Revisiting The Weekend That Was, From The Big Little Men To Bernard Hopkins’ Heart

I dub this past weekend “The Weekend of the Crab,” in honor of crab fightalike Vic Darchinyan, who delivered the fight of his life in his smash-up of fellow junior bantamweight (115 lbs.) Cristian Mijares. I’ve got some leftover thoughts on The Weekend of the Crab I’d like to share, a few of which have nothing to do with him or his division. From here, it’s like a Choose Your Own Adventure book — do you dare listen to a 33-second loop of the “Crab People” chant from South Park, or do you plummet downward via the “Read More” link to discover those previously hidden thoughts?

Continued Pontification On The 115-Pounders

In both my preview and my wrap-up of Darchinyan-Mijares, I didn’t make even a passing mention of the fact that it was for three title belts at junior bantamweight. I did it largely out of disdain for the alphabet organizations, but I probably should have said something, because it is at least noteworthy. Nonetheless, media accounts that have repeatedly called it “the first ever unification of the titles” in the division must have a different definition of that than I do. Mijares had two of the belts, which he earned earlier this year in what was called a unification fight because Mijares had one belt and he beat Alexander Munoz to take his. So that was a unification of two titles, for starters. Darchinyan-Mijares was another unification fight combining Darchinyan’s one belt with Mijares’ two, but the division is still not fully unified. Fernando Montiel holds the fourth major alphabet title belt. Nor is Darchinyan even the undisputed champ, as I’ve seen him called. I don’t even consider him the champ, because he hasn’t won the most important belt of them all, the lineal Ring magazine belt.

If Darchinyan wants to please both factions of boxing – those who value the alphabet belts and those who value the Ring belt – he can do so in one fell swoop by fighting and beating Montiel, since Darchinyan should be ranked #1 by Ring and Montiel #2 now, making a fight between the two for all the alphabet belts and for the Ring championship. The biggest action bout in the division is Darchinyan-Jorge Arce, and I would welcome it, but Arce seems really preoccupied with moving up to 122 lbs. to fight Israel Vazquez in what I imagine would be a surefire slaughter by the bigger man. The bout with the best storyline is Darchinyan-Nonito Donaire II, and I would welcome it, although Darchinyan promoter Gary Shaw’s sour grapes toward Donaire because he fled to archrival promoter Bob Arum makes it unlikely to impossible. Arum promotes Arce too, by the way, and had been looking to make Donaire-Arce happen.

But the best fight imaginable is Darchinyan-Montiel, because it’s for all the marbles and I think it would be an excellent brawl. I say this despite having caught Fernando Montiel’s fight over the weekend, where a no-name boxer who had lost four of his last six gave Montiel some
trouble. It’s not that Montiel didn’t win every round — he probably did, although the scores from Mexico are still curiously unavailable — but Montiel got hit plenty, and his hitting didn’t do as much damage as one might expect. Part of that was no doubt that Montiel was fighting at 118 lbs., where he has been less than impressive in the past. Another part of it is that, well, there’s good Montiel and there’s evil Montiel. Good Montiel is a seek-and-destroy boxer/puncher who impresses with both his skill and power. Evil Montiel usually skips around
without doing much, and appears to take opponents lightly. Evil Montiel showed up Sunday night. One hopes that Shaw and Arum, who also promotes Montiel, can set aside their feud and make Darchinyan-Arce, Darchinyan-Donaire II or Darchinyan-Montiel, most of all. Of the three, Darchinyan-Arce is the easiest, because it’s the one that happens if Arce decides that’s what he wants, since he’s the mandatory challenger to one of Darchinyan’s belts, which means that if Arce pursues it Darchinyan would have to fight him or give up that belt.

Mijares has, so far, not launched any excuses for his loss, and I hope it stays that way. His explanation for his defeat was simple. “I fought his fight,” Mijares said. Maybe the explanation is not altogether accurate, but at least it’s taking responsibility for the loss.

