Fool Me Once...Notes from a Fight Night at Sunrise
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) -
You know, it's not all that often in life where a guy can look back at something and say, "Wow, I guess I really got fooled by all that nonsense, huh?"
I've got to admit, I'm feeling that way today about Vic Darchinyan.
I'd watched the little man fight a few times on television, and, after digesting opinions from several trusted sources, I figured it a worthwhile endeavor to pack up the computer bag, load up the Malibu and make the trek down the Florida coast to take his act in with my own two eyes.
Now let's be honest, it was hardly much of a task. And I'd have probably headed down regardless of who was headlining the Don King card at the BankAtlantic Center on Saturday night.
Say what you will about his track record, but King's shows are top notch in their attention to detail. The credentials are always in order. The wireless Internet is always working. And communications guru Alan Hopper is always making the rounds to see that everything else is as it should be.
Combine all that into a mini-vacation in the sand and waves with the world's cutest 15-month-old beach bum and his trusty dog...and it's what I'd call a no-brainer.
In fact, by weekend's end, the main event was the only disappointment.
I'd bought into the hype without question going in, picking the quote-happy "Raging Bull" by KO.
But rather than the 12 rounds - or significantly less - of havoc he'd promised during pre-fight press conference harangues, Darchinyan's performance was marked by precious little ferocity and far more frustration at an inability to inflict tangible damage on a perfectly beatable foe.
No offense to the title-retaining efforts of Joseph Agbeko, but Darchinyan ought to thank King, Gary Shaw and any god to whom he prays for ensuring it was the Ghanan "King Kong" in the ring with him Saturday night - and not Israel Vazquez, Rafael Marquez or anyone else he'd suggested meeting.
Joseph Agbeko won seven rounds on two scorecards, nine on the other.
Had it been, the "Raging Bull's" fate would have been far worse than a close decision.
The Armenian-born Australian offered a largely incoherent attack, either not hearing or simply disregarding pleas from his corner to jab his way in before flinging wild left hands, a tactic that's served him well enough against foes lacking the technique or firepower to offer an alternative.
But that approach was pure folly against Agbeko, who was brave enough to stand in the swirling pocket and sturdy enough to take whatever shots did get through, while also possessing the wherewithal to let his own hands go and exploit the many scoring openings being presented.
He left evidence of his acumen on Darchinyan's battered face, drawing blood from a cut on one eye and systematically beating the other to a bruised and lumpy mess over 36 effective, albeit something less than scintillating minutes.
It wasn't quite domination by consensus - the Ghanan won seven rounds on two scorecards, nine on the other - but its impact on Darchinyan's future marketability could leave quite a scar.
Hardly a youngster at 33, the wounded southpaw faces an inglorious return to a 115-pound division where high-end challengers are known only by the hardest of hardcore fans, a troubling circumstance when trying to line up viable TV interest after an upset loss.
Take away the mayhem. Take away the cameras.
The same is true at bantamweight, where he's now clearly no better than a second banana. And competitive troubles similar to Saturday's could arise again if he follows through with pre-weekend plans to "move up to 122 pounds and keep moving up" in search of more lucrative recognition.
It's hard to fathom a 12-round dance with high-profile partners Vazquez and Marquez going better than the Agbeko waltz, and a would-be quest for multi-belted quarry like Celestino Caballero seems a long shot when betting on anything other than a violent KO win for the incumbent.
Short of him changing the dynamics by gaining 50 pounds or becoming Ray Leonard in the ring, Darchinyan's jockey-sized novelty act seems to have been done at this point in by the "Peter Principle" - ultimately rising to its own level of incompetence.
Next time, I just hope I realize it before I make my picks.
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Other thoughts from a whirlwind 48-hour weekend:
* When I make my millions, or at least my few extra thousands, I'm stuffing it all in a pillowcase and buying the first available piece of real estate at or near Dania Beach. Close enough to Miami and Fort Lauderdale and all the cool things a sports fan would like, while just far enough away to have a not-so- crowded beach at midday on a steamy July weekend.
And hey, if the Chamber of Commerce wants to send a few goodies my way as a lure...so be it.
* I'm still more than a bit stunned at the Arturo Gatti news. I read the first reports from press row just before 6 p.m. Saturday, and I heard the tangible gasp from the crowd a few hours later when Jimmy Lennon Jr. made a moment-of-silence announcement for the three-pronged memorial 10 count for Gatti, Alexis Arguello and Michael Jackson.
I only saw him fight once, but it turned out to be his final win against Thomas Damgaard, on Jan. 28, 2006, at Boardwalk Hall.
In a fitting tribute, HBO2 will air Gatti's trilogy with Micky Ward on Friday at 9 p.m., while "regular" HBO will show the three fights on Saturday at 10:15 p.m.
* Even though I was a teenager when he was at his peak and ought to be a bigger fan, I could take or leave the "King of Pop" music between fights and the dance troupe that performed in the ring wearing black hats and white masks. But the red-blooded male in me was positively enamored with the subsequent parade of ring-card girls donning their hats and single sequined gloves.
With one mulligan for a wrong round card in the Steve Cunningham fight, it's 10s all around.
* Not only is Nate Campbell a fellow Florida resident, a fellow March baby (birthday two days after mine) and a champion in the ring, but he's also this 40-year-old's reigning definition of cool with the way he handles himself. Always available for interviews, recently heroic in breaking up a purse-snatching and the picture of style Saturday with a bad-ass hat/suit combination that suited the image perfectly.
When I grow up, I want to be him.
* I've been to a lot of sporting events and I've heard what seems like a zillion renditions of the national anthem, but none better than the electric guitar version belted out by Margate, Fla.'s Kevin Lysen. An immediate text to a friend in the arena got "absolutely, top 5 ever" feedback, which convinced me I wasn't just imagining that Lysen had just channeled Eddie Van Halen.
Blend Eddie's solo on "Beat It" with his 1978 riff "Eruption" and you've Saturday's sound.
Well done, Kevin. You've got to teach me how to do that.
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This week's title fight-schedule:
WBA super lightweight title - Manchester, England
Andriy Kotelnik (champion) vs. Amir Khan (No. 5 contender)
Kotelnik (31-2-1, 13 KO): Third title defense; Eight-fight unbeaten streak (7-0-1)
Khan (20-1, 15 KO): First title fight; Won two straight since only career loss
FitzHitz says: Kotelnik by decision
Last week's picks: 7-2
Overall picks record: 111-41 (73 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.