Fearless Darchinyan is good for the sport
Vic Darchinyan (left), here bombing Cristian Mijares with an overhand left, unified the IBF, WBC and WBA 115-pound titles last year. This year he wants to win titles at bantamweight and 122 pounds, but first he has to beat Jorge Arce on Feb. 7. Photo / Joe Morgan-hoganphotos.com
If all professional boxers were like Vic Darchinyan, the sport would experience another Golden Age, according to promoter Gary Shaw.
Shaw, who promotes Darchinyan, might be a tad biased but he also has a point.
The unified 115-pound beltholder, who takes on popular slugger Jorge Arce at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Saturday, has demonstrated an uncommon willingness to battle the best fighters in and around the junior bantamweight division.
If other elite fighters – particularly those in the heavier weight classes – shared Darchinyan’s zest for stern challenges, more eyes would be on boxing.
“Without a doubt there would be more interest in boxing if all fighters were like Vic; the sport would be way better,” said Shaw, who has promoted Darchinyan for close to three years. “He’ll fight anybody, any time, and at any weight. Imagine if every top boxer were the same way and wanted to fight the best. Every fight would be a fight of the year like (Israel) Vazquez-(Rafael) Marquez or a shocking upset like (Shane) Mosley-(Antonio) Margarito.
“We would have real fights, the kind where nobody knows who’s going to win; the kind that fans and the media get excited about.”
It’s easy for hardcore fans to get excited about Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 knockouts) once they’ve seen him fight. From the opening bell, the ultra-confident southpaw power puncher relentlessly pursues his opponents with an almost indescribable fighting rhythm. His herky jerky, zig-zag attacks have been compared to a robotic cobra in the ring, but his style isn’t the only thing that’s unorthodox.
Fight negotiations with Darchinyan, who represented his native Armenia in the 2000 Olympics, are also unconventional – but in a good way, according to Shaw.
The usual protocol where the promoter presents a list of potential opponents that is reviewed by the fighter’s manager, who rejects risky fighters and haggles over money and other details, doesn’t apply with Darchinyan.
“It’s reverse with him and his team,” Shaw said. “Here’s how it works with them: They email me a list of the best guys out there and then they email me everyday and ask ‘Did you make the fight, yet? Did you make the fight?’
“They did that with (Cristian) Mijares, a fighter so talented and dangerous that I didn’t want to do the fight. I was honest with Vic and his team. I told them it was the wrong fight, but they told me, ‘That’s the fight we want – make it!’ What could I do?
“We did the fight and look what happened. Vic knocks Mijares out. First thing he says to me after the fight is ‘You didn’t believe me.’ I had to laugh. I told him ‘You’re right.’
Like everyone else who watched Darchinyan dominate Mijares en route to a ninth-round KO last November – especially the boxing media, which overwhelmingly predicted a Mijares victory – Shaw’s a believer now; not just in the Australia-based Armenian’s ability, but also his fortitude.
“A lot of people don’t know this but Vic was sick going into the Mijares fight,” Shaw said. “He was up all night with a terrible toothache the night before the fight. We did what we could to help the pain, but he fought with it anyway, and he never mentioned a word of it – even after the fight. He traveled back to Australia to have it checked out, and it was so bad that two of his teeth had to be extracted.”
But there’s more to Darchinyan than his warrior’s heart and mentality. Shaw says his fighter’s accessibility and loyalty make him a dream to promote.
“Vic is the easiest fighter I’ve ever promoted,” he said. “He’s great with the press and there’s nothing he won’t do for them. He’ll do open workouts with the media, he’ll take time out to talk to kids at community centers like he did earlier this week; he’ll do whatever is asked of him and he never complains.
“How many two-division champs with three world titles are that accommodating? Nobody. Vic is unique. And part of that uniqueness is that he and his team are loyal. Sadly, that’s something that can’t be said about other fighters these days.”
Shaw’s quip about loyalty is a not-so-veiled jab at Nonito Donaire, one of his former fighters who just happens to be the only man to own a pro victory over Darchinyan.
THE RING’s No. 1 flyweight contender, who knocked out Darchinyan to win the IBF 112-pound belt and score one of the biggest upsets of 2007, left Shaw for Top Rank last year.
While Donaire made his transition from Shaw to Bob Arum, who also promotes Arce and is the co-promoter of Saturday’s Showtime-televised card, Darchinyan embarked on a daring comeback trail.
The fearless Armenian jumped to the 115-pound division and battled Z Gorres to a draw in the contender’s native Philippines.
He then faced junior bantamweight titleholder Dimitri Kirilov in a Showtime-televised bout in Washington, overwhelming the crafty Russian vet in five rounds to win the IBF belt.
