by Cliff Rold, photo by Damien Acevedo
The term ‘full circle’ is often used figuratively.
This weekend, it couldn’t be more literal.
In 2007, then-undefeated IBF Flyweight titlist Vic Darchinyan accepted the challenge of Nonito Donaire. The memorable bout, a fifth-round knockout win for Donaire, sent both men’s careers in different directions.
It turned out both those directions were of an upward trajectory. Now, all these years later, all sorts of weight divisions later, they meet again with one or both of their careers threatened by the inevitable downward arc. Donaire, the younger and naturally larger man, is expected to reroute his trajectory after being badly outclassed earlier this year by Cuba’s Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Darchinyan has made fools many times of men who doubted him. Can he have the last laugh, and long awaited revenge, over the first man to defeat him?
Let’s go to the report cards.
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2007-09, 3 Defenses); WBC/WBO Bantamweight (2011, 1 Defense); IBF Super Bantamweight (2012-Present, 1 Defense); WBO Super Bantamweight (2012-13, 3 Defenses); Lineal/TBRB/Ring World Jr. Featherweight (2012-13, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’5 ½
Hails from: San Leandro, California
Record: 31-2, 20 KO
Rankings: All at 122 - #1 (TBRB, BoxingScene, Ring) #2 (ESPN, BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-1, 7 KO (12-1, 8 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 11 (Vic Darchinyan TKO5; Moruti Mthalane TKO6; Hernan Marquez TKO8; Wladimir Sidorenko KO4; Fernando Montiel TKO2; Omar Narvaez UD12; Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. UD12; Jeffrey Mathebula UD12; Toshiaki Nishioka TKO9; Jorge Arce KO3; Guillermo Rigondeaux L12)
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2004-07, 6 Defenses); 2008 IBF Super Flyweight (2008-09, 2 Defenses); WBC/WBA “Super” Super Flyweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); Lineal Jr. Bantamweight (2009-11, 3 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 125.75 lbs.
Hails from: Glendale, California (Born in Armenia
Record: 39-5-1, 28 KO, 1 KOBY
Rankings: All at 122 - #5 (ESPN, Ring), #7 (TBRB), #10 (BoxingScene), #11 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 12-4, 10 KO, 1 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 13 (Irene Pacheco TKO11; Jose Victor Burgos TKO12; Nonito Donaire TKO by 5; Dmitry Kirilov KO5; Cristian Mijares KO9; Jorge Arce RTD11; Joseph Agbeko L12; Tomas Rojas KO2; Rodrigo Guerrero UD12; Abner Mares L12; Yonnhy Perez Tech. Dec. 5; Anselmo Moreno L12; Shinsuke Yamanaka L12)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Donaire A; Darchinyan B
Pre-Fight: Power – Donaire A; Darchinyan A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Donaire B; Darchinyan C+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Donaire A; Darchinyan A
That Donaire’s career took off after Darchinyan was no surprise. That Darchinyan turned out to be only beginning the best part of his career was at the time. Sometimes, a sparking loss is just a single night. Both men have been built careers worthy of Hall of Fame consideration since their first meeting.
Darchinyan does it with a style that sometimes resembles a fighter from the films of the turn of the twentieth century. The southpaw leverages heavy power shots off his back foot, leaning away and then hurtling into a blasting uppercut. Darchinyan can box when he needs too but, throughout his career, has shown a warrior’s desire. Sometimes, it works against him. He was doing well early against Agbeko, Mares, and Yamanaka but in all of those fights became wilder as the fights wore on. Moreno just never let him in the fight.
Donaire never did either.
Clearly, only some very good fighters have taken advantage of it. Darchinyan, even as high as 122, has shown his power to be a constant threat. Even when he doesn’t score knockouts, he can keep fighters in their place and win rounds. Darchinyan can be caught and often is but he mitigates damage against many foes with underrated balance, an understanding of space, and a head that leans with his body often just out of range.
Has all the experience he’s picked up put him in position to score the upset here?
Donaire, despite the loss to the masterful Rigondeuax, is a very dangerous man. Like Darchinyan, his power has followed him up the scale and more so in his case. His one-shot detonation of Montiel at 118, knockdown of the tough Mathebula en route to a points win, and marksman work in stopping Nishioka, were all impressive.
Donaire likes it when opponents lead. He has a hard jab, swift left, and an educated right. When fighters come to him, those shots await and can end any fight. Darchinyan, while hurt occasionally in his career (including a rocky moment in his last fight with journeyman Javier Gallo), has only been stopped once.
Can he be Darchinyan and still avoid giving Donaire chances? If he can bait Donaire into leading, something he isn’t as inclined to do, does Darchinyan have a late career bomb that no one sees coming?
Nothing is impossible and it’s hard not to root for Darchinyan. He’s been the sort of willing warrior every fighter could be to the betterment of the sport. He’s fought just about everyone who matters around him, fought in five countries, and acted as an attention magnet on US TV for other fighters and divisions that don’t always get love. If Donaire is looking past him, or has lost some of his edge, an upset could happen.
It’s just not that likely. Donaire still has advantages in size, speed, power, and punching accuracy and his style is just wrong for Darchinyan to boot. The Rigondeaux loss was bad, but it was a technical nightmare more than physical. Its lingering affect should be minimal. Darchinyan has enough veteran chops to avoid being stopped early again but, in the end, Donaire still catches him before the night is out. It could be a bit more of a chess match early than could be predicted but the pick is Donaire by stoppage sometime around the ninth.
Report Card Picks 2013: 46-24
Donaire-Darchinyan II isn’t even the main event this weekend…That honor goes to a clash at 130 lbs. After losing his belt at 126 on the scales, Mikey Garcia (32-0, 27 KO) moves up and gets one of the game’s most willing warriors. That’s good for him. WBO titlist Roman Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KO) lacks the skill to avoid a fight. Garcia, an accurate and hard puncher, will exploit that for a stoppage win…At Jr. Middleweight, undefeated former Olympians square off. Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KO) has waited a long time for a chance to win a belt. His wait will be at least a little longer than this Saturday night. Younger, quicker Demetrius Andrade (19-0, 13 KO) is ready to make his step up. Andrade is the choice on points.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com