While the Showtime bantamweight tournament show for Saturday night was rocked hard when Joseph Agbeko was forced to pull out of the main event and tournament final, the show will go on. And Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez are eager to showcase their abilities against one another.
"I can't wait for Saturday," Perez said at today's final press conference. "I know Vic has said a few things about me and how the fight will go and I really hope he can back those words up. It will be difficult to achieve the things he's said."
Neither fighter is concerned about being bumped to the main event, either. After all, they've been in main events before. "Whether I was fighting first or second, I was still fighting Vic," said Perez. "I am strong and ready for anything he has to offer. I expect him to come out aggressively, but if he decides to change and box, I am prepared."
"This is the third time I've been moved up to the main event," Darchinyan said of the statistical oddity that has now seen three of his co-feature fights bumped to main event status. "I won both and I'm very confident I'll win again."
Darchinyan, often outspoken and over-the-top with his criticisms and insults of other fighters, was toned down at the press conference Thursday, referring to Perez as "a gentleman" and "a clean fighter who loves to come and fight and show who is better in the ring."
But the Armenian brawler did have tough talk about how he sees the fight going. "He will be standing right in front of me and will feel my power like never before. Yonnhy is a bigger guy than me, but everyone will see how powerful I really am."
Perez was a bit more succint. "In the end," he said, "I will be the winner."
Much of Thursday's attention was not on the remaining fight, but on the condition of Agbeko, and rightfully so. The Ghanaian fighter apologized for not being able to fight Saturday, but others weren't blaming him.
"Saturday was a night I really dreamed for," Agbeko said. "I was set to make my country proud. It was a very big blow to all of us. I want to thank the doctors who took care of me.
"Obviously, Abner is a very good fighter that I have to beat to prove that I'm the best bantamweight in the world. I can't wait to get well so I can fight him."
Alan Hopper of Don King Promotions also apologized. "I want to apologize to all the fighters on the card," he said. "Obviously, Joseph wants to fight. Abner, we are so sorry for you. We're very serious about getting all the treatment we can so we can fight as soon as possible."
"Joseph has nothing to be ashamed of. Injuries happen," said Gary Shaw, who promotes both Darchinyan and Perez.
"Last night before I went to bed I said a prayer for Agbeko because he's a champion like I was and I know he does this for his family," said Perez, who has twice faced Agbeko. "I know how difficult it must be to not be able to perform Saturday night."
Darchinyan has also fought -- and lost to -- Agbeko in the past, and offered his own thoughts. "I feel bad for Joseph Agbeko and wish him the best. It's unfortunate but sometimes things just happen. What everyone should know is that they are going to get is a great fight. We will put on a great show."
Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, who promotes Mares, echoed Darchinyan's statement. "I don't know why the mood is so somber, guys. This is not a funeral. We have as our main event a barnburner between Yonnhy Perez and Vic Darchinyan. This is good news. This is great news for fight fans."
And Schaefer is correct. Hopefully, this isn't a career-threatening injury for Agbeko, which of course is the worst case scenario. Should he be able to come back, he still has a great fight on the table with Abner Mares. And fight fans, thanks to Darchinyan and Perez, still have a great night to look forward to on Saturday.
Shaw said that he and Schaefer worked hard to try and find a fight for Mares. Richard and I spent all day yesterday going back and forth with Ken Hershman of SHOWTIME, trying to find Abner a fight because when you train that hard you want to fight," he said.
"Can Vic fight Abner? Can Yonnhy fight Abner? In the end, we felt we should stick with the original plan and go with the showdown between Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez."
Shaw wasn't all roses, though, as he had to be realistic about the business of boxing when asked. "I'm speaking as a promoter here: If Agbeko cannot fight in a timely fashion and defend his title, I will personally petition the IBF to let the winner of this fight for the title against Mares. Abner should have the right to get that title and nobody should have to wait an inordinate amount of time."
As for Mares, he is, of course, let down by the cancellation of his fight, but wished Agbeko the best. "I wish Joseph the best of health. I put myself in his position and it's hard. It's not his fault - he's a great champ. He's a warrior.
"Everyone knows it would have been a great fight, but it's only fair to give him his time to heal. He earned his spot in the finals, just as I did, so he deserves his time to get well to make this fight happen. I know that some of you are sad or mad that we're not fighting, but you have to understand that health comes first.
"I trained hard and I'm disappointed. I know there were some names mentioned for possible replacements but we believe it's only fair to give Joseph a chance to heal so we can fight in the finals of the tournament."
If that's not class from the 25-year-old Mares, I don't know what you'd call it.
We'll have a fight preview tomorrow for the Darchinyan-Perez bout, and full live coverage on Saturday night.