Joseph Agbeko Upsets Vic Darchinyan Via Messy, Foul-Filled Decision (Plus Other Saturday Results)

Joseph Agbeko came out on the winning end of a wild, dirty brawl, spoiling Vic Darchinyan’s move up to bantamweight on Showtime Saturday night. Darchinyan fought the totally wrong fight for the first six rounds, swinging wildly rather than being precise, i.e., reverting to the “old” version of himself, and after, he acknowledged his “bad tactic.” Agbeko, for his part, was more precise and sharper defensively than expected, which is not to say he wasn’t swinging crazily himself. He just was more precise more often, and it was the difference, helping him bust up Darchinyan’s face badly.

It didn’t live up to the hype, but it was an entertainingly madcap engagement for the evening. It was also one of several fights Saturday that warrant revisiting.

I gave all of the first six rounds to Agbeko. His straight right, which he often led with, was money all night long, especially in those rounds. Meanwhile, Darchinyan was lunging stupidly, like he used to before Nonito Donaire beat him in one beautiful instant two years ago for making that mistake, forcing him to overhaul his game. It was particularly dumb because, whether Darchinyan carried his power up with him to bantamweight or no, Agbeko had thoroughly demonstrated in his career he’s not the kind of guy you knock out with one massive shot. The man can take a wallop. In the 1st, Darchinyan got wobbled. By the 2nd, Darchinyan was cut over his left eye. By the 5th, he was bleeding from his nose and mouth and his left eye was bruised. Defensively, Agbeko’s head movement was giving Darchinyan trouble, and Agbeko also was stepping to the side after each landed blow, making it hard for Darchinyan to target him with the counters he’s honed since 2007. Still, one writer on press row had it a draw through six, somehow. Kooky!
Honestly, I had Darchinyan winning the 7th before the referee scored a bunk knockdown for him. He was starting to dial in his straight left, often setting it up with the jab, then stepping away. This was the Darchinyan I thought would beat Agbeko — by decision. The knockdown was a push, with Darchinyan cuffing Agbeko on the back of the head, but it gave Darchinyan a 10-8 round. I gave Darchinyan the two next rounds, too. Agbeko appeared to be slowing a bit, his hands dropped some and Darchinyan was finally fighting the way he should have to start. An Agbeko head butt opened a massive cut over Darchinyan’s eye in the 10th, and after that, Agbeko went on the attack, with success. He landed the better punches in the 11th, too, but Darchinyan controlled more of the action in the 12th, which was a close round. In the end, my scorecard read 115-112 for Agbeko, and the scorecards of the judges read 116-111 and 114-113 twice.
I don’t want to overstate the technique anyone demonstrated. It was a slugfest, really. At least it was kinda fun watching both guys swing for the fences. What wasn’t so fun was how much fouling went on. Agbeko led with his head on virtually every offensive sequence. Both men landed some pretty nasty punches to the balls. Darchinyan threw in some elbows, some pushing and some holding and hitting for good measure.
It’ll be interesting to see where both men go from here. Darchinyan was in everyone’s top-10 pound-for-pound, and those days will probably be over. He’s a better fighter than he showed Saturday, though, so it’s not as if he needs to completely readjust his game again at age 33. He just needs to keep his head on his shoulders. I don’t recommend staying at bantamweight. He still has his belts at junior bantam, and it’s not as if there are a ton of big fights for him at either weight, but I suspect his power will be more persuasive at 115. I don’t think this fight would much hurt the interest people have in Donaire-Darchinyan II. It’d also be the quickest way for Darchinyan to reestablish his pound-for-pound cache — if he were to win, of course, which is far from a given.
Agbeko has now beaten the best opponent of his career, but I still don’t quite see him as a pound-for-pound guy himself. He’s tough, and he’s fast, and he hits hard, which is enough to get him pretty far, but I think at least part of his advantage was that he’s a more natural bantamweight than Darchinyan. I do have to think after this win he’s no worse than the second bantamweight in the world, behind Hozumi Hasegawa, and were those two to fight, maybe the division could get a Ring magazine champion. I may be assuming too much about where Ring will rate him now, though. Agbeko thought of this as his “stepping stone” fight, yet I have to ask, stepping to what? What fight would bring Agbeko more money than Darchinyan? His best bet may be a rematch. And if not a Donaire rematch, it might be Darchinyan’s, too — this was a fight he could have won, but didn’t. And Agbeko’s too tough to let one slip away when his opponent’s game slips up. I wonder whether a rematch would go a little differently.
