By Cliff Rold

In a time of American Thanksgiving, Boxing’s biggest wins were celebrated by the rest of the world in November with career affirming and validating wins from the U.K. superstar duo of Joe Calzaghe and Ricky Hatton.  With lopsided victories secured against a faded Roy Jones and Paulie Malignaggi, Calzaghe and Hatton protected their positions as major Box Office.

Neither was the fighter of the month. 

That honor fell far lower on the scale as an Armenian banger out of Australia secured the best win of his career and made himself the key player in one of Boxing’s most talented weight classes.  He’ll be returned to in a moment.

For now, here are some of the highlights of another fun month in Boxing 2008:

Middleweight titlists Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham both picked up dominant wins and began vacillating between circling each other and jockeying for position to face World Middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik;

Former World Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor looked better than he had since before winning the crown with a lopsided decision over former Olympic roommate Jeff Lacy in his first win at Super Middleweight;

Celestino Caballero unified the WBA and IBF belts at 122 lbs. with a shockingly easy stoppage of Steve Molitor; and Paul Williams scored his third straight knockout in a three-division spread, stopping Verno Phillips for the first time in twenty years.

Not a bad thirty days at all with thirty-one to go.

This is the month in review.

Fighter of the Month:  Vic Darchinyan

Getting stopped is one thing; getting knocked silly is another.  The latter was where now reigning 32-year old WBC/WBA/IBF Jr. Bantamweight titlist Vic Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KO), the “Raging Bull,” found himself in July 2007 against Nonito Donaire.  Attempting his seventh defense of the IBF Flyweight belt, Darchinyan met a single shot in the fifth round and his chin didn’t agree with it.  Given his aggressive, power based style many presumed it the end of Darchinyan’s days near the top of the sport.

Au contraire.

On the first day of this month, Darchinyan proved how overrated single losses can be in the modern era, pancaking a then WBC/WBA titlist in Cristian Mijares (36-4-2, 15 KO) who had gained legitimate traction as one of the sports best fighters.  Darchinyan had him on the floor in round one, captured almost all of the rounds after that, and left Mijares on the floor for good in round nine. 

In becoming the first fighter ever to hold three belts at 115 lbs., he also changed the face of the Fighter of the Year competition in Boxing.  Manny Pacquiao, should he upset Oscar De La Hoya on December 6, will be the Fighter of the Year.  Should he fail, Darchinyan now has a hell of a case along with Joe Calzaghe and Antonio Margarito for ultimate honors.  Mijares sits alongside a ridiculous hometown draw in the Phillipines against Z Gorres which should have been a win and a blitzing fifth-round knockout of then-IBF titlist Dimitri Kirilov in August. 

The year has time to shake out.  For now, Darchinyan can know no one was better during his best month of a solid year.

Fight of the Month:  Rogers Mtagwa-Tomas Villa

It was the saddest of ironies.  On the day when Telefutura announced the cancellation of weekly Spanish language broadcast “Solo Boxeo,” the network put on arguably its best fight since the Strawweight title classic rematch between Miguel Barrera and Roberto Leyva in 2002. 

Boxing fans may not know it yet, but they’ll miss this show when it’s gone.  It’s given the sport excellent platforms for new Latin stars and veteran rebirth (who can forget Glen Johnson’s renaissance beginning in a robbery loss to Julio Gonzalez).  On November 7, it gave the sport a brutal Featherweight classic between fringe fighters who left their souls in the ring over ten rounds.

As described after the fight here at BoxingScene by Jake Donovan (https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=16836):

Both fighters came out swinging from the opening bell. Mtwaga got the party started, courtesy of a series of overhand rights that had Villa momentarily shook. An upset appeared to be in the works for much of the first round, only Mtwaga went to the well once too often with what he believed was his money punch.

Villa caught on, and figured how to time and counter. The result was a well-placed right hand that drove Mtwaga to the ropes. As the round wore on, it was clear to see who had the better game plan - or so the first nine rounds would suggest. Villa remained focus on his target, dodging Mtwaga’s wide punches and landing crisp, compact shots on the inside.

Sound advice came out of Mtwaga’s corner in between rounds, as they urged their fighter to work behind the jab rather than constantly swinging for the fences. It didn’t work out too well; Villa spent much of the second round picking apart Mtwaga, observing every punch while constantly moving into position to counter and maintain control of the tempo.

Mtwaga was already unraveling by the third round, as the Philly-based featherweight simply couldn’t adjust his style to get back into the fight. There wasn’t a punch Villa didn’t land in the round – uppercuts, left hooks, straight rights; all of them eventually found their way to Mtwaga’s chin or body. It’s not to say that there was nothing coming back in return, just that none of it was disrupting Villa’s attack.

That momentarily changed in the fourth; Mtwaga slowed the bum rush with a straight right that drew a reaction from the crowd. Villa recovered well enough to eventually come back with a left hook that appeared to cause a knockdown, only for referee Rocky Burke to rule it a slip. Mtwaga took advantage of the non-call, holding his own with, and often gaining the upper hand on, Villa for the remainder of the round.

