On Saturday night in Corpus Christi, Texas, four-division world champion Nonito Donaire makes his long-awaited return to action after losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux by unanimous decision last April. His opponent will be the always ready Vic Darchinyan.
Donaire's Round 5, one-punch stoppage of Darchinyan in July 2007 is among the most famous knockouts of the past decade. It's a rematch that has been over six years in the making in large part because Donaire's manner of winning left no doubt in anybody's mind as to what would happen if they ever met again.
But with Donaire coming off the loss to Rigondeaux, Darchinyan is now, no doubt, viewed as the perfect come-forward fighter to make Donaire look impressive in his comeback fight.
The first fight was contested for Darchinyan's IBF flyweight title. This meeting will take place four divisions higher, with both men making their debuts at featherweight.
|Per Boxrec:||Nonitio Donaire||Vic Darchinyan|
|Record:||31-2, 20 KOs||39-5-1, 28 KOs|
|Weight:||126 pounds||126 pounds|
|Hometown:||San Leandro, California||Glendale, California|
Boxrec has Donaire listed at the same height as Darchinyan, but I have always seen Donaire listed at 5'6" for his televised fights, and he certainly looked to be at least a half-inch taller than Darchinyan when they fought in 2007. Donaire has longer reach and is a naturally larger man.
Since his childhood, Donaire has lived in California, but he was born in the Philippines. Darchinyan is a native of Armenia who has lived in Australia.
Vic Darchinyan was among the greatest fighters in the past decade below bantamweight. He was the undefeated IBF flyweight champion for over two-and-a-half years prior to getting stopped by Nonito Donaire in July 2007, and he rebounded from that first loss by moving up to 115 pounds and unifying the IBF, WBC and WBA titles there.
But Darchinyan has had more limited success in recent years fighting at 118 and above. He's lost four decisions since 2009.
Donaire has, meanwhile, remained more or less dominant while moving up through the weight classes. He was a world champion and never beaten at 118 pounds and had collected several belts at 122 before losing to Guillermo Rigondeaux earlier this year.
Top Rank and HBO had been building Donaire into a major boxing attraction up until his setback against Rigondeaux. "The Filipino Flash" remains among the sport's most exciting performers, and Darchinyan should, once again, prove an entertaining victim for rebuilding Donaire's reputation as a knockout machine.
Nonito Donaire is still viewed by many boxing people to be among the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport. He has quick hands and explosive punching power for a smaller fight.
He is very comfortable absorbing pressure from an aggressive opponent and then countering back with murderous intent. Offensively, he is a bit like a slick NBA point guard, recognizing openings for attack even as they are materializing and then pouncing through them.
Vic Darchinyan is as tough a pound-for-pound fighter as there has been in the sport over the past decade. He attacks with ferocity and is deceptively cunning with his unorthodox southpaw style.
Darchinyan is an experienced, world-class fighter who is very comfortable in a heated exchange. His relentlessness can take a mental and physical toll on an opponent.
Nonito Donaire lost his last fight to Guillermo Rigondeaux, but it would be inaccurate to say that Rigo really exposed any weaknesses in Donaire's game. Boxing fans learned that Donaire has some trouble getting his punches off against a defensive wizard who excels at controlling distance.
Any weaknesses Donaire might have are unlikely to be exploited by a come-forward fighter like Darchinyan.
Vic Darchinyan applies pressure and makes it tough for an opponent to breathe, but his aggression plays right into the hands of a fighter like Donaire who has the ability to counterpunch with explosive violence.
Darchinyan was a beast fighting at 112 and 115 but has not been anything like that kind of force at 118 and 122. Donaire was the naturally bigger man at 112 and will still be the bigger man at featherweight.
Darchinyan's style is predicated on being the bully, and it's tough to be the bully when you are the smaller guy.
Nonito Donaire put Vic Darchinyan away with a single punch in 2007, but that doesn't mean he should go out hunting for a repeat performance in 2013. This should be a relatively easy fight for Donaire to win, but he has to avoid hanging back and looking for the home run, while Darchinyan hustles and steals rounds.
Donaire should take advantage of his reach to establish the jab and slow down Darchinyan's pressure. Donaire should use the jab as a range finder and setup for his right uppercut or overhand.
Donaire should look for opportunities to score with solid, two- and three-punch combinations as well as single, lightening bolt shots. He should be able to land on Darchinyan with enough consistency to beat him up badly over the course of the fight.
Vic Darchinyan might win this fight if Nonito Donaire decided not to train at all for it and shows up way out of shape. But it seems very unlikely to me that Donaire would behave in such an unprofessional manner, so I don't think Darchinyan has much chance.
I don't think Darchinyan is likely to walk into the same kind of punch he got caught with in 2007. But I do think he's going to give Donaire an awful lot of opportunities to pound away at him.
To have any shot at all, Darchinyan has to take away Donaire's space to throw punches and prevent him from getting off first with his own punches. Darchinyan will have to get in Donaire's face, even though getting in his face was disastrous last time.
Darchinyan has to make this an ugly, clinch-heavy mauling.
This rematch between Nonito Donaire and Vic Darchinyan reminds me a little bit of Donaire's December 2012 fight against Jorge Arce. Arce was a named opponent who could be counted on for an entertaining fight with Donaire even though he offered very little credible risk.
Darchiyan will come forward aggressively against Donaire, and Donaire will look very sharp as he beats him up. Donaire will slow Darchinyan with jabs and wallop him with uppercuts and overhands.
This time, I think Darchinyan will avoid the kind of one-punch atom bomb he walked into last time. But I also think he will absorb a steady beating throughout the fight.
I'm predicting Donaire to win by Round 9 TKO.