BY HAIG BOYADJIAN
LAS VEGAS–The first thing I noticed upon walking into the fight room was the Armenian tricolor hanging from the ceiling alongside all the other flags. My initial prideful reaction at the sight of our flag was soon replaced by anxiety at the thought of our Armenian fighters possibly losing their matches.
The two Armenia’s fighting in the Draka World Championships–presented by the International Kickboxing Draka Federation (IKDF) on March 31 at the Orleans Hotel/Casino in Las Vegas–were Varazdat Mihranyan and Edmond Tarvedyan. This was Mihranyan’s second professional fight this year. His last match was at Hollywood Casino Park in January–when he defeated Muay Thai legend Samart (see Asbarez 1/27/01). His latest victim was Ben Garcia of Las Vegas–whom he easily defeated in the Super Lightweight match of the evening.
Varazdat’s appearance outside the ring does not resemble that of the typical kickboxer. The 138-pound champion comes off as a soft-spoken and feeble character. His modest and unpretentious attitude during interviews makes one wonder the extent of his aggressiveness inside the ring. Yet the minute Varazdat enters the ring–this facade comes apart. This was the second time I was fortunate enough to cover one of Varazdat’s matches–and once again I noticed that his fight was by far the most exciting and passionate match during both nights. A large part of the crowd always ends up rooting for Varazdat after seeing the performance he delivers in the ring.
The first professional fight of the night was Varazdat’s match. The crowd at first was more receptive toward Ben Garcia’s entrance into the ring. All this changed once Varazdat demonstrated his skilled fighting abilities. Garcia fell four times throughout the match as a result of Mihranyan’s powerful blows. Varazdat’s win came as no surprise to all who witnessed the intense bout.
After the match–I asked Varazdat what the main differences were between this fight and his previous one against the legendary Samart. Varazdat said he believes Samart is a superior fighter in comparison to Garcia. However–he was better prepared in his match against Samart. This time around–his training was limited to about fifteen days due to a flu he still hadn’t completely shaken off.
"What’s important is the fact that both Edmond and I won tonight," said Mihranyan. The 21-year-old kickboxer from Armenia is getting ready for his next fight to take place in two months. He’s also teaching martial arts to young students at Ken’s Karate in North Hollywood–CA. While in Los Angeles–Varazdat trains under Ken Karen Arutyunyan–owner of Ken’s Karate–who is affiliated with the International Full-Contact Karate Federation (IFCKF). Mihranyan has trained under famous Armenian martial arts master Gor Vartanian (head of the IFCKF in Armenia) since 1988.
The other Armenian fighter–19-year-old Edmond Tarvedyan–fought in the opening amateur match against Alan Flores. This wasn’t their first encounter. Tarvedyan had beaten Flores once before. "I dedicate my win tonight to all the Armenia’s in Glendale–in particular to Armenian kids," said Edmond after his match.
Tarvedyan moved to the US from Armenia in 1989. He recently graduated from Glendale High School and has been training under Arutyunyan for the past eight years. He initially took up Kung Fu–and was later encouraged by Arutyunyan to pursue kickboxing. Edmond gained confidence after a series of amateur wins–and got involved in Muay Thai. He currently runs a karate/kickboxing academy in Glendale with close to one hundred students. Tarvedyan still trains with Arutyunyan who helped him launch the academy.
There were seven matches throughout the Draka Kickboxing Championship. Ken Karen Arutyunyan had also invited accomplished fighters from around the world to compete in the Las Vegas tournament. There were kickboxers from such far-off places as Kyrgyzstan–Belarus–France–and Brazil. Six students from Arutyunyan’s studio (ages 6-10) performed an entertaining martial arts demonstration during the intermission. A substantial number of Armenian fans were cheering for their Armenian warriors during the two matches. It seemed like another "Little Armenia" was taking shape in Vegas–you never know.