Something in boxing has been unfortunately pushed onto the back burner this week, but it deserves serious discussion.
Now that Vic Darchinyan's win streak is over, where does he go? How is he viewed? What's his new standing?
Count me among those that got on the Darchinyan train in a big way after his destruction of Cristian Mijares last year, a fight that was seen as a major upset at the time. Not only was Darchinyan the underdog, but most talked about the bout being a no contest, about Mijares inevitably using his slickness, skill and speed to frustrate and perhaps even toy with Darchinyan, a loose-armed brawler whose tactics just didn't add up against the classy Mexican.
Not the case. Darchinyan steamrolled him as he had done Dmitri Kirilov, and as he would do months later to Jorge Arce. Armenia's "Raging Bull" was on top of the world.
Darchinyan was in my top 10 pound-for-pound, and in most others', too. He was one of the sport's hottest fighters. His promoter, Gary Shaw, couldn't have sounded more ecstatic. Onward and upward, Gary proclaimed, and we went for the ride. I wondered how high Darchinyan could go. With a fairly weak bantamweight division awaiting him, Darchinyan and Shaw talked about moving up to 122 pounds quickly, maybe even further.
Joseph Agbeko put dreams on hold by beating Darchinyan this past Saturday, and Vic Darchinyan has no one to blame but himself for that loss. It was a rough, dirty fight, and though Darchinyan came out of it looking far worse for wear, he was in it, contrary to the incredibly biased commentary from Showtime's Al Bernstein and Gus Johnson. In fact, had Darchinyan actually fought the 12th round instead of allowing Agbeko to coast to the finish line, he likely would have escaped with a controversial split decision victory. He lost by one point on two of three scorecards, as well as our unofficial Bad Left Hook card.
Now we're talking about the nitty gritty of where Darchinyan's career is going.
We can now examine his recent hot streak more fairly, as is the case with any fight. Once you see what happens after, you can often tell more about what it all really meant. After he was destroyed by Nonito Donaire -- Darchinyan's first pro loss -- in 2007, Darchinyan got back on the horse. He beat Federico Catubay in a rebound bout, then drew Z Gorres in a horribly officiated debacle in the Philippines. The win over Kirilov was solid and dominant, the win over Mijares doesn't look as good now as it did then, and the win over Arce remains credible but unspectacular.
But it wasn't just the resume. It was the force with which he was handling these guys. None of the latter three even stood a chance against Darchinyan those nights. He smoked them all.
Agbeko was another story, and I think we all knew that. I had trouble picking the winner beforehand, and I went with Darchinyan because I believed him to be a top 10 pound-for-pound fighter who could handle the three-pound jump well enough to deal with a gritty, good fighter. But no one thought this was a pushover, or at least they shouldn't have.
What doomed Darchinyan against Agbeko was a horrid execution of gameplan. His corner begged and pleaded with him to jab, and he refused. Instead, he found himself trying to flail away at Agbeko, who was big and strong enough to take some solid shots from Vic without so much as flinching. Agbeko, on the other hand, rattled Darchinyan's cage on more than one occasion, and he found a home for a lead right hand and a frankly subpar left hook all night. Agbeko is no hooker -- a guy with a better left hook would have put Darchinyan to sleep in that fight. It's exactly how Donaire was able to do it.
It now seems foolish to consider the idea of Darchinyan against Israel Vazquez, for instance. I was willing to semi-write off the Donaire loss as a bad night from which Darchinyan learned valuable lessons, but you get him arrogant and rolling again, and he makes the same bad, ugly mistakes he did against Donaire.
Darchinyan against Agbeko was night and day compared to how he handled Arce, Mijares and Kirilov. It was like he abandoned everything that had made him such a dangerous, well-rounded fighter and went back to all that video game, crab-shuffling, wild-punching brute stuff that got him knocked silly against Donaire. You could see Darchinyan grow considerably frustrated during the fight, not just with Agbeko's roughhouse tactics, but by his own inability to back up his big mouth. It's rare that someone shuts Darchinyan up.
So what now? Where does he stand?
I still think he's a top 20 pound-for-pound fighter. He lost a close fight against a good opponent while moving up in weight. If he stays at 115 pounds, there's a fight now: Nonito Donaire. There's even a decent reason to consider rematching Agbeko. On a better night, Vic beats him at 118. Not easily, but he beats him. I still think he's a better fighter if he executes, but he didn't.
Gary Shaw's wild-eyed visions of Darchinyan glory will have to be cooled for the time being, but there's still a lot for him to do. He could try to avenge either defeat. He could look for something else, I suppose, though there's not a ton out there at 115/118, and at 33, he's no spring chicken.
As much as I feel somewhat let down by Darchinyan's performance, I don't count him out. The Donaire loss was ten times worse and he rebounded from that in fine fashion. And I don't expect him to go looking for creampuff opponents, either. He's too proud, too arrogant, and too ambitious for that.