(Arce, left; Darchinyan, sitting. Tom Casino/Showtime)
Saturday night delivers the first surefire action brawl of 2009, which is not to say that a couple other bouts, like Andre Berto-Luis Collazo, haven’t surprised in how they turned unexpectedly into action brawls. Vic Darchinyan-Jorge Arce? That’s the kind of fight where the surprise would be if it wasn’t a furious race to see who can obliterate the other man’s consciousness. And it doesn’t matter a lick that they’re as small as they are (junior bantamweight, 115 lbs.); they both have a deserved reputation for outsized action.
Arce once wished aloud that he could have all his fights in an elevator, so that there’d be no room to run. Darchinyan got pissed once when he broke an opponent’s jaw and the fight was ruled a technical decision in his favor, because he wanted credit for the knockout. They come with a certain mentality, these two: One, Arce, wants to put on a great show no matter how much of his own blood he has to spill, and the other, Darchinyan, uses the word “demolish” in every second sentence.
Vic’s the heavy favorite, and I suppose it’s conceivable he outboxes Arce easily with his flashy new boxing skills that he put on display against Cristian Mijares, but even that one ended in a crowd-pleasing knockout. More likely than a decision, someone gets the smelling salts. And even if it’s early, well… that’s part of the fun, isn’t it? “Good as long as it lasts” is my prediction for the tenor of the fight, but who wins — that we shall get to in a moment.
Darchinyan comes in with the better resume. He’s bullied his way into most every top 20 pound-for-pound list, and he’s on the verge of cracking the top 10 on mine. He has three of the alphabet title belts in the division. The list of opponents he’s defeated is lengthier and more impressive, most especially Mijares, who picked apart Arce like a kid torturing a bug. Not so long ago, Darchinyan built that resume with wild, bizarre aggression. The lefty may be the most unconventional practitioner of the sweet science in the entire sport, with only Emmanuel Augustus rivaling him among active boxers I’ve seen. He really does look like a crustacean stomping around in there, firing punches from weird angles and unexpected moments. That, plus his exceptional power, was good enough for him to make mincemeat of anyone he met until he ran into that perfect left hook from the more skillful Nonito Donaire in 2007, a shot that took with it Darchinyan’s aura of invincibility. The Darchinyan who fought Mijares was significantly improved, still aggressive but more careful about when he launched his shots and no longer disdainful of return fire.
What we haven’t seen from Darchinyan since that Donaire loss is how he would fare against a real puncher. Mijares ain’t a real puncher. Dimitri Kirilov ain’t a real puncher. Z Gorres ain’t a real puncher, but Darchinyan did go down in that fight.
Arce? He’s a puncher. Some 70 percent of his wins end in knockout, a tad below the 75 percent mark set by Darchinyan. And he’s naturally bigger. While Darchinyan more recently joined the division, Arce has long flirted with moving up because he believes he’s outgrown it.
When you look at Arce’s career, what stands out are memorable fights, more than memorable opponents. Every Arce fight, except for the Mijares blowout and bouts where his opponent is a little scared, degenerates into a brawl, and praise Arce for that. I suppose his biggest win is over Hussein Hussein, in one of 2005’s best battles. There are other names about that level on his resume, but he’s only lost twice in the past 10 years, and one of those was a kind of flukey knockout at the hands of a faded Michael Carbajal. Arce is all pressure and volume. He throws a good variety of punches, and his body work in particular stands out. He never really has bothered with defense, which gets him in trouble in the exact proportion that it entertains. He does not think he’s received the recognition he has deserved for his career, and appears to recognize that beating Darchinyan would give him that signature win. I’d worried about whether he was having trouble making weight, but his body looks very cut these days, so maybe his disappearance from a mandatory weigh-in and news conference a while back really does reflect what his team says, which is that he’s training so seriously he can’t be bothered with the showy trash talk he usually indulges in prior to fights.
If the worry for Darchinyan is that Arce is the biggest puncher his chin will have encountered since it was first dented by Donaire, the worries for Arce are manyfold. First is that he appears to be winding down. He’s having trouble with opponents he might once have blown out, which, again, makes his fights more interesting, but that’s a bad omen for how he might handle a world-class guy. Second is that I believe there’s a skill deficit here — Darchinyan hits hard and has enhanced his defense, while Arce has never shown much interest in ducking. Third, Arce swore off fighting lefties after Mijares and the difficult time he had with a southpaw in his very next fight, and Darchinyan is as difficult as a lefty gets.
So that’s the dynamic and background of the thing, minus a note that this bout has been talked about for literally years. I know I’ve wanted to see it for a while. Here’s hoping it hasn’t come too late in Arce’s career for him to make it extremely competitive. But even if he doesn’t, I still suspect it will be good whether it ends in round 2 or round 12.
My prediction: Darchinyan by mid-round KO. Arce hasn’t spent much time on the ground, but he does have a tendency to get stunned of late. Darchinyan is very nearly the number one stunna. And he finishes people, too. If Arce gets hurt, I bet he gets introduced to bedtime not long thereafter.
Confidence: 80%. If not for my recent track record, I’d be even more confident. I do worry about Darchinyan’s ability to take a shot from someone who hits like Arce, and while I wouldn’t be surprised to see Darchinyan hit the mat once or twice, I don’t know if Arce is going to have that many opportunities. Darchinyan’s defense against Mijares was fantastic. Darchinyan would be wise not to get overconfident and throw it out the window against Arce, and if he’s looking past Arce to bigger fights against the likes of Manny Pacquiao — seriously — he might be surprised how much Arce has left.
My allegiance: I can’t not love both men. Arce’s cowboy hat and lollipop routine is a kick, and his fights are guaranteed excitement. Darchinyan is the kind of fighter who rubs me the wrong way when he’s not funny, but he does amuse me, and his fights are also guaranteed excitement. May the best man win.