By Boxing Bob Newman at ringside
Photos: Andy Newman
WBC super bantamweight champion Rey Vargas (32-0, 23 KOs) had all he could handle and more in a hard fought twelve round unanimous decision over Armenian-born Azat Hovhannisyan (14-3, 11 KOs) on Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York.
The human buzz saw Armenian rocked Vargas in the last minute of the opening round with a straight right to the face, knocking him into the ropes, possibly taking the round. Round two saw more strategic, yet relentless pressure from Hovhannisyan. While he missed more than he landed, what he did land was eye-catching, drawing wild cheers from a throng of Armenian fans in the crowd.
It wasn’t as if Vargas hadn’t any moments of his own though. In between trying to avoid Azat’s lunging attacks, he countered and even went on the offensive to the body and head of his diminutive rival. Hovhannisyan used every tactic, legal and otherwise in his arsenal- including headlocks, leading with his head and low blows, drawing warnings from ref Charlie Fitch.
Vargas boxed well in the fifth, only to get nailed with a blistering left near the end of the round, forcing him to clinch. In the seventh, perhaps taking a break from in-fighting in the trenches, Hovhannisyan got on his bicycle for large portions of the round. The left side of his face bore stark witness to the punches he took as well as head clashes. Another hard clash in the opening moments of the eighth resulted in a cut on the corner of the left eye of Vargas and right eye of Hovhannisyan.
Vargas returned some of Azat’s favors with throw downs in the eighth and ninth. Vargas capped the ninth with a beautiful combo to both sides of Hovhannisyan’s body. By the end of the tenth, Vargas returned to his corner looking content with his work, while Azat shook his head over so negatively, perhaps wondering what he had to do to make Vargas submit.
A tired and off balance Vargas took his own tumble to the deck late in the eleventh as Hovhannisyan seemed to regain the advantage with his pressure. By the start of the twelfth and final round, Vargas was cut over both eyes, blood streaming down from both.
In the end, the judges favored the technical stylings of Vargas over Hovhannisyan’s pressure fighting, 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112.