April has really been something else for boxing. On April 2, Hernan Marquez upset Luis Concepcion in Panama in a rock 'em, sock 'em flyweight brawl. On April 9, a one-eyed Erik Morales hung in with Marcos Maidana for 12 thrilling rounds. Last weekend, Victor Ortiz overpowered Andre Berto and Orlando Salido shocked Puerto Rico with a stoppage of Juan Manuel Lopez.
We've seen great fights. We've seen the undefeated records of Berto, Lopez, James Kirkland, David Lemieux, and Marcus Johnson terminated. We've seen Khoren Gevor go ballistic. We've seen a gritty Ran Nakash fight tough against Marco Huck. We've seen Jhonny Gonzalez go to Japan and stop Hozumi Hasegawa in the main event of an exciting triple-header. We've seen what might amount to Michael Katsidis' last stand as a top contender in his loss to Robert Guerrero.
Months just don't come much better than this one has been. It has been eventful, action-packed, and just damn fun to watch.
This weekend was supposed to give us another can't-miss fight card. But then Joseph Agbeko was forced to withdraw from his main event with Abner Mares, leaving us with one great matchup instead of two. But there's still a really good chance we see yet another tremendous bout as Vic Darchinyan meets Yonnhy Perez.
Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KO) has been here before, in this exact position. The colorful Armenian slugger, based in Australia and a good draw in California, is for the third-time finding himself in a main event when the co-feature was supposed to be his slot on a Showtime broadcast. The first time came on June 3, 2006, when Darchiynan faced Luis Maldonado and dominated the fight, winning by stoppage in the eighth round. Last February, when Arthur Abraham's fight with Andre Dirrell was postponed a month, Darchinyan's fight with Rodrigo Guerrero went into the main event slot, and Darchinyan won again, destroying the game youngster over 12 rounds.
This is also, it's worth noting, Darchinyan's 13th fight on Showtime. To put into perspective how great of a job Gary Shaw has done promoting Darchinyan, that ranks third all-time in Showtime appearances, behind only Julio Cesar Chavez and Evander Holyfield. Pretty strong company. Shaw has managed to make a flyweight not just a Showtime regular, but a multi-time main eventer.
For Perez, this will be his third Showtime main event and fourth appearance on the network. The 32-year-old Colombian swarmer has gone 1-1-1 in his last three, beating Joseph Agbeko, drawing Abner Mares, and losing his last fight to Agbeko.
Compared to Darchinyan's last three, Perez has faced much tougher competition. Yes, Darchinyan fought Mares, and Guerrero has turned out to be a tough cat, but Guerrero was overmatched in a major way, and his fight between those was against Eric Barcelona, who doesn't really beat good fighters (though he often hangs in with them).
In fact, in Darchinyan's last two fights against elite bantamweights, he has lost. He lost to Mares, and he lost to Agbeko in 2009. As a bantamweight, Vic is 1-2, with his win at 118 coming over Barcelona. The valid criticism is that Darchinyan's bread-and-butter has always been his monster left hand, a thudding power shot that has stopped a lot of good fighters dead in their tracks. He also has power in his right hook when he chooses to employ it. The last time we saw Darchinyan really drill a guy, it was Tomas Rojas in December 2009.
At 118, Darchinyan simply is not the bomber he was at 112, or even at 115. Everyone has a cap weight class where they stop being the level of fighter they were before, and for all the talk in the past of Darchinyan fighting at 122 pounds, it looks like 118 is his ceiling as a contender.
Perez, on the other hand, is a legitimate bantamweight. He doesn't have huge power, but his aggressive style and incredibly high workrate (BLH's Brickhaus figures Perez threw upwards of 1600 punches the first time against Agbeko, and I'd be inclined to say that sounds right) makes him very dangerous.
Is Darchinyan prepared to battle that? One thing that could help Vic is that with that swarming style, he'll find himself with some chances to hit Perez with big shots. Darchinyan has promised to abandon his boxer-puncher style in favor of the old heavy ammunition attack, which he got away from after he was knocked senseless by Nonito Donaire in 2007 -- so senseless that to this day Darchinyan feels the stoppage was premature, which makes one person on earth who feels that way.
If Darchinyan can land the bombs, he can hurt Perez. Despite not having the concussive power he did in lower weight classes, it's not like he's become feather-fisted. He's simply banging away at bigger, stronger men now. On the other hand, Perez could find a one-dimensional, tunnel-visioned Darchinyan an easy mark. It's not hard for a good boxer to see Vic's attacks coming when he really starts telegraphing them, and make no mistake, Darchinyan can become incredibly predictable. He's one of the most egotistical fighters in the sport. In some ways, that makes him as good as he is. In other ways, it hinders him. He has a habit of changing what isn't working to prove a point, both offensively and defensively.
Darchinyan also isn't getting any younger. At 35, he needs this win to guarantee another favorable fight and good payday. Lucky for him, Darchinyan has never entered a fight anything less than prepared. He has his flaws, but preparation and desire aren't part of the list.
As for Perez's preparation, Luke Thomas' recent interview with Yonnhy revealed that he and his team do not watch tape. Most of us find this sort of concession and purposeful disadvantage to be somewhat insane. Why not use all the tools available to you? But of all the guys to not watch tape on, Darchinyan is probably one of the least worrisome. Surely he's seen Vic fight, and knows what to expect.
I think this is a pick'em fight, really. Truthfully, as good as Perez is, my gut tells me we've already seen his peak, and it came in the first fight against Agbeko. There was really nothing wrong with his last two performances, the draw and loss to very good fighters, but he was a tick below his performance against Agbeko the first time around. Yonnhy Perez is a very good fighter, but falls shy of being great, and as such is always going to be less than an overwhelming favorite against other very good fighters. And Darchinyan is still a very good fighter.
For anyone who might think Darchinyan is too far past it to hang, I think this is going to be an answer fight. I expect him to land some big power shots on Perez to cut off any momentum the Colombian might build. But I also expect Perez to do damage, too -- he'll win his share of rounds with his workrate, flustering Darchinyan. I expect to see both fighters hurt at some point in this fight, probably several times, and I honestly think we're in for a tremendous battle with this one. These are two guys who fight to win, who fight with a lot of willpower, and who aren't going to lose without laying it all on the line. After batting this around in my head quite a few times, I'm going with Vic Darchinyan in a razor-thin decision. Darchinyan SD-12