Darchinyan only fights the best, like Agbeko
Joseph Agbeko, pictured here with his promoter Don King after winning the IBF bantamweight title, is a dangerous 118-pound contender, which is why unified 115-pound titleholder Vic Darchinyan is challenging the Ghanaian on July 11. Photo by Armando Roldan / FightWireImages.com.
Many fighters are fond of repeating the credo “To be the best, you have to beat the best” but few live by those words.
Vic Darchinyan is among the few.
Darchinyan, THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior bantamweight, has defeated the top 115 pounders who were willing to face him in the past year, so now the unified titleholder has targeted one of the best bantamweights in the world.
Darchinyan (32-1-1, 26 knockouts) will challenge Joseph Agbeko (26-1, 22 KOs) for Agbeko’s IBF title on July 11 in a Showtime-televised main event from Sunrise, Fla.
Agbeko, THE RING’s No. 6-ranked 118 pounder, is skilled, durable, gutsy and heavy handed. The Bronx-based Ghanaian would be even-money or at the very least a live underdog against any of the bantamweights who are ranked ahead of him, which is precisely why Darchinyan wants to test his mettle against Agbeko in his first bantamweight fight.
“I know you are a good fighter,” Darchinyan told Agbeko during an international conference call on Tuesday. “I saw your fight against (Wladimir) Sidorenko [Agbeko’s only loss]. You were robbed in Germany. I feel you never lost. You won that fight. I love it when my opponents have never lost.”
Darchinyan burst onto the world-class scene with an 11th-round stoppage of then undefeated (30-0) Irene Pacheco in December of 2004. The victory over the tall Colombian earned Darchinyan the IBF flyweight title, which he defended six times over the next 2¾ years, often brutalizing his opposition before stopping them.
However, Darchinyan’s reign of terror came to an abrupt end when he was knocked out with a single punch from Nonito Donaire in the fifth round of their title bout that took place in July of 2007. The KO was so shocking that it was voted both the Knockout and Upset of the Year by most boxing websites and publications.
But few fighters — even hall-of-fame bound elites — possess the degree of self belief of Darchinyan, who dusted himself off and invaded the 115-pound division in late 2007.
At the start of last year Darchinyan embarked on a four-bout tour de force that earned him three world titles and a place on every boxing writer’s pound-for-pound top-10 list. In an amazing 13-month span — from February of last year to this past February — Darchinyan fought RING-ranked junior bantamweight contenders Z Gorres (12-round draw in the Philippines), Dmitry Kirillov (KO 5), Cristian Mijares (KO 9) and Jorge Arce (RTD 11).
Now the 32-year-old southpaw is taking on Agbeko, a natural bantamweight who is in his prime and known for his strength and relentlessness.
The 29-year-old boxer-puncher, who impressed hardcore fans with his one-sided title win over Luis Perez and his thrilling first defense against William Gonzalez, views Darchinyan’s challenge as the opportunity of a lifetime.
“This is the fight of my life,” Agbeko said at the start of Tuesday’s conference call. “Vic chose me because he thinks he can have his way to the top of the bantamweight division, but I want him to know that (taking this fight) is the biggest mistake of his career because he’s going to get the worst beating of his career.”
Darchinyan is a surly little guy by nature. He freely admits that he refuses to respect any of his opponents going into a fight, and once the bell rings he only has bad intentions on his mind. So it doesn’t take much to set him off.
“(Agbeko’s) words are familiar to (those of) Cristian Mijares before we fought,” Darchinyan said in response to Agbeko’s opening statement.
“I’m going to knock you out very badly,” he said directly to Agbeko. “I’m punching harder at bantamweight.
“Please tell me, where do you want me to hurt you? To the body or to the head?”
Agbeko wasn’t bothered by Darchinyan’s bravado and surprisingly matched the awkward banger’s trash talking.
When Darchinyan’s promoter Gary Shaw announced that Darchinyan hasn’t vacated his three 115-pound titles to take this fight at bantamweight, Agbeko replied:
“I think it’s a good idea for him to hold on to his titles, because he’s not getting mine.”
Darchinyan said Agbeko’s confidence will last until the bell sounds for their first round.
“You are going to look to survive after the first round,” he told Agbeko. “You’ve never been hit by someone with my power, not in your fights or in sparring.”
Agbeko, who has put in two months of training in south Florida, said he’s prepared for Darchinyan’s onslaught.
“I know you can punch, I’m ready for your punch,” he said. “You have never been hit as hard as I will hit you.
“I’m going to do to you what Azumah Nelson did to Jeff Fenech in Australia.”
Darchinyan is aware of what Ghana’s greatest fighter did to the Australian hero in their rematch, but he doesn’t believe that fight can be compared to his fight with Agbeko.
“Fenech was a busy fighter, not a puncher,” he said. “I’m a puncher and I’m going to knock you out.”
“I’m not going to knock you out,” Agbeko retorted. “I’m going to punish you so bad, you’ll knock yourself out.”
At one point during their back-and-forth verbal barbs, Agbeko landed this shot below the belt:
“I’m going to beat you worse than Nonito Donaire did.”
The statement brought up the subject of Donaire and whether or not Darchinyan would ever engage in a rematch with the ultra-talented Filipino. For the past year, ever since Donaire left Shaw’s stable for Bob Arum’s Top Rank, the promoter has said he would not allow Darchinyan to seek revenge.
Shaw defended Darchinyan’s honor during Tuesday’s conference call.
“Vic is not afraid of Nonito Donaire,” he said. “Vic wants to fight the very best out there. That’s why he fought Mijares, that’s why he fought Arce, and that’s why he’s fighting ‘King Kong’ Agbeko.
“He’s been on TV, knocking these guys out. And where has Donaire been? Bob Arum doesn’t even mention (Donaire) or a fight with Darchinyan.
“Vic fights for money, not for revenge. If (Arum) wants to pay a seven-figure purse, we’ll go to the Philippines to fight (Donaire). We love the Philippines and Filipinos.”
Darchinyan was somewhat philosophical about his loss to Donaire.
“Maybe the loss was a good thing for me,” he said. “I wanted to unify titles (at flyweight) before that fight, but no one would fight me. Then I lost, and everyone wanted to fight me, and I unified titles (at 115 pounds).”
If Darchinyan beats Agbeko, he will try to unify titles at 118 pounds. If he can’t get the other titleholders to fight him, he says he’ll go to junior featherweight (122 pounds) and featherweight (126 pounds) and seek out the best fighters in those divisions.
Only time will tell whether Darchinyan will be able to make good on his plans.
Two thing are certain, he means what he says and it will be a lot of fun watching him try to make good on his goals.
“I think I represent a fighter who will go down as one of the best lighter-weight fighters in history,” Shaw said. “I’m proud to represent Vic.
“If Mosley still can’t find an opponent by the end of this year, Vic will step in.”
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]