In a meeting of two of boxing's elite little men, only one stood tall at the end of the evening.
Vic Darchinyan claimed his second world title by wresting the IBF junior bantamweight title from defending champion Dimitri Kirilov, dropping Kirilov twice before referee Earl Brown counted out the downed champion at 1:05 of the fifth round on Saturday night. It was Kirilov's second title defense, and was televised on Showtime from the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Washington.
Neither fighter had been particularly impressive in their most recent fights. Darchinyan was coming off a twelve-round draw with Z Gorres. Kirilov also had a draw in his previous fight against journeyman Cecilio Santos. Both men had things to prove in their encounter, but it was Darchinyan who made the more convincing statement.
Darchinyan's reputation going in was that of a big puncher who was short on craft. Against Kirilov, the former flyweight king showed more dimensions to his game than he had in the past. Fighting in his usual elbows-out, exaggerated crouch, Darchinyan threw more combinations instead of relying solely on his big left hand.
From the outset, Darchinyan applied effective aggressiveness, out-throwing and outlanding the usually prolific puncher, Kirilov. Trainer Freddie Roach implored Kirilov, (29-4-1, 10 KO), to be busier rather than simply waiting on Darchinyan, the light-hitting champion curiously seemed to be looking for countering opportunities.
That was fine with Darchinyan, (30-1, 24 KO), who continued to throw accurate combinations, landing a barrage of left hands in the third round.
Sporadically, the wild nature of Vic Darchinyan revealed itself, particularly in the fourth. This allowed Kirilov to land a handful of effective counters, but even his cleanest blows did little to deter the relentless challenger.
Thirty seconds into the fifth, Darchinyan backed Kirilov against the ropes and landed a series of quick left hands to deposit the champion on the seat of his pants. Kirilov rose, and looked sufficiently well enough for referee Earl Brown to allow the action to continue. Darchinyan, always a vicious finisher, made clear he intended to end matters, which he did after landing another resounding left hand to Kirilov's jaw. The soon-to-be former champion knelt as he was counted out, apparently realizing it was futile to continue further.
The former champion seemed at a loss after the bout.
“I feel fine. I took the wrong approach. I was trying to hit him with one punch,” Kirilov said through an interpreter.
As for the new champion, the ever-confident Darchinyan expressed an interest in fighting the other top 115-pounders, but also indicated he had revenge on his mind.
“I'd like to fight [Nonito] Donaire (who handed Darchinyan his only loss via fifth-round TKO last year). At the moment, I'll fight anyone. I'm looking for unification. I would love to fight [WBA and WBC junior bantamweight champion] Cristian Mijares,” a victorious Darchinyan said.
As one of the most exciting fighters in the lighter weight divisions, Darchinyan just might get his way.
In a battle of undefeated super middleweights, 2004 Olympian Andre Dirrell defeated relative unknown Mike Paschall by TKO due to a severe cut at 1:32 of the fourth round.
In his last fight, Dirrell had a breakthrough performance in stopping Anthony Hanshaw in five rounds, the same Hanshaw who went the distance with Roy Jones, Jr. less than a year earlier. In that fight, Dirrell showed a hunger and urgency he had rarely displayed earlier in his career.
Dirrell, (16-0, 11 KO), didn't show the fire he had against Hanshaw, but the talent gap between he and Paschall was evident from the opening bell. Dirrell began the fight working behind the jab and switching between right and left-handed stances, which is his trademark. Meanwhile, Paschall, (17-1-1, 4 KO), was content to sit back and wait for openings to throw counters.
The fight remained rather uneventful, with Dirrell controlling the tempo of the bout from range. Paschall's began to have success in the third round, landing a clean straight left to the head of Dirrell.
At the beginning of the fourth round, an invigorated Paschall came out more aggressively, and was surprisingly effective with his lunging, rushing attack. He never appeared to hurt Dirrell, but did enough to disrupt Dirrell's offense.
Things changed suddenly when, out of a clinch, Dirrell landed a huge left hand that deposited Paschall on the canvas, releasing a cascade of blood from a cut in the middle of his forehead. Paschall was quickly back on his feet, but referee Robert Howard had the ringside doctor examine the deep, gushing gash. The doctor advised Howard to call a halt to the action, awarding Dirrell the TKO victory in anticlimactic fashion.
Interestingly, the cut itself may not have been the product of the final left hand by Dirrell, which on replay appeared to land on the side of Paschall's face. The fighters, whose heads came together on several occasions during the bout, clashed heads immediately before the decisive punch landed, perhaps opening the cut which exploded after Dirrell's left hand landed. Had the cut been ruled as a result of a headbutt, the bout would have been ruled a no decision, as four rounds had not been completed.
As it turned out, Dirrell continued onward as one of the top prospects in the game. Following the fight, Dirrell expressed his ambition to shed his status as prospect in order to become a true player in the super middleweight division.
“I want a top ten opponent in my next fight. I believe I'm mature enough now. I'm more developed than I've ever been,” Dirrell said. “I'm just ready to get out there and become a world champion.”
Though he wasn't spectacular, Dirrell showed professionalism in getting the job done against a better than expected opponent.