On March 10, 1986, Showtime broadcast its first boxing bout, a middleweight barnburner between champion Marvin Hagler and challenger John Mugabi. Over the next 20 years they have broadcast hundreds more bouts, including many featuring Mike Tyson after his release from prison in 1995.
While there has been no shortage of ebbs and flows over the past two decades, the network has really come into its own in the past year. Among the sensational bouts shown during that time were Diego Corrales- Jose Luis Castillo I, Ricky Hatton-Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah-Cory Spinks II, and Jean-Marc Mormeck’s bouts against Wayne Braithwaite and O’Neil Bell.
This past weekend, the network outdid itself. On Friday night, March 3, the main event on ShoBox: The Next Generation was a scorcher between IBF flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan, a native of Armenia who lives and fights out of Australia, against top contender Diosdado Gabi of the Philippines.
In a battle of southpaws, Darchinyan came from behind to score a sensational eighth round, one-punch knockout over Gabi. As exciting as that fight was, it was only a precursor of what was to come the following night from the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England.
In an even more exciting battle, longtime WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe of Wales shocked the world—and especially IBF titlist Jeff Lacy and Lacy’s promoter Gary Shaw—by completely dominating the heavily favored Lacy over 12 brutally one-sided rounds.
“Looking at all those fights collectively suggests that Showtime is America’s number one boxing network,” said ShoBox commentator Steve Farhood, who along with Nick Charles called the Darchinyan-Gabi action from the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, California.
“The double punch of ShoBox and Showtime Championship Boxing is always exciting, but in this case it was extra special,” added Farhood. “Being able to introduce an exciting fighter like Darchinyan to American audiences, coupled with Calzaghe-Lacy, which was the most eagerly anticipated fight of the year, made for a great weekend.”
Fighting outside of his adopted homeland of Australia for only the second time in his career, the heavy-handed 30-year-old Darchinyan, whose nickname is the “Raging Bull,” showed a lot of mettle against his slick-boxing opponent.
He improved his unblemished record to 25-0 (20 KOs), while Gabi’s ledger slipped to 26-3-1 (18 KOs). Darchinyan, who is trained by former two-division champion Jeff Fenech, not only raised his profile in the United States—and beyond—he showed that there is no place for his career to go but up.
As much as Farhood likes Darchinyan as a fan, he knows that it is his responsibility as a commentator to objectively report on the champion’s strengths and weaknesses.
“Vic is a thrilling fighter to watch, but in terms of classic boxing skills he’s found wanting,” said Farhood. “It is clear that he relies too much on his power. As a direct result of that, he hasn’t developed many pure boxing skills.”
Farhood doesn’t think it would take much to teach Darchinyan some boxing basics. With all of his other qualities, he believes a little would go a long way. He also believes that Fenech is perfectly suited for the little powerhouse.
“Jeff is the perfect trainer for Vic,” said Farhood. “He was awesome as a fighter. In my 29 years in boxing, he was the best fighter I’ve ever seen at cutting off the ring.”
Moreover, says Farhood, there are other invaluable lessons that Fenech can impart on Darchinyan. Although based in Australia, Fenech fought many times in the United States, where he developed a rabid fan base.
“It is not easy for a fighter to come to California from Australia,” said Farhood. “There is a lot of preparation involved that goes beyond actual boxing. You have to adjust your diet, your training, and your sleep patterns. Jeff should be able to help him with all of that.”
According to Charles, the jury is still out on Darchinyan but he believes that his immediate future is bright.
“Vic is a fabulous hitter. Also, Gary Shaw has signed him and Gary has a good relationship with Showtime. If you put Vic in a fight against [interim WBC flyweight champion] Jorge Arce, that would be a great main event on Showtime Championship Boxing or as the co-feature on a major pay-per-view show.”
What impressed Charles the most about Darchinyan is the fact that he didn’t allow Gabi’s elusiveness and slickness to deter his quest for the knockout that eventually came in dramatic fashion.
“Gabi was the prototypical slick boxer,” explained Charles. “Because he was so speedy and elusive, he was hard to hit flush. But once Vic figured him out, he lined him up and knocked him out.”
Farhood was impressed with Darchinyan’s ruggedness, which was on display the day before he even stepped into the ring.
“During the fighters’ meeting, I told Vic that the featherweight division was very strong,” said Farhood. “He seemed insulted that I would consider anyone else in his league. He said, ‘Who is there?’ I love that kind of cockiness and confidence.”
Given the sensational ending, Farhood was asked if he believed that Darchinyan put forth a virtuoso performance. “No,” he said. “But it was a virtuoso ending. And sometimes that’s all that counts.”
Right now potential lucrative battles loom with WBA champion Lorenzo Parra of Venezuela or the increasingly popular Arce, who is scheduled to defend his belt against fellow Mexican Rosendo Alvarez on the pay-per-view undercard of Floyd Mayweather-Zab Judah in Las Vegas on April 8.
If Darchinyan has his druthers, he’ll be squaring off with Arce in the not too distant future.
“Let’s make that fight, said Darchinyan, who accused Arce of regularly fighting junior flyweights instead of full-blown flyweights. “Let’s see who’s best at 112 pounds.”
Farhood believes that Darchinyan’s impressive performance against Gabi, as well as his exciting 11th round stoppage of Irene Pacheco to win the title in December 2004, might have opened the doors, not only for the victor, but also for many other little giants who are currently toiling in relative anonymity.
Still, he believes that Shaw and Darchinyan, who advanced to the quarter finals while representing his native country in the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, would be remiss to put the cart before the horse.
“There are five guys out there who claim to be world champions, so he has a long way to go to distinguish himself as the best in the division,” explained Farhood. “[But] I was thrilled to have such an exciting fighter on the show. I’ll take a fighter like him any time.”
Charles seconded that notion. “I’m glad that our viewers can now put a face to a name,” he said. “It is a pleasure for me as a broadcaster to introduce such an exciting prospect. Someday I hope to be able to say that I knew him back when.”