By Allan Fox: Rey Vargas (32-0, 22 KOs) retained his WBC super bantamweight title in beating the always tough Azat “Crazy A” Hovhannisyan (14-3, 11 KOs) by a 12 round unanimous decision on Saturday night at the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, New York.
(Photo credit: Matt Heasley-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)
Fighting on the undercard in the co-feature bout on the Sadam Ali vs. Jaime Munguia card on HBO World Championship Boxing, the 27-year-old Vargas was able to pound out a 12 round unanimous decision in a voluntary defense against 29-year-old Hovhannisyan.
This is a fight that could have gone Hovhannisyan’s way with the right judges working the fight. If there were a set of judges that mainly looked to score rounds based on which fighter landed the harder, cleaner-landing shots, then Hovhannisyan would have won, because he was connecting with the better shots in every round of the fight. Vargas’ punches lacked the same kind of power that Hovhannisyan’s did.
Hovhannisyan did a good job of mixing up the power on his shots. He was never throwing with same kind of power. He would throw with moderate power for 7 or 8 punches, and then suddenly come from nowhere with a monstrous punch that Vargas wasn’t expecting. This mixt of power made Hovhannisyan more dangerous inside the ring, because Vargas never knew for sure what type of shot he was going to get hit with.
Hovhannisyan had Vargas hurt at the end of round 1 after hitting him with some scorching shots that he didn’t expect.
The judges’ scores were 118-110, 116-111 and 117-111. Boxing News 24 had the 5’7” Vargas winning by the score 116-112. Hovhannisyan hurt the taller Vargas a number of times in the fight with hard left hooks and right hands, but the Mexican fighter was always able to stay on his feet despite his legs looking weak after getting nailed by big shots from the Armenian fighter. Ultimately, it was Vargas’ high work rate that won him the fight rather than his power, because he wasn’t the bigger puncher in the fight.
Hovhannisyan had the better power and he was the more explosive of the two. The long-armed Vargas utilized his 4” inch reach advantage and his precise body punching to wear down Hovhannisyan, and beat him on the scorecards. Vargas made sure to stay on the move throughout the contest to avoid being walked down and out-slugged by the bigger punching Hovhannisyan. The pressure from Hovhannisyan was a real problem for Vargas, making it one of his toughest fights of his 8-year pro career.
Vargas has only faced a small handful of good fighters during his career. Most of the guys Vargas has fought in Mexico were weak journeyman level opposition. Since 2016, Vargas has stepped it up a level in beating Oscar Negrete, Ronny Rios, Gavin McDonnell, Alexander Munoz and Christian Esquivel.
“I’m very happy,” Vargas said after the fight. “This was a tough opponent, though he fights dirty and has his bad habits. He head-butted me a lot. It was important that I first take care of my head in this fight and then of course land my punches. Right now, it’s time for me to rest and leave the decisions to my managers,” Vargas said.
Vargas doesn’t have much room to talk when it comes to fighting dirty. He landed rabbit punches, he hit low, and on one occasion he hit Hovhannisyan in the back of the head when he got spun around briefly. Instead of waiting for the referee to get Hovhannisyan turned around after, as he was trapped against the ropes, Vargas teed off with punches to the back of the head. It looked bad on Vargas’ part to stoop to that level. So when Vargas complains about Hovhannisyan fighting dirty, he needs to see that he was doing the exact same thing. The fact is both fighters were fighting dirty. Vargas needs to be happy that he got the victory, because he was rocked many times in the fight.
“I have great respect for Rey Vargas, but I felt I controlled the fight with my aggression,” Hovhannisyan said afterwards. ”I landed the harder and cleaner punches. He got too much credit for pitty-patter shots. I felt it was close, but my constant attack won the fight.”
The judges were more impressed with the high work rate for Vargas, as well as his body punching. He was always landing something, and was busy on the inside when the two would clinch. Vargas would take advantage of Hovhannisyan’s clinching to hit him with shots while being held.
Overall, Vargas vs. Hovhannisyan greatly overshadowed the main event between Sadam Ali vs. Jaime Munguia, which was a mismatch. Munguia destroyed the smaller Ali with his size and superior punching power. Vargas- Hovhannisyan was competitive from start to finish. Vargas had to throw a lot of punches to try and keep Hovhannisyan off of him, and it was never easy because the Armenian fighter was constantly on the attack with his pressure and his hard shots.
Vargas isn’t going to last too much longer as the WBC 122 lb. champion if he keeps taking the kinds of shots that he was getting hit with by Hovhannisyan. These kinds of fights were down a champion, and he’s got a lot of tough contenders that are waiting for their title shots like Julio Ceja, Diego De La Hoya, Abigail Medina, Gavin McDonnell and Tamoki Kameda. Right now, Vargas would be favored to beat all those guys, but it he might not beat them if Hovhannisyan took something out of him with all the hard shots he landed in the fight.
The win for Vargas was his third successful defense of his WBC super bantamweight title since capturing the vacant belt last year in beating Gavin McDonnell by a 12 round majority decision on February 25, 2017 in the UK. Vargas has looked very good in his defenses before last night. Hovhannisyan brought Vargas down to earth, showing that he’s not invincible and that he can be hurt repeatedly. However, for Vargas to be knocked out, it’s going to take someone that can land not only two or three hard consecutive shots. It’s going to take a fighter that can unload a flurry of big punches. Hovhannisyan couldn’t do that last night, and that’s why he failed to score a knockout.