Saturday night's bantamweight tournament finale on Showtime features four exciting fighters in two significant fights, wrapping up a short and rewarding format that began with a great double-header in December.
On that night, Abner Mares outgutted Vic Darchinyan over 12 rounds. That set up Mares to face the night's other winner, Joseph Agbeko, while Darchinyan prepares to face the dangerous Yonnhy Perez in the consolation fight. Both are in final preparations for fights that will determine where they go next, and could conceivably lead to a rematch of one of 2010's best fights.
Darchinyan would welcome a rematch. He's never been one to let sleeping dogs lie, or to accept defeat. "After this fight, I want to challenge for the title. I want a rematch against Mares or Donaire. For Donaire to say he doesn't need to give me a rematch, after I gave him a shot at my title, just shows how much he is afraid of me and doesn't want to fight."
Interestingly, Darchinyan does not mention a rematch with Agbeko, who also beat the Armenian "Raging Bull" in 2009. Still dogged by a bad knockout at the hands of Donaire in 2007, Darchinyan yearns for revenge against the Filipino star, whose status in boxing is up in the air right now after a promotional legal war between Top Rank and Golden Boy left Donaire still with Bob Arum's company, against his own wishes.
Photo by Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing
Darchinyan also has an interesting take on his own style. After Donaire, many criticized Darchinyan's predictable, load-up-the-left, brawling style. He got back to more of a boxer-puncher style after that, and had great success in wins over Cristian Mijares, Jorge Arce and Dmitry Kirilov, among others. But Darchinyan feels that exact change cost him against Mares.
"The last time, I fought stupid against Mares. I wanted to box more and showcase my skills. This time I'm going back to my old style of fighting. I am coming in to destroy," says Darchinyan.
"I hope the referee lets me fight. Against Mares, the ref was in my ear the whole fight: don't do this, don't do that, watch yourself here, watch yourself there. Mentally, he took me out of my fight."
He also feels that at 35, he's in great shape, and definitely better conditioned than last time out. "I am very confident I will knock out Perez, destroy him. I feel stronger than I ever have. I will not slow down if the fight goes into the later rounds. I will not get tired. The last time, I made the weight a week before the fight. This time, I will make the weight on Friday."
After the jump: More on Abner Mares, Oscar de la Hoya, and more photos from Tuesday's workout at the Westside Boxing Gym in Los Angeles.
Mares, the 25-year-old Mexican who is the youngest man in the tournament, has his own thoughts on Perez-Darchinyan. He faced both in 2010, drawing Perez in May. "It's going to be tough for both of them. Vic doesn't like to be pressed and Yonnhy is a pro at that. But if Vic is able to land that left hand, I think Yonnhy is in trouble."
That's not to say Mares is overly concerned with the co-feature. He's studied Agbeko and is ready for whatever may come. "I've seen Agbeko fight before and I think he's two different fighters. He can brawl and he can box. We just need to make the fight our fight. I'm a technical fighter but I can brawl at any time. He's more of a brawler. He boxed against Yonnhy but I don't see him doing that against us."
"(Agbeko) does have a similar style to Mexican fighters - he comes forward and likes to fight. It's a different style for an African fighter, but I think it benefits us because that's what we're used to."
Photo by Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing
Mares has become the first homegrown Golden Boy Promotions fighter to claim a version of a world title. Whatever that may -- or may not -- mean to fight fans anymore, it means a lot to the fighters, and to promoter Oscar de la Hoya.
"Abner is a hell of a story -- he's living the American dream," said Oscar, who also recalls Mares' past struggles with injury.
"His career was almost derailed with his eye injury and now he'll be fighting in front of his hometown fans for a world title. He's our first fighter that we've produced from the start. It's a wonderful story and we're crossing our fingers for him."
Mares is loving the positive attention coming his way these days, as he's seen as one of the best young fighters across the entire sport. "[This fight is] a big deal; it feels good to have people talk about you," he said.
If Abner Mares can win again on Saturday night against Agbeko, even more people will be talking about him. And a star will be in full bloom in the red-hot bantamweight division.
All photos below by Carlos Baeza/Thompson Boxing