A little too late for Darchinyan vs. Arce?
The love Jorge Arce (left), here slugging Cristian Mijares, has for battle made him one of the most popular Mexican fighters of the decade, but have all the tough fights taken their toll? Some think Saturday's fight with Vic Darchinyan would have been more competitive a few years ago. Photo / Tom Hogan-hoganphotos.com
Here are the numbers Jorge Arce would like you to believe are important: 32, 9¾ and 4.
Arce has lost only one fight in his last 32. Those 32 fights with just a single loss cover a span of 9¾ years. And Arce is four years younger than the man he’ll be fighting against this Saturday night, Vic Darchinyan.
Those numbers, however, don’t harmonize with the consensus outlook heading into this junior bantamweight showdown. That outlook says it’s the 29-year-old Arce, not the 33-year-old Darchinyan, who’s on his last legs, and it says the Mexican is almost a sure thing to drop to 31-2 over the last 9¾ years.
Arce is even riding a five-fight winning streak, but that and the rest of the numbers don’t tell you what people have been seeing with their eyes when “Travieso” steps into the ring: that he’s not the same fighter he was a couple of years ago.
The consensus is that this fight is happening two or three years too late for Arce. And in turn, it might be happening two or three years too late for the fans.
That’s not meant to denigrate the matchup; it’s a solid piece of matchmaking, a worthy purchase by Showtime, and a night the hardcore boxing fans wouldn’t dare miss. There’s no conceivable way it’ll be a boring fight, and there’s a reasonable chance it’ll provide some truly exhilarating moments.
But it’s hard to beat back the nagging sense that it could have been so much more of a classic in, say, late-2006. Like a fine whine, I’m complaining that this fight has gotten worse with age.
For it to be a true classic this Saturday, Arce will have to summon up the fighter who twice knocked out Hussein Hussein, who starched Yosam Choi. The problem is that, until Arce proves otherwise, it doesn’t appear that fighter is available anymore for summoning.
Mind you, there is reason for optimism. If Bernard Hopkins can produce a career-defining performance at age 43 and Shane Mosley can do the same at 37, then why can’t Arce at 29? Plus, Arce has natural punching power and Darchinyan has been knocked out once, so there’s always a chance, right?
Not like there would have been two or three years ago.
Not only was Arce fighting at a higher level then, before he got undressed by Cristian Mijares, but Darchinyan wasn’t as complete a fighter then as he is now. Perhaps Arce became a little bit overrated by 2006, when he added the used-up shells of Rosendo Alvarez and Hawk Makepula to his resume. But he was several levels above how he looked losing the first five rounds to Tomas Rojas in ’07, or going life-and-death with Devid Lookmahanak and Rafael Concepcion in ’08. These are fighters who wouldn’t have been worthy of licking his lollipop (heads out of the gutter, people) a few years ago.
Arce is aware of the way he’s currently perceived, but, naturally, doesn’t share the perception.
“I know a lot of people don’t think I’m at this level anymore, but this [fight against Darchinyan] will give me the chance to prove that I am,” Arce said last week. “My career was taking off, [but] then when I lost to Mijares, people thought I wasn’t as good of a boxer ÔÇª They thought I was just a singer and a celebrity and an entertainer. But everyone has bad nights. I just had a bad night that day. The media and fans don’t understand that I can have a bad night.”
No, we understand fine, Jorge. It’s the succession of badÔÇöor at least, mediocreÔÇönights that has led us to our conclusions. Plus, you said yourself after the Mijares loss and Rojas struggle, “No more lefties.” Uh, Darchinyan’s awkward, but not so awkward that you can’t tell he leads with his right shoulder.
Add that all up, then factor in Darchinyan’s blowout three months ago of the same Mijares who beat Arce, and it’s understandable why we might worry that we’re getting a mismatch here. Still, there are those who believe that, physically, Arce is capable of performing at a high level.
“More than physical, it’s psychological with Jorge,” analyzed Bernardo Osuna, the longtime Telefutura broadcaster who’s now working for ESPN. “Going into the Mijares fight, he walked in there and he was on top of the world, he could do no wrong. The biggest thing about that fight is not that he lost, it’s that he got exposed. It reminded me a lot of what Marco Antonio Barrera did to Naseem Hamed, where everyone was afraid of Hamed’s punching power, and then you had a boxer just come in and give him the lesson of his life. I think that’s what really hurt ArceÔÇöthe fact that he not only got beat, he got outclassed. I don’t think his confidence has been the same since.”
To listen to Arce speak, you wouldn’t think he lacks for confidence. But when it comes to confidence, he doesn’t deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as his opponent Saturday night.
And the question remains until the fight unfolds whether he deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as a fighterÔÇöwhether he can make this a competitive scrap between all-action warriors, rather than a rout.
