Boxing
Darchinyan expects big things in bantamweight tournament
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - New weight class.

Same Vic Darchinyan.

The Armenian-turned-Australian has put on a handful of pounds since reaching the world stage as a flyweight champion six years ago, but is no less brash than the day he toppled Colombian incumbent Irene Pacheco in 11 rounds at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Fla.

"I am comfortable at any weight. I can lose as much weight as I want or I can put on as much as I want," the soon-to-be 35-year-old said. "I go for the knockout. It's exciting. It's what people want to see.

"It's simple."

Darchinyan was kingpin for nearly three years at 112 pounds before a single left hook led to a stunning fifth-round KO loss to unheralded Nonito Donaire in 2007.

Undaunted, he moved up to 115 and was a champion one fight later, a status he maintained without incident through 2009, when a try for IBF laurels in the bantamweight division proved unsuccessful with a narrow 12-round loss to Joseph Agbeko.

He registered two more defenses of his lighter domain before trying again and this time succeeding, winning the vacant IBO crown at 118 with a wide verdict over Eric Barcelona in a return home to Australia seven months ago.

That win put him firmly among the in crowd at bantam and earned a ticket into Showtime?s second attempt at televised tournament unification - in the form of a four-man event that kicks off Saturday with a pair of championship matches at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash.

The broadcast begins at 9 p.m. ET.

Darchinyan will face unbeaten Mexican prospect Abner Mares in one semifinal bout for the IBO title, while, in the other, Yonnhy Perez makes the second defense of the IBF belt he won from Agbeko 14 months ago with a rematch against the Ghanaian slugger in a 12-round main event.

All four tournament participants are guaranteed at least two fights in the event, with the winners squaring off for the championship and the beaten semifinalists competing in a third-place match.

In the event of a draw in a semifinal bout, Showtime will determine which fighter advances based on "championship performance."

All four fighters successfully made weight on Friday - with Perez and Darchinyan coming in at 118 pounds and both Agbeko and Mares at 117 1/2.

"I am very excited about this tournament," Darchinyan said. "I am prepared and all the guys are good. I have fought great champions and great guys. This is a great division.

"I am proving that I have come back better. I am going to show everyone that I am much stronger. I am going to be faster and stronger and I am going to out- school Abner. I am going to be much stronger and win this tournament easily."

Mares, who turned 25 last month, is coming off his debut on the championship level - a 12-round draw with Perez in the Colombian's initial IBF title defense at Staples Center in Los Angeles on May 22.

He'd opened his career with 20 straight wins, including 13 by KO, since turning pro in 2005.

"I am really honored and excited," he said. "When the decision (against Perez) was done and they said that there was a draw, I thought it was bad. But now you see it was good.

"I showed a lot of heart against the champion and I think that is what got me in this tournament. I am grateful for those who put me in this tournament. I belong at this level, I am excited and this is what I do."

The 31-year-old Perez also turned pro in 2005 and won 20 straight to start his pro career, including the title-winning decision against Agbeko that saw him earn wide verdicts of 117-110, 117-110 and 116-111 after he dropped his foe for the fight?s only knockdown in the 10th round.

His bout with Mares saw two judges score it even at 114-114, while a third gave it to the challenger, 115-113.

"It's really something that is not important to me, what people say and think of me," Perez said. "The only person that I have to show and demonstrate to is myself. If people have forgotten about Yonnhy Perez, they have forgotten the champion of this tournament, but that doesn't make a difference to me.

"All I have to prove is that I can be the best in my division and they will realize who I am."

Agbeko, who now resides in the Bronx, became a champion for the first time when he stopped Luis Alberto Perez for the IBF title at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. in September 2007.

He beat William Gonzalez by majority decision in an initial defense in 2008 and unanimously bested Darchinyan seven months later by scores of 114-113, 114-113 and 116-111 at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

The subsequent loss to Perez dropped him to 27-2 in a 12-year pro career.

"I am really excited for this fight and I am so happy to come back and fight," Agbeko said. "I was a champion for some time and now I am going into the ring not as the champion and I think it is less pressure for me. I feel that this is a tournament where I can prove that I am the best.

"I believe I will come out of this tournament the winner."

TV Topics (Some fights may not be televised)

SATURDAY

FOX Espanol - Torreon, Mexico

Juan Alberto Rosas (32-5, 26 KO) vs. Cristian Mijares (40-6-2, 18 KO) - IBF junior bantamweight title

Fernando Montiel (43-2-2, 33 KO) vs. Jovanny Soto (29-11-1, 24 KO)

HBO - Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas, Nev.

Amir Khan (23-1, 17 KO) vs. Marcos Maidana (29-1, 27 KO) - WBA super lightweight title

Victor Ortiz (28-2-1, 22 KO) vs. Lamont Peterson (28-1, 14 KO)

Joan Guzman (30-0-1, 17 KO) vs. Jason Davis (11-7-1, 3 KO)

Showtime - Emerald Queen Casino, Tacoma, Wash.

Yonnhy Perez (20-0-1, 14 KO) vs. Joseph Agbeko (27-2, 22 KO) - IBF bantamweight title

Vic Darchinyan (35-2-1, 27 KO) vs. Abner Mares (20-0-1, 13 KO) - IBO bantamweight title

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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