Kahren Harutyunyan traded in his fiddle for his fists. The son of musicians, he started to play the violin as a child in his native Armenia. But as the country transitioned to gain its independence from the Soviet Union, intellects and musicians had trouble making ends meet. With limited options, he joined a boxing club.
Harutyunyan loved the sport and continued to train. In 1997, he moved to the United States and continued to box, winning the 1999 U.S. Open Championship at age 17. Unable to try out for the 2000 U.S. Olympic Team, because he wasn't a U.S. citizen at the time, he turned professional. In 2005, he captured the WBO-NABO (North American Boxing Organization) Championship and was ranked fifth in the world in the Jr. Bantamweight division (for fighters weighing 115 pounds). He has worked with famed boxing coach Freddie Roach and sparred with industry greats including Manny Pacquiao, Israel Vasquez, and Brian Viloria.
"Boxing is hard on the body but great for a young boy growing up," Harutyunyan explained. "Most people who join boxing clubs don't become professional boxers, but it's great for your confidence and health. You have to exercise and eat a special diet. It requires discipline, hard work and dedication, which you need through all areas of life. Not to mention all the great experiences and friends and connections that I made. It's helped me in my academic career and everything else I've achieved."
For a while, Harutyunyan considered pursuing the world championship but knew the time commitment would interfere with his other life goals, such as starting a family. In addition, a close split-decision loss to a current pound-for-pound superstar fighter Nonito Donaire Jr. made him reevaluate his goals and priorities. In 2006, he earned a degree in English from UCLA, got married the following September, and after winning another fight, decided to "hang'em up." But he wanted to stay in the world of boxing in some capacity and figured becoming a promoter would be an ideal fit because he had the organizational and management skills as well as the personality for the job. Harutyunyan is the subject of a forthcoming documentary "Blood, Sweat & Membership," which follows the later stages of his boxing career and initial steps as a promoter.
He never thought of becoming a lawyer until he established Art of Boxing Promotions. "I had a wrong perception about what lawyers do," he said. "But once I got into promoting, I learned you have to connect with the law on many fronts, such as contracts and broadcasting rights." Harutyunyan learned the value of working in the legal system when he wanted to present boxing in his adopted hometown of Glendale, which had been under a 62-year boxing ban. "I started knocking on officials' doors and they were very responsive. I presented the mayor of Glendale with a history of boxing, how it works and how these events benefit the city."
He collaborated with local politicians, city police and the state athletic commission and came up with a new resolution. The city council granted a one-year provisional license for 2009-2010, which led to Harutyunyan producing two successful events, one of which was televised live on ESPN. These generated revenue for the city, received positive publicity and attracted tourism. The council voted to overturn the ban and extend the permit indefinitely. During the process, Harutyunyan worked with City Attorney's office (including Glendale City Attorney Scott Howard '76, a Southwestern alumnus), law enforcement, and Parks and Recreation. "There was a lot of communication and problem solving," he explained. "We had to make sure that everything was done properly. I realized then that law school and a career in law is something I definitely can and should do."
After the birth of his son Narek in 2009, Harutyunyan wanted to make sure he attended a local law school and liked how Southwestern's alumni thrived in many areas of law, from entertainment to government, throughout Southern California. He has particularly enjoyed taking Contracts with Professor Carole Newcombe, Sports Law with Professor Jeff Lenkov, and Criminal Law with Karen Smith. He is currently working as a research assistant for Professor Robert Lind. He is also a member of the Sports & Entertainment Law Society and is on the boards of the Armenian Law Students Association and the Real Estate Association.
As for his future practice, Harutyunyan wants to keep his options open. But he already sees the impact of his legal education on his promoting work. "It has helped change my thinking process and my approach to things," he said. "It allows me to analyze issues and see things differently as I negotiate sponsorship and venue deals. It has taught me to be calmer and see things more clearly. I was more emotional before and acted more on instincts. But after a year of law school, I can better evaluate my options. I've developed into a more efficient and professional business person."