By David Robinett at ringside
Photos: Craig Bennett / Showtime
Super featherweight Alejandro “El Alacran” Perez pulled off the mild upset over previously unbeaten Art “Lionheart” Hovhannisyan, scoring a close unanimous decision victory over ten rounds in the main event on ShoBox: The Next Generation at the Morongo Casino Resort in Cabazon, California. Scores were 96-93, 96-93, and 95-94, including one point deducted from Perez for a low blow in round five. One of the main storylines coming into this fight was the familiarity between these two fighters, who estimated that they sparred about 80 rounds together in recent years. “We’ve sparred a lot, we know each other well and we’re friends,” explained Hovhannisyan before the fight. “But business is business and once the bell sounds, the fight is on.”
In the opening round, both fighters fought as if they knew each other too well, hesitant to engage and showing each other perhaps too much respect. Perez featured a lot of head movement early and only a probing jab while Hovhannisyan did little until finally breaking the stalemate with a double left hook to the head. Perez opened up a little more in round two, focusing on Hovhannisyan’s body as the Armenian showed some machismo by waving Perez in for more.
The theme of the fight began to develop as Perez had his most success when the fighters engaged in close, particularly to Hovhannisyan’s body. On several occasions Hovhannisyan would miss entirely during exchanges, appearing to prematurely shorten his punches to avoid getting countered by Perez. Hovhannisyan’s best moments came from the outside, in particular firing off one or two punches at a time while circling Perez widely around the ring.
In round four one of Perez’s body punches strayed low, drawing a warning from referee Ray Corona. The referee took a point from Perez for the same offense in round five, although Perez’s low blow that cost him the point was only just below Hovhannisyan’s beltline. Notwithstanding the foul the fighters reestablished their pattern over the second half of the fight, the momentum turning for Perez each time he was able to draw Hovhannisyan in and for Hovhannisyan each time he was able to maintain some distance while circling Perez.
Ultimately, Perez was able to close the fight stronger than Hovhannisyan, punctuating his performance with a right hook in round ten that briefly buckled Hovhannisyan’s knees. With the win, Perez improves to 17-3-1, 11 KOs, while Hovhannisyan suffers his first defeat and falls to 15-1-2, 8 KOs.
Olympian Johnson Remains Undefeated
In the televised co-feature, 2008 Olympian Tureano “Reno” Johnson overpowered Willie Fortune “500” to earn a one-sided unanimous decision in an eight-round bout between undefeated middleweights. All three judges scored the bout 80-72 for the bigger, stronger Johnson.
Johnson, (14-0, 10 KOs), who represented his home country of the Bahamas during the Beijing games, officially outweighed Fortune, (15-1, 7 KOs), by only two pounds, but Johnson was coming down from super middleweight for this fight and was clearly the bulkier fighter. Nevertheless, Fortune’s game plan appeared to be to take the fight directly to Johnson as he jumped on Johnson right after the opening bell. Although the crowd appreciated Fortune’s willingness to mix it up, Fortune’s punches seemed to have little effect on Johnson while Johnson’s clubbing counterattacks appeared to slowly break Fortune down over the course of the fight. For an Olympian, Johnson did appear one-dimensional, relying almost exclusively on left and right hooks while standing directly in front of Fortune. No angles of attack, virtually no punches to Fortune’s body, and very little diversity in his offense, which suggests that Johnson may have trouble adapting to opponents whom he can’t simply overpower with brute strength.
However, on this night Johnson was the better fighter and leaves with his “0” intact to continue working on his craft and continue his ascent towards contender status.
Luna Notches Another Win
In the third and final undercard bout before the televised card, lightweight Alex Luna, (12-0, 9 KOs), had an easy time with Cesar Garcia, (5-12-2, 1 KO), stopping Garcia at 2:06 of round six in a scheduled eight-round contest. Luna won every round up to the stoppage, although in the first two rounds, Garcia was able to limit the damage by maintaining a high and tight guard while Luna pounded on Garcia’s gloves. Once Garcia opened up a little in round three, it was target practice for Luna, who finally forced Garcia to the canvas in round six under a flurry of punches. Garcia gamely rose to continue but went down moments later when a right hand to the body followed by another flurry forced Garcia down to a knee, where referee Ray Corona mercifully stepped in to wave the bout over.
2012 Olympian Collazo Survives Zapata
Although the main event was the evening’s best fight, super middleweights Juan Zapata and Enrique Collazo warmed the crowd up with a dramatic four-round game of bull and matador that ended up as a fairly scored draw.
Collazo represented Puerto Rico in the 2012 Summer Olympics and was recently signed with much fanfare by Gary Shaw. However his promoter did the young Olympian no favors, matching him up against the boxing equivalent of a crazed madman in his first professional bout. Although Zapata generally only fights once a year and came into the bout with just one win in six bouts, his less than impressive resume came against competition that had a combined record of 15-0 and he has been involved in some dramatic scenes in his few appearances in the ring, once having to be carried out on a stretcher. As usual, Zapata provided the drama, offering an early test of Collazo’s mettle and leaving the crowd buzzing throughout.
Zapata, (1-5-1, 1 KO), started as if he were shot out of a cannon, throwing leaping haymakers at a stunned Collazo, who didn’t seem quite sure how to react. Mostly Zapata flew recklessly past Collazo every few seconds, but midway through round one he caught Collazo with a flying left hook, prompting Collazo to grab Zapata for a brief reprieve as he visibly tried to shake off the cobwebs. If Zapata had even an ounce of self control he probably could have finished Collazo for the huge upset, but Zapata continued to stumble past Collazo with errant punches or, on the few occasions he did connect, telegraphed his punches so early that Collazo had time to cover up and brace for impact. Nevertheless at the end of the round Collazo looked shell-shocked as he returned to his corner.
Round two however was a totally different fight, as Collazo’s class started to show through. Having had the break between rounds to assess the situation, Collazo started to time Zapata’s wild attacks, easily countering Zapata, who was often off balance and defenseless after missing with his leaping punches.
The battle of wills continued in round three, with Collazo gaining enough confidence to start initiating some offense, firing off short left and right hooks before stepping out of range. However Zapata continued to come forward with reckless abandon and finally caught Collazo again with a crushing right hook that buckled Collazo’s knees to change the momentum again. Nevertheless Collazo’s boxing carried the bulk of the round despite Zapata’s late rally.
Although clearly the better boxer, Collazo expended a tremendous amount of energy for a debuting fighter and it showed in the final round. Zapata started to land with more frequency, clubbing Collazo with gloves, wrists, and forearms as the two tired fighters started to clinch and grapple as much as box. Zapata didn’t have enough energy though to try and close the show, so the result was a majority draw, as Zapata carried the first and last rounds while Collazo outboxed him in the middle rounds. Two judges agreed, scoring the bout 38-38 while the third judge scored it a questionable 39-37 for Collazo.
In Other Action
Welterweight Michael Islas, (1-1, 0 KOs), evened up his record at the expense of debuting youngster Carlos Sanchez, (0-1), taking a unanimous decision victory over four rounds. Islas bookended his performance with a knockdown in the opening seconds of round one and a knockdown in the closing seconds of round four. All three judges scored the bout 40-34.
The five-bout card was presented by Gary Shaw Productions.