"Remember, remember, the eleventh of December..."
Alright, the old rhyme doesn't exactly go that way. But for boxing fans, it should.
Just under a week away, December 11th may see the awakening of this year's snoozing beast. And Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares are carrying the stick with which to poke it.
Early 2010 was admittedly a less-than-stellar period for boxing in terms of bigger matchups between name fighters. Many bouts fell apart before being finalized, and some anticipated fights fell short of high expectations.
But as with a few other recent calendar years for the sport, the little guys may just make all suffering worthwhile.
Notably, 2004 was dubbed "The Year of the Upset" before half of the year was up. By May, three of the sport's biggest stars had fallen in Roy Jones, Shane Mosley and Wladimir Klitschko, and all in relatively dramatic fashion.
Later in the year, Jones was again stretched by longshot Glen Johnson, and heavyweight hopefuls Dominick Guinn and Juan Carlos Gomez were both handed tough defeats. Oscar de la Hoya was heavily scrutinized for taking a ten count over a not-so-hellacious liver shot from Bernard Hopkins in the year's biggest event, and Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao's entertaining tangle produced a fan-dividing draw.
In November of the same year, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales closed out their classic trilogy with what many considered the best war between them yet. What many folks claimed was a terrible year for the sport coasted to the New Year riding the high of the ebb and flow between two great warriors and fierce rivals.
This time, a bleak year of pugilism may yet be salvaged when the month of December attempts to outdo an entertaining November.
On December 11th, four of the best fighters in one of the deepest divisions in boxing will square off in the semi-finals stage of a single-elimination bantamweight tournament on Showtime.
Many have argued that boxing tournaments should go the way of the Dodo after the collapse of Showtime's 168 lb. "Super Six" tournament. Forgotten is the fact that the Super Six has produced a few fun scraps, and that regardless of recent developments, we're still treated to matchups between name fighters that we wouldn't have seen otherwise.
While the winner of the bantamweight tournament won't produce a consensus or universal bantamweight champion, the four participants are undoubtedly world class fighters. Aside from that, all four fighters possess respectable punching power and entertaining styles that should produce fireworks when matched against one another. And of the six total blemishes on the fighters' records, four of them have come against another participant in the tournament.
The main event of the broadcast pits super flyweight belt-holder Vic Darchinyan against undefeated contender Abner Mares.
Coming off a win against unheralded bantamweight Eric Barcelona, the 35-2-1 (27 KO) Darchinyan appears to be using his clout from fights at lower weight classes to compete in this tourney. The Australia-based Armenian rose to prominence thrashing opponents and displaying an awkwardly effective herky-jerky style, stopping reigning (yet inactive) Colombian titlist Irene Pacheco in the 11th round to snatch up the IBF flyweight strap in December 2004.
Darchinyan then took his act Stateside, fighting twice in California and twice in Las Vegas after two relatively easy defenses in Australia, offering up a healthy dose of trashtalk along the way. In March 2007, Darchinyan drew large amounts of criticism for his lack of compassion after beating down smaller man Victor Burgos over 11 rounds, which resulted in doctors putting the tough Mexican into a medically-induced coma due to a blood clot on his brain.
His very next fight in July of the same year saw Darchinyan hand over his IBF title as he was outboxed and subsequently decked by one hard left hook in the 5th against Nonito Donaire, earning him his first loss.
The road back has had its own highs and lows, the "Raging Bull" Darchinyan going 7-1-1, with wins over Cristian Mijares, Jorge Arce and Dimitry Kirillov, a draw with Filipino contender Z Gorres, and a rough loss to the aforementioned Joseph Agbeko, in which he forfeited the titles he had unified at super flyweight.
Despite a decent win streak, Darchinyan should have his work cut out for him when he faces Mares.
Mares, who will turn 25 before their bout, is undefeated at 20-0-1 (13 KO).
Following a successful amateur career that included representing Mexico in the 2004 Olympics, Mares was signed by Golden Boy Promotions in November 2004 when the promotional company was merely in its fledgling stage. Mares fought on a number of Golden Boy pay-per-view cards alongside fellow Olympian Vicente Escobedo early in his pro career, showing heaps of talent and promise.
Mares' first significant step up in class came in April 2007 as he headlined a Telefutura card in his 11th pro fight against Colombian journeyman Angel Priolo. Mares took a couple rounds to find a groove, but once he did, Priolo fell in six.
On the undercard of Pacquiao-Marquez II in 2008, Mares destroyed Filipino Diosdado Gabi in 2 rounds. At the time, Gabi had lost once in six years, that loss coming at the hands of none other than Vic Darchinyan.
The young man's punching power seemed to actually be increasing as he came along, outclassing borderline contenders and prospects since the Gabi fight, until finding himself staring across the ring at IBF bantamweight champion Yonnhy Perez in May of this year on the undercard of Marquez-Vazquez IV.
An interesting affair, Mares-Perez began with the young Mexican beating Perez to the punch and controlling the pace of the fight. In the middle rounds, the experienced Colombian took over and appeared to be on his way to a dominant win. But in the late rounds, Mares rallied to even the fight up after 12, resulting in an entertaining majority draw. Perez had retained his title.
Mares and Darchinyan shouldn't have much trouble putting a period on the evening -- the opening bout may be the exclamation point.
Darchinyan may be the overall more accomplished fighter, and probably the better guy PFP, but he should find himself at least one division out of his comfort zone in this fight. Whether or not Darchinyan brings significant punching power up to bantamweight with him should be a large determining factor in the fight, as Mares will walk through his shots to land his own if Vic can't hurt him. Stylistically, a good jab and head movement have bothered Vic previously, and fighting inside isn't much of an option for him. Needless to say, Mares does all of those things well. Past that, Vic seems to be getting easier to hit, and Mares shouldn't have a very difficult time controlling the distance and pace.
PREDICTION: Mares by stoppage in about 8.
PREDICTION: Mares by stoppage in about 8.
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