Last Saturday night featured two top young fighters taking on experienced veterans of the sport. Both scored knockouts, albeit under different circumstances with one struggling before his victory and the other dominating the bout.
The first bout was between Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire (32-2 21KO) and Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan (39-6-1 28KO) in a rematch of their first fight nearly six years ago and four weight classes below when Donaire spectacularly knocked out Darchinyan with one left hook in the fifth round.
This fight was extremely important for both fighters. Donaire needed a big win after his first loss to current super bantamweight (122 pounds) champion Guillermo Rigondeaux and Darchinyan had wanted this rematch for years so that he could avenge the only knockout loss of his career and to get back to the elite level. Darchinyan had been 3-2 in last five fights prior to this one so he was looking to get his career back on track. Essentially, both guys wanted to win impressively.
This time they fought in the featherweight (126 pounds) division and Darchinyan started his attack more cautiously than in the first fight. The first three rounds were fought on even terms as the pattern of the fight was the two being cautious while occasionally exploding with powerful exchanges. The left hand was the key weapon for both fighters.
Darchinyan began to take over the middle rounds as his carefully timed left hands continued to bother Donaire and made him tentative. Darchinyan visibly hurt Donaire with an overhand left at the end of the fifth round. Darchinyan continued to apply pressure and Donaire seemed to be waiting for the perfect punch to take out Darchinyan instead of putting in work and throwing combinations. This cost him much of the middle rounds.
By the end of the eighth round, it was clear that Donaire needed a knockout or a few knockdowns to win. Donaire’s corner implored him to throw more punches and told him he was losing the fight. This seemed to ignite something within Donaire because he came out at the beginning of the ninth round with more poise and began to throw combinations again instead of looking for one killer shot.
The combination punching won it for Donaire because he set up his deadly left hook with his right by first firing a straight right cross and then threw the left hook which hurt Darchinyan badly. Donaire followed up and knocked Darchinyan down. The Romanian tried to fight back but Donaire was able to pin him to the ropes and began unloading uppercuts and overhand lefts. The referee stopped the fight after this and Donaire earned a 9th round TKO over his rival.
For Donaire, he wants to fight Rigondeaux in a rematch but the fact is that the Donaire that fought Darchinyan on Saturday would get picked apart by a slick counter-puncher like Rigondeaux.
Darchinyan is in a complicated situation because he looked and did well for most of the fight. Only time will tell if those eight rounds were the last quality rounds of the 37 year-olds’ career. Even at his best, powerful counter-puchers like Donaire and clever boxers like Anselmo Moreno always gave Darchinyan problems so his decline can only leave him more vulnerable.
In the main event, Mikey Garcia (33-0 28KO) fought for the first time in the 130 pound division against former WBO titlist Roman “Rocky” Martinez (27-2-2 16KO) and redeemed himself with an impressive performance that earned him Martinez’ belt.
Martinez had some early success as he was able to knock down Garcia in the second round with a perfectly timed straight right hand but Garcia kept himself composed and gradually took over the fight with his jab and right hand.
The early success that Martinez built up was systematically picked apart by Garcia and Martinez could not find an answer for the cerebral style of Garcia. Martinez became a punching bag for Garcia as he absorbed right hand after right hand and struggled to stay competitive with the young star.
Garcia ended matters in the eighth round when he landed a left hook to the body of Martinez that took the energy out of him. Martinez could not rise after that debilitating punch and Garcia was awarded the WBO title. More importantly, he has set himself up as one of the best fighters in the 130 pound division and his future looks bright.
Martinez should not be ashamed by this loss nor his fans. Some tune-up fights as well as a possible move up in weight to regain his stature as a fighter.