Former two-division titleholder Luis Nery stopped Azat Hovhannisyan in the 11th round of a 122-pound Fight of the Year candidate Saturday night at Fox Theater Pomona in Pomona, California.
Nery (34-1, 26 KOs) used his superior boxing skills as much as he could to in an attempt to control the fight and avoid taking undue punishment but the hard-charging Hovhannisyan (21-4, 17 KOs) turned the bout into a brawl through sheer will.
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The quicker, more athletic Nery would have his strong moments, landing shots that the plodding Hovhannisyan didn’t see coming. Then Hovhannisyan, undaunted by the punishment, would respond by pounding away at Nery.
That was the pattern of the fight, back-and-forth exchanges that on several occasions evolved into toe-to-toe insanity.
Hovhannisyan was doing well in the later rounds, perhaps slowing Nery down with consistent body work. Then, in the final minute of Round 10, the southpaw Nery landed a hard left followed by a combination that put Hovhannisyan down.
The Los Angeles-based Armenian got up but was hurt, which forced him into survival mode until the end of the round.
Naturally Hovhannisyan, although still not 100%, took the fight to Nery in Round 11. The Mexican bided his time until he saw the right time to pounce and did so midway through the round. He landed two left hooks and followed with a flurry, which stunned Hovhannisyan again.
And that was enough for referee Ray Corona, who jumped in immediately after the flurry and stopped the fight. The official time was 1:51.
The Mexican was leading on all three cards after 10 rounds, 96-93, 96-93 and 95-94.
Afterward, Nery gave Hovhannisyan credit for his brave effort and then looked to the future: He’s targeting the winner of the projected fight between unified 122-pound champ Stephen Fulton and pound-for-pounder Naoya Inoue.
The fight on Saturday was billed as a title eliminator.
“I knew this was going to be a very difficult fight,” he said. “Azat is a very tough fighter. We gave the fans an incredible show. [Now] I want the winner between Naoya Inoue and Stephen Fulton. I feel ready for a world championship.”
There wasn’t much Hovhannisyan could say.
“We are disappointed in this outcome, but that’s boxing,” he said. “There was a lot of back-and-forth action, and we did all that we could.”
And then some.