If it does live down to the lower end of expectations, it wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that a fight happened a little too late and didn’t deliver like it could have.
The most recent example is Joe Calzaghe vs. Roy Jones, which featured two fighters who’d moved too far in opposite directions by the time the match was made. In the late-’90s, Jones likely would have been too much for Calzaghe; by 2008, the opposite was true. But who knows, maybe in 2002, they could have provided a classic battle of elite talents.
When Juan Manuel Marquez and Marco Antonio Barrera finally met in 2007, they produced an excellent, competitive fight. But Barrera was just faded enough that we got a clear winner and a bout that wasn’t on anyone’s Fight of the Year short list. Had it happened in 2003, when they were four pounds lighter, Barrera was the lineal featherweight champ, Marquez had collected a couple of belts, and both men were in their primes instead of only one of them, it might have been as legendary as the Barrera-Erik Morales fights or the Marquez-Manny Pacquiao wars.
A clear contrast between what a fight was and what it could have been a couple of years earlier came when Felix Trinidad took on Pernell Whitaker in 1999 at Madison Square Garden. The aging “Sweet Pea” was able to hang with the prime Trinidad for the first half of the fight, but the younger man took over down the stretch and won clearly. Had it happened as little as two years soonerÔÇöwhen Whitaker was still capable of pushing Oscar De La Hoya to a decision that could have gone either wayÔÇöthe fight would have been a pick ’em. (With Whitaker involved, it was never going to be action-packed, but the championship rounds might have provided the drama of a fight hanging in the balance.)
In the heavyweight division, you could make the argument that all of the biggest fights of the last dozen years came a few years too late. Lennox Lewis vs. Mike Tyson was a mismatch by the time it happened in 2002, but might have been competitive a few years earlier. The Lewis-Evander Holyfield fights of 1999 were fairly forgettable (other than the scoring in the first one), but that wouldn’t necessarily have been the case in ’96 or ’97.
And Holyfield-Tyson I, even though it was named Fight of the Year by THE RING in ’96, couldn’t possibly have been good enough to make us forget how badly we wanted the fight five years earlier, when Tyson was still close to his physical prime and Holyfield was fighting at a much faster pace. Who knows? Had Tyson not gone to jail, that fight might have been the 1990s equivalent of Ali-Frazier.
With Darchinyan and Arce, we know we have a quality style matchup in which hard punches are going to land. “These guys, you’re not going to mistake them for an Ivan Calderon or a Willie Pep,” Osuna observed. The fear is that one guy might be doing all the landing. The fear is that Arce might be so far gone that he does somehow make Darchinyan look a little bit like Pep.
The fear is that we’ll see a fight that leaves us wondering what might have been a couple of years ago. Darchinyan vs. Arce once was a can’t-miss matchup. Here’s hoping that it still is.
ÔÇó I hate to put a damper on positive news for boxing, but can we in the fight community all please stop bragging about Shane Mosley vs. Antonio Margarito breaking the all-time Staples Center attendance record? It was a great promotion, but it only set the record because you can squeeze more seats in for boxing. You think Lakers playoff games wouldn’t sell another 1,000 seats if they could make room for them on the floor? Sorry to be that guy, but the “record crowd” point has gotten way overblown. Just calling it a “sellout crowd” tells the story accurately.
ÔÇó ESPN’s Brian Kenny has long been the best friend that THE RING Championships could ask for, but he was off-base in his criticism on Friday Night Fights when he said THE RING didn’t follow its own rules in choosing not to recognize Mosley-Margarito as a title fight. The rules were followed precisely. When there’s a vacancy, a fight between the number-one and number-two contenders must fill it. When it’s number one vs. number three, it can fill it and comes down to a judgment call. In this case, members of the Ratings Panel were polled when the fight was signed and a majority voted against recognizing it as a title fight. Disagree with that decision all you want; I know I personally struggled mightily with which way to vote and can see strong arguments for both sides. But don’t accuse THE RING of breaking, or even bending, its own rules. If there’s one thing the editors learned from the negative reaction to Vitali Klitschko’s RING title reign, it’s that it’s better to err on the side of patience and caution. To us, a RING champion is basically an undisputed champion, so there had better be no dispute when we crown someone. With Miguel Cotto having beaten Mosley just 14 months earlier, a majority of panelists simply felt there was too much room for dispute there. But have patience, everyone; with the top welters so willing to fight each other, there will likely be a RING champ crowned soon, and when he is, there will be no room for debate.
ÔÇó As long as I’m picking on FNF broadcasters, I’m not sure how Teddy Atlas can ever go on one of his postfight tirades about a judge again if he thinks round three of Juan Urango-Herman Ngoudjo was only a 10-8 round.