Darchinyan ended the year with his bold challenge to Mijares, the talented WBC/WBA titleholder who had earned pound-for-pound consideration among boxing writers for his many impressive victories, including a one-sided decision over Arce.
The decided underdog is now in the driver’s seat after proving most of the industry wrong with his powerful fists and underrated ring savvy.
Lucky for fans, Darchinyan wants to fight every notable fighter from flyweight to featherweight, and his promoter is more than willing to accommodate him – as long as the opponent isn’t Nonito Donaire.
Although Darchinyan told the media at a Jan. 24 press conference in Los Angeles that he would “love to fight Donaire again, any time, at any weight”, Shaw quickly butted in: “Not happening.
“I don’t reward disloyal fighters with opportunities at three world titles.”
Shaw brought up Fernando Montiel, the WBO 115-pound titleholder, as a future opponent for Darchinyan. He mentioned entertaining bantamweight beltholder Joseph Agbeko, and even THE RING junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez and former 122-pound champ Rafael Marquez.
All of these fighters fit into Darchinyan’s plans. He doesn’t seem to care who they are as long as they get progressively bigger and better.
“I don’t want to waste time defending my junior bantamweight titles,” the 33-year-old bomber said. “I want to keep moving up (in weight) and I don’t want to go back down.
“I want to keep moving up and beating the best until people begin to talk about me fighting Manny Pacquiao.”
Don’t laugh. Darchinyan’s dead serious.
So one has to wonder why he’s bothering to fight Arce.
The Mexican brawler is an entertaining and popular boxer, but he holds no major title, he hasn’t been rated anywhere near anyone’s pound-for-pound list in years, and he’s generally considered to be past his prime, despite being only 29.
Of the 48 boxing writers who participated in a recent prediction poll conducted by Showtime, 42 picked Darchinyan to win Saturday’s bout (and almost all believe he will do so by knockout).
However, Darchiyan, who wanted to fight Arce back when he held the IBF flyweight title, holds a grudge.
“My motivation for fighting Arce is simple,” he said. “Arce avoided me when he was supposed to be the better fighter. I challenged him three years ago and he ran from me. He ignored me. For three years he refused to fight me.
“Then I destroyed the man (Cristian Mijares) who humiliated him, so he had to talk about me (to the Mexican media). He told them that he wanted to fight me, but the only reason he mentioned my name was because he had read about my plans to move up in weight. He thought I would move up to 118 pounds or 122 pounds, never to come back.
“So he thought he could challenge me and not hear back from me. He was wrong. I would not let him get away. I told my promoter to make the fight and I signed (the contract) as soon as I got it.
“(Arce) made a mistake,” he continued. “His managers made a mistake. His promoter, Bob Arum, made a mistake by taking this fight.
“If he didn’t mouth off and challenge me, maybe he could have one or two more years in boxing, but they put him in with me, and that’s it. I will demolish him and send him into retirement.”
If Darchinyan makes good on his harsh promise, his profile will continue to rise in the U.S. among hardcore fans, but the real challenge for the fighter and his promoter will be finding the right bouts to attract cross-over appeal.
Many would argue that it’s impossible for sub-featherweight fighters to achieve such recognition, but not too long ago former junior flyweight champ Michael Carbajal gained enough main-stream attention to merit a record million-dollar purse.
Does Shaw see any Carbajal potential in Darchinyan?
“Yes. Absolutely,” he said. “I compare Vic now to Carbajal when he was lighting everyone up at junior flyweight and people had interest in those lighter weight divisions. I think Vic cross over to an extent. He’s brash, but he backs up his talk in the ring. He’s great with the media, and he’s beat a lot of Mexican fighters, so he’s becoming the guy Mexican fans will pay to see lose, and there are rivalries that can be developed there.
“But regardless of your nationality, if you’re a fight fan, I think you want to see Vic fight because No. 1, you’re going to see an awkward, crazy ass style; and No. 2, you’re going to see a guy who can knock someone’s lights out.”
But he needs a dance partner. Carbajal had Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez. Who does Darchinyan have?
“I’m not so sure anyone can stand up to him,” Shaw said. “Maybe Arce will fool me like (Joe) Calzaghe fooled me with (Jeff) Lacy or the way Darchinyan fooled everyone against Mijares. We’ll see, but I doubt it.
“I know that a bitter rival, someone who can engage him in a series, can put him over the top. I hope he finds that someone, but at the same time I hope no one comes along because I know how tough those fights are and how much they take from the fighters.”
Shaw, who promoted the late Diego Corrales, witnessed the toll Corrales’ two fights with Jose Luis Castillo took on the fighter. He has to wonder what the epic Vazquez-Marquez trilogy took out of his fighter (Marquez).
But Darchinyan is a real fighter, and nobody is going to keep him from a real challenge – not even his own promoter.
Fans should enjoy and appreciate him while they can.
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]