A left hook early in the fifth swung the momentum back in favor of the adopted crowd favorite. Not that it lasted very long – pretty much, the theme of the night. Mtwaga came roaring back, cracking Villa with right hands to force Villa into reactionary mode. The two kept the action in a phone booth, Villa hooking to the body while Mtwaga was landing upstairs.

Villa’s straight punches allowed him to control the temp for most of the sixth round. A right cross to the body sent Mtwaga to the ropes early in the round, a left hook driving him across the other side of the ring moments later. As Villa went in stalker mode, Mtwaga attempted to set traps, resulting in several chopping right hands finding their way to his opponent’s chin.

The punches kept flying in the seventh and eighth rounds, though Villa made it a habit of keeping his chin tucked in while picking his shots. Mtwaga was the busier fighter throughout both rounds, but Villa managed to slip or pick off most of the incoming, coming back with straight right hands. A corker of a right by Villa punctuated a frenetic eighth, prompting Mtwaga to respond even though the bell already sounded.

If the fight was any sort of close to this point, Villa attempted to remove all doubt in the ninth. A straight right hand forced Mtwaga to lean back midway through the round for the bout’s first official knockdown. Villa spent most of the rest of the round trying to finish the job.

He failed… in a big way.

Mtwaga survived the onslaught and offered a round-ending flurry to send the message that he was far from out of it.

Villa received it loud and clear in the final round. What was thought to be the final stretch of an apparent points win instead produced the end of his 12-fight unbeaten streak.

Mtwaga fought like a man possessed, landing a massive overhand right to send Villa to the canvas. The Mexican beat the count, but never truly recovered. Two more knockdowns would follow, the last of which forced referee Rocky Burke to intervene without offering a final count.

The official time was 1:20 of the tenth and final round.

Critical Results

Using a formula inspired by the college football BCS, quarterly divisional ratings have been compiled at Boxing Scene since the beginning of the year.  The fourth quarter lists were published, just a little later than normal, on October 16th and these are the critical results from the month of November with the pending December schedule for contenders and champions schedule thrown in for good measure.  Full ratings can be found at: https://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings

Heavyweight (201 lbs. – Unlimited)

11/15: #6 Alexander Dimitrenko (29-0, 19 KO) KO3 Luan Krasniqi (30-4-1, 14 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/13: #1 Wladimir Klitschko (51-3, 45 KO, IBF/WBO) vs. Hasim Rahman (45-6-2, 36 KO)

12/20: #4 Nicolay Valuev (49-1, 34 KO, WBA) vs. Evander Holyfield (42-9-2, 27 KO)

Cruiserweight (176-200 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in November.

Scheduled for December

12/06: #7 Enzo Maccarinelli (28-2, 21 KO) vs. Jonathon Banks (20-0, 14 KO)

12/11: #1 Steve Cunningham (21-1, 11 KO, IBF) vs. #3 Tomasz Adamek (35-1, 24 KO) for the vacant World Championship

Light Heavyweight (169-175 lbs.)

11/8: #2 Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KO, Ring) UD12 #3 Roy Jones Jr. (52-5, 38 KO)

11/11: #6 Glen Johnson (48-12-2, 33 KO) TKO4 Aaron Norwood (26-11-2, 13 KO)

11/22: #7 Hugo Garay (32-3, 17 KO, WBA) UD12 #10 Juergen Braehmer (31-2, 25 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters scheduled to compete in December

Super Middleweight (161-168 lbs.)

11/12: #4 Anthony Mundine (34-3, 23 KO) UD10 Rafael Pintos (31-3, 12 KO)

11/13: #10 Sakio Bika (27-3-2, 17 KO) TKO3 Peter Manfredo Jr. (31-6, 16 KO)

11/15: #5 Jermain Taylor (28-2-1, 17 KO) UD12 #7 Jeff Lacy (24-2, 17 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/06: #8 Carl Froch (21-0, 14 KO) vs. #9 Jean Pascal (21-0, 14 KO); vacant WBC belt

Middleweight (155-160 lbs.)

11/1: #2 Felix Sturm (31-2-1, WBA) UD12 #3 Sebastian Sylvester (29-3, 14 KO)

11/8: #1 Arthur Abraham (28-0, 23 KO, IBF) TKO6 #9 Raul Marquez (41-4-1, 29 KO)

11/28: Khoren Gevor (30-3, 16 KO) TKO7 #4 Amin Asikainen (25-2, 17 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/05: #8 Sebastian Zbik (24-0, 9 KO) vs. Christophe Karagoz (17-13-4, 4 KO)

Jr. Middleweight (148-154 lbs.)

11/1: #4 Sergiy Dzinziruk (36-0, 23 KO, WBO) W UD12 Joel Julio (34-2, 31 KO)

11/22: #9 James Kirkland (24-0, 21 KO) TKO8 Brian Vera (16-2, 10 KO)

11/29: #2 at 147 Paul Williams (36-1, 27 KO) TKO8 #2 Verno Phillips (42-11-1, 21 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/13: #10 Yuri Foreman (26-0, 8 KO) vs. James Moore (16-1, 10 KO)

Welterweight (141-147 lbs.)