In other action Saturday (and I’ll update in this spot as more results come in, so check back):
  • Middleweight Felix Sturm defeated Khoren Gevor in Germany. I watched most of the fight, and many of the rounds were very, very close — Sturm, sharper and more accurate, Gevor, busier — so I wouldn’t have disagreed with either fighter getting the decision. Scores of 115-113 for Sturm were reasonable, but 117-111 was a good deal wider than I might have expected. There are some who are calling this a “robbery.” That’s B.S., unless the first four rounds were all Gevor, and reportedly they weren’t. There are plenty of people who watched that fight, based on my skimming of the bulletin boards and elsewhere, who thought Sturm DESERVED the win. A robbery is what happens when somebody clearly deserved the win and didn’t get it. That didn’t happen. Sturm may be in line for a fight with divisional king Kelly Pavlik, but based on this showing, Sturm’s chances of beating him don’t look so good. He wasn’t busy enough. Pavlik is definitely busy, and his punches mean more than Gevor’s ever could.
  • On the undercard of Darchinyan-Agbeko, lightweight Antonio DeMarco scored a 9th round TKO over Anges Adjaho. It was a fight where DeMarco was far too cautious, and he’s swung significantly toward being a boxer instead of a brawler. He was a brawler who needed a little boxing, and he’s overdone it. He was probably losing the fight due to an abundance of caution, even though he hurt Adjaho numerous times when he let his hands go — although Adjaho’s skill level was fairly high, and he confused DeMarco somewhat by way of explaining DeMarco’s patience. The finishing sequence featured DeMarco hurting Adjaho with a straight left, and as Adjaho went to take a knee, DeMarco was chasing and already throwing a punch. One grazed the back of Adjaho’s head, and he protested to the ref. Then, he layed down on the ground and got counted out. Then he suddenly startled back to life and protested again. Adjaho screwed himself big time. He was clearly acting, I  thought, and he lost the fight because of it. The replays showed the punch landed BEFORE Adjaho’s knee touched the ground, and the ref is to be commended massively for making the right call. DeMarco is now in line for a shot at Edwin Valero’s alphabet title, and Valero will destroy him. I don’t see any other possible conclusion.
  • Also on the Darchinyan-Agbeko undercard, albeit untelevised, cruiserweight Steve Cunningham beat Wayne Braithwaite, reportedly with ease. That will put him in line for a shot at Tomasz Adamek, the cruiserweight champion who won that label by beating Cunningham, and a beltholder with whom Cunningham put together one of the best fights of 2008.
  • Speaking of Adamek, he knocked out Bobby Gunn in the 4th in a fight broadcast on that I didn’t watch. I’m surprised it went that long, honestly. There are no indicators that Gunn was ever in the fight.
  • As messy as Agbeko-Darchinyan was, it was clean enough I would’ve eaten off it compared to the featherweight bout between Cristobal Cruz and Jorge Solis. Solis was deducted four points for intentional low blows — two separate occasions, two points each — and it certainly contributed to Cruz’ decision win. Cruz, for his part, was apparently deducted a point for a head butt, and they spent a lot of time throwing each other on the ground, hitting on the break, etc. I found the two point deductions rather than one point deductions questionable, but they were in Cruz’ home town, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. It was a close fight, although I must note I missed the first four rounds, same as with Sturm-Gevor. Of the eight
    rounds I scored, I had Cruz and Solis literally exchanging winning rounds every other round. (I thought Solis won the 7th, but it ended up being a 9-8 round for Cruz because of the point deductions.) Anyway, interesting that Cruz won the rematch of a fight from many years ago — Cruz has had a really interesting rise in the sport, apparently a journeyman for years before pulling out a series of upsets. I can’t say the fight itself was enjoyable, because it was ugly as hell, but it wasn’t boring, I guess.
  • Someone named Sebastian Zbik will be a mandatory challenger to one of Pavlik’s middleweight belts after winning on the Sturm-Gevor undercard… Selcuk Aydin knocked out Jackson Bonsu to become a mandatory challenger for Andre Berto’s welterweight belt, but somehow there was ANOTHER eliminator for his title belt on the Agbeko-Darchinyan undercard, and someone named Ivan Kirpa got the nod, plus Luis Collazo is already a mandatory challenger for Berto’s belt; alphabet sanctioning organizations can’t stop coming up with ways to innovate stupidity… Lovemore beat Philip in a welterweight battle of Ndou/N’dous.

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.