Vic Darchinyan warned us he would win. He warned his opponent from last weekend, Orlando Del Valle, too. Lots of fighters dish that kind of smack before a fight. Only Darchinyan would trash tralk his own promoter, Gary Shaw, the one he shares with Del Valle. “Shaw should not have invested his money in Del Valle,” Darchinyan scolded, “because it was a bad investment and he is going to lose his money.”
Even though he was at least two weight classes too high as a junior featherweight Saturday on HBO, and even though he was fighting an acclaimed prospect yet another division up, Darchinyan’s warnings were prescient. The underdog, aging and undersized, picked apart his younger foe, first ouboxing him, then roughing him up, and then alternating between the two. It was the latest reinvention of a career left for dead, and one that just got Darchinyan another win closer to the Hall of Fame.
Darchinyan, a devastating flyweight and junior bantamweight who has snuck in a couple major wins above his ideal divisions, isn’t a superstar, per se. He doesn’t pack houses, although he does have a nice Armenian following. He didn’t beat the two talented opponents of his career, Anselmo Moreno and Nonito Donaire, and didn’t come close. But he has made a unique and successful career for himself, a career that has helped lift the popularity of the lighter divisions, and boxing needs more guys like him.
Certainly, he’s not everyone’s flavor. With the nose of an owl, the body language of a mud crab and the demeanor of a particularly surly and arrogant warthog, he’s quite the walking, talking sight, and that surliness rubs some people as raw as an Indian burn. I rather find his hyperactive post-fight interviews, the ones where his teeth trample all over his tongue and lips as he spits out menace, brutishly charming.
On the plus side, that arrogance has fueled him to great heights. It has hurt him in the ring at times when he decides the mere act of getting punched is an insult that needs to be answered immediately, game plan be damned. But it also allowed him to get up from that Donaire knockout, rebuild his motor and make those who predicted a shutout loss to Cristian Mijares (present company included) look like fools. He has won some and lost some since — the Yonnhy Perez win especially surprising among them — but aside from the Moreno loss, he has been competitive every time, including a close loss to another major talent, Abner Mares.
And he’s anything but boring. He wants oh so very badly to crush his opponents. No other fighters do it exactly like him, either. Watching him against Del Valle, he repeatedly offered up one of my favorite Darchinyan stylistic tics: First, he swings his arms across his body, like someone generating momentum for a leap, and then he throws an uppercut that springs upward with the force of a diving board recently vacated. It looks hopelessly spastic, but it works more often than not and is fun to look at the same way ugly dog competitions are.
Maybe this latest revival is a mirage born of Del Valle being overrated. It’s a rather common practice for fans and writers to say of a defeated fighter who came into acclaim, “He wasn’t any good. Just look at him getting beat by that other bum!” Sometimes that’s the right answer, sometimes not. But it wasn’t that long ago that some were arguing that Del Valle was a better Puerto Rican prospect than the then-more acclaimed welterweight Thomas Dulorme.
I’m going to give Darchinyan at least a little credit for what he did. And who knows how far this latest resurrection will last. I could go for a Mares rematch, whether he wins or loses to Moreno in his next fight. Either way, I say: Long live Vic Darchinyan.