11/08: #9 Zab Judah (37-6, 25 KO) UD10 Ernest Johnson (18-3-1, 7 KO)

11/15: #8 Kermit Cintron (30-2, 27 KO) UD12 Lovemore N’Dou (46-11-1, 31 KO)

11/17: #10 Issac Hlatswayo (28-1-1, 10 KO) D12 Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-2, 14 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/6: #5 at 154 Oscar De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KO) vs. #1 at 135 Manny Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KO, WBC)

Jr. Welterweight (136-140 lbs.)

11/1: #10 Marcos Maidana (25-0, 24 KO) W KO2 Silverio Ortiz (19-12, 9 KO)

11/7: #9 Devon Alexander (16-0, 9 KO) TKO4 Sun-Haeng Lee (9-4-1, 4 KO)

11/8: #5 Junior Witter (37-2-2, 22 KO) KO3 Victor Castro (29-5, 12 KO)

11/22: World Champion Ricky Hatton (45-1, 32 KO) TKO 11 #1 Paulie Malignaggi (25-2, 5 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/13: #3 Kendall Holt (24-2, 13 KO, WBO) vs. #6 Ricardo Torres (32-2, 28 KO)

Lightweight (131-135 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in November; Manny Pacquiao, #1, scheduled to compete at Welterweight.

Jr. Lightweight (127-130 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in November; however…

11/28: Jorge Linares (26-0, 17 KO) TKO5 Whyber Garcia (20-6, 14 KO) for vacant WBA belt

Scheduled for December

12/12: #6 Urbano Antillon (24-0, 17 KO) vs. Juan Ramon Cruz (15-5-1, 11 KO)

12/13: #7 Roman Martinez (20-0-1, 12 KO) vs. Walter Estrada (34-7, 23 KO)

12/20: #1 Humberto Soto (45-7-2, 29 KO) vs. Francisco Lorenzo (33-4, 14 KO) for vacant WBC belt

Featherweight (123-126 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in November or are scheduled to compete in December.

Jr. Featherweight (119-122 lbs.)

11/1: #8 Daniel Ponce De Leon (35-2, 31 KO) W KO4 Damian Marchiano (15-6-1, 5 KO)

11/21: #1 Celestino Caballero (31-2, 22 KO, WBA/IBF) TKO4 #4 Steve Molitor (28-1, 11 KO)

11/21: #6 Jhonny Gonzalez (40-6, 34 KO) KO4 Reynaldo Lopez (30-6-2, 21 KO)

11/22: Heriberto Ruiz (40-7-2, 23 KO) UD8 #9 Rey Bautista (26-2, 19 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/6: #3 Juan Manuel Lopez (23-0, 20 KO, WBO) vs. Sergio Medina (33-1, 18 KO)

Bantamweight (116-118 lbs.)

No BoxingScene rated fighters competed in November.

Scheduled for December

12/11: #4 Joseph Agbeko (25-1, 22 KO, IBF) vs. William Gonzalez (21-2, 19 KO)

12/31: #10 Sasha Bakhtin (21-0, 9 KO) vs. Sung-Kook Kim (11-4-1, 6 KO)

Jr. Bantamweight (113-115 lbs.)

11/1: #3 Vic Darchinyan (31-1-1, 25 KO, IBF/WBC/WBA) W KO9 #1 Cristian Mijares (36-4-1, 15 KO)

11/1: #5 Jorge Arce (51-4-1, 39 KO) W TKO4 Isidro Garcia (25-6-2, 8 KO)

11/2: #2 Fernando Montiel (38-2-1, 28 KO, WBO) UD10 Juan Rosas (27-5, 23 KO)

11/14: #9 Raul Martinez (24-0, 13 KO) KO1 Victor Proa (26-1-2, 19 KO)

11/26: #10 Pramuansak Posuwan (45-1-1, 24 KO) UD12 Roy Doliguez (18-17-8, 11 KO)

No BoxingScene rated fighters scheduled to compete in December.

Flyweight (109-112 lbs.)

11/1: #1 Nonito Donaire (20-1, 13 KO, IBF) W TKO6 #10 Moruti Mthalane (22-2, 15 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/23: World Champion Daisuke Naito (33-2-3, 21 KO, Lineal/WBC)

12/31: #3 Takefumi Sakata (33-4-2, 15 KO, WBA) vs. #5 Denkaosan Kaovichit (44-1-1, 18 KO)

Jr. Flyweight (106-108 lbs.)

11/2: #1 Ulises Solis (28-1-2, 20 KO, IBF) UD12 Nervys Espinoza (25-5, 18 KO)

11/29: #2 Edgar Sosa (34-5, 18 KO) TKO7 #8 Juanito Rubillar (46-11-7, 22 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/6: #9 Omar Nino (26-3-1, 11 KO) vs. Job Solano (10-11-1, 3 KO)

Strawweight (105 lbs.)

11/27: #2 Oleydong Sithsamerchai (29-0, 12 KO, WBC) UD12 #10 Pornsawan Kratingaenggym (21-2, 16 KO)

Scheduled for December

12/13: #3 Raul Garcia (24-0, 15 KO, IBF) vs. Jose Luis Varela (15-5, 7 KO)

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com