Incidentally, another thing I didn’t mention in either the preview or the wrap-up was how ridiculous it was that some were trying to say Mijares-Darchinyan could be “another Vazquez-Marquez.” Why would anyone think that? Vazquez and Rafael Marquez were both so evenly matched, and so similar in what they did, that it was nothing like the “technician/slugger” match-up of Darchinyan and Mijares. Not even a little. It would have been going overboard if someone had instead said Darchinyan-Mijares could be “another Ali-Frazier,” but it would have been more apt, to give you an idea of how bad a comparison Mijares-Darchinyan was to Vazquez-Marquez. Is it just because they were all smaller fighters? I simply don’t get it at all. (The substantial link here is that Darchinyan wants to fight one or both men. That’s Vic
for you, convinced he can beat anyone, ever.)

Other Weekend News

Under no circumstances should the crowd have booed Andre Dirrell after his win on the Showtime undercard. The super middleweight (168 lbs.) put on a fearsome display of both boxing and punching, which should have been enough to please every variety of boxing fan. Was it because he circled too much? Because he and his crew chanted “U.S.A.” on the way out in a crowd that may have included a few Mexican fans of Mijares? Was it because the audience thought the referee stopped it too soon? It doesn’t matter why. It was just plain stupid. You can fault Dirrell for a few things — “how’s his chin” and “how’s his stamina” being just a couple questions that might come out of Dirrell-Oganov — but he wasn’t booable, for crissakes.

In the time since I put this monstrous “Round and Round” blog entry to bed, four other major bits of fight news have come to light:

–Top Rank’s Bob Arum, promoter of Manny Pacquiao, raised the possibility of the world’s best fighter returning to lightweight (135 lbs.) regardless of whether he wins or loses against Oscar De La Hoya, and said a third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez is a distinct possibility if so. This is my preference, to say the least, because of the quality of the lightweight division and the unfinished business Pacquiao has with Marquez. But damned if there isn’t some serious cognitive dissonance coming out of the Pacquiao team about his weight intentions these days. (Pacfans: This isn’t an attack on your boy. Remember, I love ‘im. It’s just an observation.)

–The heavyweight division has made two fights that really do a disservice to boxing and that zombie of a weight class. The first is Nicolay Valuev-Evander Holyfield. I’m sure it’s hard to sell a batrillion dollar mansion in this economy, but Holyfield really needs to get rid of it for pennies on the dollar, if he’s having trouble paying the bills. This is a freak show of a fight between an ancient former great who simply can no longer compete at a high level and a boxer whose top selling point is that he’s decently coordinated for a 7′, 300-pound-plus man. The other bout features the eighth or ninth last chance for James Toney, whom I’m made to understand looked better than he has in years against Hasim Rahman, and a second chance for Tony Thompson. Toney’s one of my all-time favorites, but his speech is slurred to an alarming degree, and it’s hard to figure how a guy who’sbeen busted multiple times with steroids in his system deserves a shot at someone even of Thompson’s caliber, who does deserve another go-round.

–The last of the fights under discussion is Vernon Forrest against Kelly Pavlik, although maybe it’s more accurate to say that Forrest is discussing it, and some fans are discussing it. I really like this fight, if Pavlik rebounds as strong as I expect from his 170-pound loss to Bernard Hopkins when he returns to middleweight (160 lbs.) to defend his title against Marco Antonio Rubio. Forrest is a good technician, and still very good overall. But Forrest is a little more faded than Hopkins, and doesn’t have his skill set, not that anyone on the planet does, either. Additionally, Forrest is a little smaller. I think it would be a pretty good action fight and a good fight for Pavlik to practice against a slicker opponent to see if he can beat one, plus it
would have a little juice, given the size of the two names involved.

I’d like to end by referring you to this piece on the close relationship between Hopkins and a young man who recently succumbed to cancer. A lot of times in this space, I say things like,
“I don’t like so-and-so fighter,” or “so-and-so fighter’s a jerk.” I’ve said that kind of thing about Hopkins before. Reading the piece, I am inclined to re-clarify what I’m referring to: either the boxer’s in-ring style, or his public persona, or both. In the case of Hopkins, it’s all of the above that I have historically disliked, although he won me over a little in each column with his defeat of Pavlik. But aside from some interviews with some of these guys, I don’t know them.
Not really. And I’m certain that a great many of the fighters I’ve rooted against are, deep down, good people. I may call Hopkins a jerk again one day, because sometimes, often even, he behaves like one. The piece on Hopkins, from Yahoo’s Kevin Iole, shows that Hopkins at minimum – at minimum, because I don’t know anything more than what’s in the article – has a very, very good side.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.