Hovhannesyan settles for split draw

GLENDALE — Art "Lionheart" Hovhannesyan ventured north to Santa Ynez looking to further his unbeaten boxing career and take another step up.

Instead, the Glendale fighter came away with a dissatisfying split draw after an incidental head butt by Hovhannesyan cut Cristobal Cruz' forehead to bring the bout, which was televised live from the Chumash Casino on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," to an abrupt halt at 2:37 of the fourth round.

Under California State Athletic Commission rules, the fourth round does not have to end to go the score cards in the event of an accidental butt. Thus, the lightweight fight scheduled for 10 rounds ended with Cruz ahead, 39-37, on judge Ray Corona's score card, Hovhannesyan leading, 39-37, on Gwynn Adair's card and dead even on Matt DeLuca's tally. The News-Press had the bout scored in favor of Cruz, 39-37.

By all accounts, however, Hovhannesyan (14-0-2, eight knockouts) was beginning to turn the fight, which was for the International Boxing Federation International title, in his favor during the concluding fourth round. He landed a beautiful straight right on the chin of Cruz (39-12-3, 23 KOs) that sent the latter backward before Hovhannesyan stepped in and created the accidental clash.

Hovhannesyan, who was cornered by Glendale Fighting Club trainer Edmond Tarverdyan, manager and cut man George Bastrmajyan and fellow undefeated Glendale boxer Vanes Martirosyan, had previously won 12 consecutive fights and had won six of his last seven by knockout. His last bout in June saw him notch his biggest win yet, as he defeated previously unbeaten Archie Ray Marquez via sixth-round knockout on Showtime. Cruz, on the other hand, had not fought in more than a year after losing his IBF featherweight title. He was also moving up a weight class and needed three tries on Friday night to make weight.

The fight opened with a relatively slow round — uncharacteristic for both boxers — and could've likely gone either way.

Hovhannesyan worked behind his jab early in the second round, but it was Cruz who would become the more active puncher, routinely getting off first and landing with his share of overhand rights and hooks, including a right in the corner that buckled Hovhanessyan. It was more of the same in the third round, a round in which Hovhannesyan also landed a left, but then shook out his hand, perhaps injuring it.

While Cruz landed his share of rights to the face and chin of Hovhannesyan, the Jewel City fighter took them all well and never appeared hurt or stunned.

In the fourth, Cruz was still aggressive, but Hovhannesyan began to match his work rate and land effectively, including an uppercut that's one of the local fighter's trademark weapons. At one point, Hovhannesyan stepped into a solid right, but returned with one of his own. The two began swinging for the fences in one span, as well. After Hovhannesyan landed a beautiful right, perhaps his best punch of the fight, he stepped in to get his balance and the top of his head hit Cruz above the right eye.

Cruz immediately protested, creating an awkward pause between the fighters without referee Raul Caiz calling for a halt. The action once again heated up before Caiz noticed the cut during a break and had a ringside doctor take a look and, with little hesitation, the fight was called.

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