Head to head: Darchinyan-Mares
VIC DARCHINYAN vs. ABNER MARES
When: Saturday, Dec. 11
Where: Emerald Queen Casino, Tacoma, Wash.
TV: Showtime, 9 p.m. ET / 9 p.m. PT (delayed)
Weight: Bantamweight (118 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: None.
Also on the card: Yonnhy Perez vs. Joseph Agbeko, 12 rounds, bantamweights.
Height / Reach: 5-5¾ / 64¾
Hometown: Sydney, Australia (from Vanadzor, Armenia)
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 35-2-1 (27 knockouts)
Trainer: Vazgen Badalian
The Ring rating: No. 1 junior bantamweight.
Titles: IBF flyweight (2004-07, lost title to Nonito Donaire); IBF junior bantamweight (2008-2009), WBA and WBC junior bantamweight (2008-current).
Biggest victories: Irene Pacheco, Dec. 16, 2004, TKO 11 (wins IBF flyweight title); Dmitri Kirillov, Aug. 2, 2008, KO 5 (wins IBF junior bantamweight title); Cristian Mijares, Nov. 1, 2008, KO 9 (wins WBA and WBC junior bantamweight titles);
Losses: Nonito Donaire, July 7, 2007, TKO 5 (loses IBF flyweight title); Joseph Agbeko, July 11, 2009, UD 12.
Draw: Z Gorres, Feb. 2, 2008, D 12.
Height: 5-5 (165cm) / 68 (173)
Hometown: Norwalk, Calif. (born in Guadalajara, Mexico)
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 20-0-1 (13 knockouts)
Trainer: Clemente Medina
The Ring rating: No. 4 bantamweight
Biggest victory: Diosdado Gabi, March 15, 2008, TKO 2; Isidro Garcia, Sept. 7, 2007, RTD 7.
Draw: Yonnhy Perez, May 22, 2010, D 12 (bantamweight title bout).
Skills: Darchinyan is known as a puncher but he was an amateur standout (who represented Armenia in the 2000 Olympic Games) and he possesses underrated boxing ability. At his best, the 115-pound titleholder uses a power-jab to set up accurate three- and four-punch combinations. Darchinyan also has tricky footwork that he uses to walk his opponents into powerful counter punches (usually his left uppercut) as he maneuvers away from their punches. Mares is an aggressive boxer-puncher who possesses a busy jab, good upper-body movement and deft footwork. Like Darchinyan, he was an amateur standout (who represented Mexico in the 2004 Olympic Games), so his technique is extremely polished for a 25-year-old boxer with only 21 bouts. Mares is a strong combination- and counter-puncher who also works the body well.
Power: Although he is the naturally smaller man, Darchinyan, who has scored 27 knockouts in 35 victories, appears to possess more one-punch power. The Armenian veteran has the ability to end or turn a fight with a single shot, whereas Mares generally scores stoppages with an accumulation of punches.
Speed and athletic ability: Darchinyan is quicker and more powerful, but Mares, who should have the edge in physical strength, is the more fluid athlete. Both fighters possess excellent hand-eye coordination.
Defense: Darchinyan’s frightening power and awkwardly unorthodox style makes him difficult to time or attack head-on, but the southpaw puncher likes to hold his hands low and often keeps his chin up when he attacks so he’s inevitably gets caught. Mares, a busy, aggressive boxer, also gets caught but he keeps it to a minimum by keeping his hands up and constantly moving his head and upper body.
Experience: Darchinyan has 17 more bouts than Mares, including 13 more title bouts, and he’s faced considerably more world-class opposition. The Australia-based Armenian has fought seven titleholders, including Nonito Donaire, Joseph Agbeko and Irene Pacheco. Mares has faced two titleholders, Yonnhy Perez (in his only title bout) and Isidro “Chino” Garcia.
Chin: Although Darchinyan suffered a humiliating knockout to Donaire, his chin is has proven to be very reliable throughout his 10-year career. (And given the scary power Donaire showed recently at bantamweight, should there be any shame attached to being stopped by a perfect punch landed by the Filipino Flash at flyweight?) Darchinyan took the hardest shots from Agbeko, a strong bantamweight, for 12 rounds without getting hurt. Mares, who has never been down in his pro career, took the best punches from Perez for 12 rounds without being shook or wobbled.
Conditioning: Both fighters take their careers very seriously and are extremely hard workers in the gym. Neither man has ever shown up out of shape for a fight or faded badly down the stretch of a distance bout.
Wear and tear: Neither fighter has taken a terribly bad beating in the ring, although Mares’ 12-round bout with Perez was grueling and Darchinyan’s distance loss to Agbeko was mildly punishing. The younger man has the edge in this category just by being nine years younger and having four less years in the professional ranks.
Corner: Darchinyan’s trainer Vazgen Badalyan was his amateur coach who joined his pro team after the loss to Donaire. Badalyan guided Darchinyan to some of his best victories (Kirillov and Mijares) but was also in charge when the fighter failed to make adjustments in the loss to Agbeko.
Mares trained with Clemente Medina for this bout. Medina trained him for his first six bouts but the fighter moved on to Floyd Mayweather Sr., Joey Oliva, Oscar Suarez, Nacho Beristain and Joel Diaz before returning. Mares has managed to retain and combine the various styles he learned with his many past trainers and Medina, a veteran coach who trains junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo, is very good at refining technique.
Outcome: Mares will respect the fearsome reputation of Darchinyan’s punching power by boxing from a distance in the early rounds, constantly working his jab and always moving to his left (away from the veteran’s power hand). Instead of stalking forward, Darchinyan will get on his toes and try to clip Mares with long-range counter punches. He will occasionally connect with hard hooks and overhand lefts but Mares will take the shots well and return fire. The action will heat up in the third when Mares hurts Darchinyan with a left to the body and follow-up combination that backs the older man to the ropes. Mares will press Darchinayn only to catch a flush left uppercut that rocks him back on his heels. Mares will backpedal for the rest of the round while his head clears. Mares will resume his stick-and-move tactics in the middle rounds, much the way he did in his fight with Perez, but he’ll find that Darchinyan will not press him as hard the Colombian did. Darchinyan will take his time and try to counter Mares whenever the young contender slows down to let more than his jab go. Whenever Darchinyan lands a good shot, Mares will drop a quick -three-punch combination before spinning out of range. In the eighth round, Mares will begin to apply pressure, often stepping forward with a right to the body as he ducks under Darchinyan’s jab and following-up with a left hook to the head. In the ninth, Mares will score with a double jab-right hand combination that backs Darchinyan up. Mares will step up his pressure and focus his offense on Darchinyan’s body down the stretch. Darchinyan will gamely fires back but without the power he had during the first half of the bout.
Prediction: Mares by close but unanimous decision.