By Jake Donovan
A young titlist seeks out a faded former top fighter in order to further his own career, if not necessarily his credentials. The plan miserably backfires when the old veteran reaches back and finds a way to win just one last time.
Jorge Arce had the unique experience of landing on both sides of that equation. Twelve years after blowing a huge lead to instead become the final conquered foe in the Hall of Fame career of Michael Carbajal, the faded Mexican legend enjoyed a huge late surge to stop undefeated rising star Wilfredo Vazquez Jr in the final round of their super bantamweight bout this past May.
The performance was an indication that he learned from past history, using his own experiences to his advantage in resurrecting his career.
Now, the three-division titlist (interim belts need not apply) looks to rewrite history and reverse a few past losses before eventually calling it a career.
First on the list is tough as nails South African contender Simphiwe Nongqayi, when the two collide this weekend in Mexicali, in a bout that airs live on Fox Deportes (Saturday, 10PM ET).
The bout is a rematch to their September ’09 vacant super flyweight title fight, in which Arce was handed a boxing lesson to the point of many once again calling for his retirement. The loss was embarrassing on many levels. Part of it had to do with it coming just seven months after catching a beating at the hands of Vic Darchinyan.
The main point of discontent, however, was the face that “El Travieso” was unable to avenge the loss suffered by his younger brother Francisco “Panchito” Arce earlier in the year.
Panchito is following in his brother’s footsteps in attempting to reverse a negative outcome when he rematches Hugo Ruiz next month, five months after dropping a heartbreaking decision in his first crack at a major title.
By the time that fight rolls around, the elder Arce hopes that the family will have celebrated at least one revenge-fueled win.
“There are three reasons that I want to defend my title,” Arce (57-6-2, 44KO) claims ahead of this weekend’s clash. “First, I know that beating Nongqayi will bring me an even bigger fight. Second, I want to avenge my brother ‘Panchito’ who lost to (Nongqayi). And third, I also want my own revenge because he beat me on a bad night.”
It was the last bad night of his career to date, as Arce is unbeaten in his last six contests. Efforts to prove that he still had something left proved successful just four months later, when he outpointed Angky Angkota in his fourth attempt at a non-interim version of a super flyweight title.
Speculation followed that he’d take the win and go out on a high note, but Arce went the opposite route and actually remained surprisingly active. Five fights came in 2010, including the aforementioned win over Angkota and a surprising 10-round draw against former titlist Lorenzo Parra – surprising because most felt Arce deserved the verdict in a fight that was inexplicably cut short from 12 rounds to 10 yet remained a title eliminator.
Despite putting together a decent unbeaten streak, few if any gave the 32-year old any sort of chance against Vazquez Jr when the two collided in the chief support to Manny Pacquiao’s pay-per-view headliner against Shane Mosley this past May. Vazquez Jr had just inked a co-promotional deal with Top Rank, with the Arce fight intended to serve as an introduction for his path to superstardom.
Instead, the second generation Puerto Rican prizefighter was given a brutal history lesson.
A surprisingly evenly fought bout came down to who was able to dig deeper in the end. Vazquez appeared to be revived in the final round, momentarily regaining control of a fight that had badly slipped away from him. Arce wasn’t having any of it, though. He knew the shot was his last chance to extend an already stellar career, though perhaps short of Hall of Fame-worthy.
That dynamic changed – however so slightly – on the drop of a dime, when Arce came out of nowhere to stun Vazquez, whose father and head trainer Wilfredo Sr. elected seconds later to jump in and save the 27-year old from further punishment.
Perhaps it doesn’t completely erase the devastating blow he was dealt as a 19-year old junior flyweight titlist on the night he became the very last fighter to share a ring with Carbajal. But it was enough to prove that he’s still capable of rewriting history in his favor.
It also served as a reminder of his ability to overcome adversity of any kind. Such a trait has managed to elude him in recent years, as noted by lopsided losses to Nongqayi, Darchinyan and Cristian Mijares, all of which came in a span of less than 30 months.
Two years before running into Mijares, Arce made a splash on the American boxing public with a blood-soaked late-round knockout win over Hussein Hussein. The achievement came on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s loss to Erik Morales in their epic first fight. An hour before Pacquiao would suffer what still serves as his last defeat to date, Arce overcame a deep cut that for more than half of the fight threatened to cut his night short and declare him a TKO loser.
The blood never phased him; if anything, it made him pick up the intensity, which only won over that many more fans in the process.
The fight was so good that Top Rank decided to do it again, matching up the two flyweights six months later. Arce had a much easier go of things, blasting out the Australian inside of two rounds.
His early success against the familiar foe points to another factor that might serve him well from a probability standpoint this weekend. Arce is 5-0 in rematches, almost always having a much easier go of things the second time around.
Such success doesn’t bode very well for Nongqayi, though perhaps not as much as the fact that the South African hasn’t fought in 14 months and in a fight that resulted in a knockout loss.
It’s worth noting, however, that Arce’s track record against repeat opposition comes with an asterisk – each of his five rematches came in fights where he was also victorious the first time around. Never in his 15 year career has he reversed any of his losses, or even given the proper opportunity.
At least two of them will forever stand no chance of being avenged – Carbajal remains retired, while Victor Burgos (who outpointed a teenaged Arce in 1997) was beaten into a coma by Darchinyan four years ago. It also stands to reason that as Arce rises in weight, the less likely that he gets another crack at still campaigning junior flyweight Omar Nino Romero.
The ones that remain within reach should be enough to further enhance Arce’s already wild legacy. Darchinyan is still largely relevant just one division north at bantamweight. So too is the man he pummeled to resurrect his career in Mijares, the very same fighter responsible for ending Arce’s seven-year, 26-fight win streak some four years ago.
Talks of return bouts with both will be floated for as long as Arce continues to hover around at the championship level.
All he has to do is rewrite history for the second time this year.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .