Now that Vic Darchinyan has walked through Dmitri Kirilov, Cristian Mijares and Jorge Arce in his last three fights, it's not a question of whether or not Vic is back on the pound-for-pound lists, because he absolutely is. He has dismantled all three opponents, put the loss to Nonito Donaire solidly in the rearview mirror, and now there is only one question.
How high in weight can Darchinyan really go?
Like a tiny version of Wladimir Klitschko, Darchinyan hasn't won the Ring Magazine championship at 115 pounds, but he's holding three of the alphabet soup titles and is unquestionably the division's top man. We know he wants a rematch with Nonito Donaire, who is looking to perhaps move up from 112 himself, but we also know that Darchinyan's promoter Gary Shaw isn't going to let that happen.
Unless Darchinyan feels any real need to avenge a draw against Z Gorres, the cupboard is fairly bare at 115 as far as top opponents go. Alexander Munoz is only a name in Japan, really, and he lost to Mijares in his last fight anyway. There are a lot of good fighters, but if you ask me from watching Darchinyan's last three fights, none that are going to give him any real challenge.
Does he go up to 118? Fernando Montiel has, and Shaw has mentioned Montiel as an opponent for Darchinyan. 118 has other intriguing opponents, such as Gerry Penalosa, Hozumi Hasegawa, Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno, and a few others. But there's been no talk of anyone there besides Montiel.
The next step up is 122 pounds, where some of the sport's top pound-for-pound fighters ply their trade. Darchinyan has repeatedly said he wants to fight Israel Vazquez (with whom he has sparred in the past) and Rafael Marquez. It might sound a little crazy, but in truth it's probably not, partly because both of those fighters appear to have taken serious damage from their three unbelievable wars. I say that because we've seen neither of them in the ring since last March, and nothing is on the table for either man.
There are others at 122. Juan Manuel Lopez is a crushing puncher. Can Darchinyan handle a guy like that? I know 5'7", 122 is a small man in the real world, but to Darchinyan, that's the biggest guy he's ever fought. What about 5'11" freak of nature Celestino Caballero? Former titlists like Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jhonny Gonzalez and Steve Molitor are at 122, as well.
The cautious observer would say Darchinyan should take it easy, and speculate that 122 is probably the absolute highest he could ever go. Former flyweight Darchinyan would be "just too small."
Maybe not. Look, I'm not going overboard here, either, so bear with me. The first major title that Manny Pacquiao ever won was the WBC flyweight title. Pacquiao started his career as a fighter in the 108-pound division. Darchinyan's amateur background is very real. Pacquiao never had that.
Don't forget there was a time when the current pound-for-pound king was just some high-energy slugger out of the Philippines that made for exciting fights. Pacquiao eventually became the well-rounded fighter he is today. Darchinyan, in going back to his amateur roots to some degree, is a much better overall fighter than he was a couple of years ago.
Like Pacquiao, Darchinyan also has guts in spades and is always on the hunt for a great challenge. I'm not saying he's Pacquiao. What I am saying is that given his improvements and his brave nature, I'm not ready to place any limits on how high in weight Darchinyan might be able to take himself.