right hand that wobbled Hovhannisyan before another left sent him the mat with 40 seconds remaining for the only knockdown of the fight.
Hovhannisyan smiled and got to his knees before rising at Corona’s count of seven. Nery was all over Hovhannisyan for the rest of the round, forcing him to the ropes, where he teed off. Hovhannisyan, known as “Crazy A” for his relentless style, barely managed to throw a few punches back while Corona was right on the verge of stopping it when the bell sounded to end the round.
Hovhannisyan seemed OK as the 11th round began and he landed some shots and was coming on midway through the round, but when Nery wobbled the bleeding Hovhannisyan with two left hands Corona stepped in and waved it off at 1 minute, 51 seconds to bring an end to the instant classic.
“We’re obviously disappointed the fight didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but it’s boxing,” Hovhannisyan said through an interpreter. “I thought he was a good fighter before and today I think he is a great fighter. He won today. That’s it.”
According to CompuBox statistics, Nery landed 195 of 596 punches (33 percent) and Hovhannisyan landed 210 of 688 (31 percent).
Hovhannisyan (21-4, 17 KOs), 34, an Armenian based in Los Angeles, saw a seven-fight winning streak end. He had not lost since a dropping a unanimous decision challenging then-WBC junior featherweight titlist Rey Vargas in May 2018.
Nery won his third fight in a row since getting stopped in the seventh round with a body shot and losing the WBC junior featherweight title to Brandon Figueroa in May 2021.
Figueroa then lost the WBC belt to Fulton in a November 2021 unification fight and Fulton is close to finalizing a deal to defend the titles against Japanese pound-for-pound star Naoya Inoue, who recently vacated the undisputed bantamweight title to move up in weight, in Japan in the early summer.
Nery will be paying close attention to that fight, assuming it is finalized.
“I want Inoue, I want Fulton,” Nery said. “I feel ready go for the world championship whether it’s with Fulton or with Inoue.”
Before that fight comes around, however, Nery took a moment to appreciate the intense storm he had just weathered
“It was a war for everybody,” he said. “We saw the fans and we thank them.”
Photos: Cris Esqueda/Golden Boy
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“How can you not be romantic about boxing?”
That’s what the commentator said after that fight.
Beautiful is it’s display of sheer, raw, human will. We all aspire to be capable of that single minded, unwavering, commitment that those fighters displayed.
That will take beating as fight of the year we are only in feb and we have had 5 contenders for fight of the year could be one of the great years of boxing