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Darchinyan turned heads: Tom Casino/Showtime
Darchinyan turned heads: Tom Casino/Showtime

By John Lumpkin: First, Hopkins upsets Pavlik and then Darchinyan trumps Mijares. It was a surprising turn of events for most writers in the sport. The question is how is it that so many people who know the game so well were so wrong? It is not that being wrong is a bad thing, because if the experts were always right, what would be the point? What is interesting is that by in large, we weren’t even close.

There is an old boxing axiom that states a fighter is only as good as his last fight. Maybe we are taking this a bit too seriously these days. Most of us reasoned Hopkins would lose to Pavlik based on his obvious lack of energy against Calzaghe. It was not entirely unreasonable to think 43 might just be a little over the hill and most would agree that Hopkins put on one of the best shows ever witnessed from an over forty fighter.

What about Darchinyan – Mijares? Some of us might have gotten a glimpse of the things to come when Showtime showed a split screen view of the two fighters firing rapid shots against the shadow in front of them. It is immediately obvious that Darchinyan was the much faster fighter. Speed will not win a fight on its own, but no one (except the fighter himself) expected that Darchinyan would be the faster fighter. Had we realized this going in, some of us might have been swayed to favor Vic.

Most of us thought that Mijares had the style to defeat Darchinyan. What we overlooked was pedigree. Had we dug a little deeper, we might have noticed that Darchinyan had over 300 amateur bouts with a 35% KO ratio. 152 of his 320 amateur bouts took place in international contests and he was good enough to reach the quarter finals of the 2000 Olympic Games. The point here is that it is difficult to have this level of experience and success without having a lot of skills. Darchinyan had a lot more depth that we gave him credit for.

By contrast, Mijares did not have an amateur background of note. He began his professional career in his teen years and learned his craft by fighting professionals. The early years of his career were not especially promising as he lost 3 fights in his first 21 with no fighter having more than 3 wins. This does mean that we should now look differently at the brilliant performances that Mijares gave over the last several fights that made us take note. Mijares is still a good fighter and would still be rightly favored to beat most of the current contenders in his division.

What we should have caught was the potential Darchinyan had. Maybe this is unfair because Darchinyan himself had limited his game to that of a puncher, but there were signs in his previous fights that more was possible. And truthfully, the Mijares fight was the first time most of saw Vic show us a broad array of skills. We forgot that Thomas Hearns, the consummate puncher, nearly beat Sugar Ray Leonard in their first encounter by out boxing him.

Next up is Calzaghe vs. Jones Jr. Most of the experts will pick Calzaghe and this time, we might be right. The difference here is that not only are we likely to be more familiar with these fighters complete history, we know what the trend in their respective careers have been in recent years. It has been five long years since Jones Jr. has looked good in a fight and during that time, Joe Calzaghe has had some of the best performances of his life.

A victory for Jones Jr. will be difficult. Calzaghe certainly would not have been an easy assignment for Jones Jr. when Jones Jr. was considered great. At this advanced stage in Jones Jr’s career, he is facing a monumental hurdle. He was always about timing and precision based on his superior reflexes and quick fists. In Calzaghe, he faces a fighter who may be the fastest fighter he has ever faced demanding that his reflexive timing by that much better at a time in which they are likely to have declined. The task is made that much more difficult by the fact that Calzaghe will likely fire many more shots and can effectively use his feet to change positions for better angles more effectively than Jones Jr. has demonstrated in recent years. The net effect is that Jones Jr. will likely be hit and hit often further disrupting his timing.

There is a case to be made for a Jones Jr victory. Calzaghe is accustomed to having a speed advantage and Jones Jr. probably still has faster hands. As we discovered in the Hopkins fight, Calzaghe is susceptible to those sneaky quick punches that Jones Jr relies on and Jones Jr. has demonstrated substantially more power than Hopkins. If Jones Jr can secure Calzaghe’s respect early in the fight, it is possible the fight could be fought at a tempo preferable to Jones Jr giving the opportunity he needs to secure a close decision.

Maybe Jones Jr. can do the unexpected and turn back the clock just enough to beat Calzaghe. It is not that we care who wins, but rather how fascinating the story is and how entertaining the fight was. The recent set of upsets is actually good for boxing as it drives interest in the sport and creates interest. We are now curious to see what all four fighters in the recent set of contests will do next. Had the favorites claimed victory, especially in the way we thought they would, we might have only cared about two. Sometimes it is nice to be wrong.

November 5, 2008

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