If Art "Lionheart" Hovhannisyan is indeed back on the path toward putting himself into the conversation for a world title opportunity, Friday night poses an opportunity to prove just that.
Glendale's Hovhannisyan will go toe to toe with Jonathan Maicelo in the 10-round main event of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" from the Little Creek Casino Resort in Shelton, Wash.
Looking to win his third consecutive fight following his first professional defeat, Hohvannisyan returns to fight under the bright television lights in which he's always aspired to perform and has built a reputation for putting on exciting, hard-hitting fights.
"That's my dream since I've started," Hovhannisyan said of fighting in front of a televised audience, as he's made numerous appearances on ESPN2 and Showtime's "Shobox" series. "I've improved so I'm that level fighter."
The 32-year-old Hovhannisyan (17-1-2, nine knockouts) and Maicelo (20-1, 12 KOs), a 30-year-old native of Peru who fights out of New Jersey, will vie for the WBC International Silver title on a broadcast that will begin at 6 p.m. PDT and also features a 10-round middleweight clash between Tureano Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs) and Mike Gavronski (14-0-1, 10 KOs).
While Hovhannisyan's consecutive victories would lend credence to him getting back on track, Maicelo needs a win to prevent him from veering off course further, as he's 1-1 with a no-contest over his last three contests.
"I feel like my back is against the wall," Maicelo told ESPN.com. "I'm coming to make a statement, and I'll be going for the knockout. Hovhannisyan is a good boxer, but he's not better than me. I know I can win this fight and continue marching toward a world title. The fans can expect to see me bring the fight to Hovhannisyan."
That would suit Hovhannisyan, who's long been regarded as an action fighter, but said he's ready for whatever Maicelo presents.
"I know he's a good fighter," Hovhannisyan said. "If he moves around, if he stays in front of me, I'm ready for both."
That said, Hovhannisyan doesn't hesitate when asked what he would prefer, as he's on the heels of winning an eight-round, blood-spattering, slobber-knocking slugfest April 12 in Inglewood. But Hovhannisyan enters action Friday no worse for the wear.
"No problem. I'm always ready for that, to get into a war," Hovhannisyan said. "That's my style."
Maicelo's last bout, roughly nine months ago in Peru, ended in the third round and in a no-contest after an accidental clash of heads with opponent Jorge Luis Rodriguez. Previously, he defeated Alejandro Rodriguez via 10th-round knockout in August 2013, which came in the aftermath of his first professional loss against Rustam Nugaev via an eighth-round knockout April 5, 2013. Coincidentally, the fight was the main event of a "Friday Night Fights" card that saw Hovhannisyan's Glendale Fighting Club teammate Gapo Tolmajyan record a win in the co-main event.
Roughly two months prior, Hovhannisyan suffered his first loss in a "Shobox" fight against Alejandro Perez, a former sparring partner from Wild Card Gym, in February 2013. The close, unanimous decision (96-93 twice, 95-94) defeat came in a bout that saw Hovhannisyan look a bit different from usual. Though it was still an exciting bout, Hovhannisyan wasn't quite as aggressive and sharp as he'd looked in previous bouts.
"He learned from his loss against Alejandro Perez," Glendale Fighting Club lead trainer Edmond Tarverdyan said. "He's not gonna make the same mistakes. Art's gonna get a knockout win."