Many of you hate Vic Darchinyan because he’s a total prick. But I can’t get enough of the bastard. He cracks me up, plus his words and deeds reveal the spirit of a true fighter. He managed to work in shades of both in this anecdote from an Eric Raskin column where he interviewed the angry Armenian-Australian:
As I was trying to hang up the phone at the end of our interview, he was yelling into the phone, “I’m going to knock out everyone!”
Check out the picture above, too. If you know Vic, can’t you imagine the conversation with the photographer? “Take a picture of me shooting out of the water! It will show my power! Like Rambo!” (The photo credit [Tom Casino/Showtime] even says it’s “‘Rambo’ style.”)
Anyway, the lovable (or, at worst, love-to-hateable) Darchinyan returns this weekend, and once again, by virtue of his fighting style, all he needs is another slugger to put himself into a potential Fight of the Year. Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko, though less experienced than Darchinyan, fits the bill, slugging wildly like he does. Darchinyan not only is funny, not only is a mean knockout artist, but he’s risen to the elite of the sport by cracking everyone’s top-10 pound-for-pound list with a series of wins against top-flight guys. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Agbeko’s out of his league. Darchinyan is debuting at bantamweight, a division Agbeko has long called home, and Agbeko’s made out of that specifically tough brand of Ghanaian head and flesh that isn’t easily brought to heel. It should be a good one Saturday on Showtime. Fight of the summer, probably, at minimum, although with some of the recent fight cancellations and postponements that’s not as ringing an endorsement as it sounds.
Most everyone’s pretty familiar with Darchinyan by now, right? Loudmouth, arrogant, looks like a crab when he fights by jutting his arms out at weird angles and scuttling about, strong as hell and as a result punches harder than just about any little man in the sport. He was a flyweight and definitely carried his power to junior bantamweight, and he’s reportedly sparred with men as big as middleweight. When he was just an awkward power guy who lunged forward with abandon, he got outclassed by the first quick, tough counterpuncher he met, Nonito Donaire, and therefore got his ass on the receiving end of the 2007 Knockout of the Year. Since, he’s rebuilt his defense, straightened up his punches, timed his lunges more intelligently and learned to control distance pretty well. Now he’s not just fun, he’s bona fide.
In his last fight, he dominated and stopped the tough, hard-hitting but largely technique-bereft and past-his-prime Jorge Arce. Arce wasn’t fast enough for Darchinyan by a long shot, whose straight left is super-speedy, nor has he ever met a punch he didn’t block with his face. That noggin’s like a magnet for fists. Yet, because Arce is tough, and because Darchinyan got impatient here and there, and because Arce can punch and Darchinyan’s chin is very good if not spectacular, Arce wobbled him a couple times in the fight. If there’s a big question I have about Darchinyan moving up to bantam it’s not whether he has enough power. It’s whether he can handle a big puncher at bantam. Donaire knocked him out, Z Gorres decked him and Arce hurt him.
As such, Agbeko is a dangerous opponent against whom to debut at 118. He has 22 knockouts in 26 wins. He’s also not anywhere near as slow as Arce, having above average speed for a man in his division. We’re talking about a pretty good offensive machine, physically. His defense? Comes and goes. He has the capacity, as he showed against Luis Perez in his “I’m a boxer to be taken seriously” performance and at moments in his last fight against William Gonzalez, to block and dodge shots. Since he focuses on volume, though, he doesn’t spend much time blocking, as throwing is his bag. Now, I think there are grounds for questioning whether Agbeko is as powerful as he seems, and whether he’s better or worse on defense than he seems. Agbeko didn’t knock out Perez, his first top-notch opponent, so much as he wore him down. And Agbeko couldn’t knock out Gonzalez, even though he’d once been KO’d in three rounds by Jhonny Gonzalez. One suspects Perez was also at the end of the line physically after lots of wars, so maybe Agbeko’s defensive acumen was inflated there. And maybe, because Agbeko was coming off a 15-month layoff against Gonzalez, he was rusty and better overall than he looked that night. I guess what I’m saying is, there are a lot of mitigators on Agbeko’s career.
One thing I expect Agbeko is for sure, as he’s shown it repeatedly: a sucker for throwing wide punches. Perez, a similar sucker, had a really hard time hitting Agbeko, who was faster and a tad sharper with his own wide punches. Gonzalez had his best moments when he countered Agbeko with straight lefts as Agbeko threw wide. A straight left is, of course, Darchinyan’s money punch. And Darchinyan has gotten awfully good at countering. He countered Arce all night long, and even countered the much more technically proficient Cristian Mijares plenty.
Agbeko, I expect, will test Darchinyan’s chin at times. He’s too determined, and Darchinyan is still prone to lapses. Agbeko’s also going to get tagged by plenty of straight lefts as he tries to do so. But he’s demonstrated that famous Ghanaian punch resistance, even if Gonzalez hurt him a couple times. It’s not that I don’t think Darchinyan can’t knock out Agbeko, it’s just that it seems unlikely under the circumstances, moving up in weight against a guy with an iron beard. I think Agbeko can KO Darchinyan, too, but I don’t think he’s going to land enough monster shots to do so; as I mentioned, he wears down more than he flat out drills opponents. As such, I see this turning into a grueling war, where both men are hurt or decked at times, with each having their moments — Darchinyan probably early and late, Gonzalez in the middle rounds when Darchinyan sometimes fades and after he has some luck solving the Darchinyan awkwardness riddle, before Darchinyan readjusts. I’m going to go with Darchinyan for a reason I couldn’t have imagined just a couple years ago: He’s the more technically sound, in my view, with the better defense. But ultimately, it’ll be worth watching mostly to see all the bombs drop. Like, say, in a Rambo or King Kong movie.