Random Thoughts from the Nokia Theater
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (April 25, 2011) Doghouse Boxing) Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME
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Vic Darchinyan
The beginning of last week started with great anticipation as the boxing world looked forward to the finals of the Showtime bantamweight tournament between IBF titlist Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko and Abner Mares at the Nokia Theater at LA Live. Instead, due to a back injury suffered by Agbeko as he landed at LAX, we only got to see the consolation fight between Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez, which ended up being really a one-sided drubbing. Hey, a night at the fights is still a night at the fights. However, this was a buzzkill.

 Here are some thoughts that came to me as I witnessed the action on Saturday night...

- Say what you will about Darchinyan but for all the excuse making and inability or downright refusal to give opponents their just due credit, I do appreciate this salty little character. The thing is, it's this stubbornness that allows him to have the hubris to take on all comers and consistently face the best fighters around him. Just look at his résumé; win, lose or draw, there aren't a lot of missing names on it. In an era when too many fighters act more like managers and milk networks deals, here's a guy who has consistently participated in fights that fans look forward to. Yeah, I know most of you may not give him any chance in a rematch against Nonito Donaire, who handed him his first loss in 2007, but tell me you don't want to see it anyway.

Or a rematch with Mares?

You either hate the “Raging Bull” or love him; there's no in-between with this guy. But as a fan of boxing, we should all appreciate him.

- As for Perez, who lost to Darchinyan via technical decision after a clash of heads left a nasty gash on his forehead in the fifth frame, the consensus around ringside and those around him is that he's a badly faded fighter, whose recent run of tough, hard 12-round contests with the likes of Silence Mabuza, Agbeko (twice), and Mares have really put a lot of miles on the odometer. 32 is considered a very advanced age for fighters in the smaller weight classes and from the very onset against the hard-charging Darchinyan, Perez was unsteady on his pins, had dulled reflexes and simply couldn't pull the trigger.

 All he had left were his heart and chin. Everything else, it seems, has left him. To their credit, everyone involved in his career wants him to call it a day and never box again but you know how that goes in this business.

- Gary Shaw, who represents Darchinyan, made it very clear that he will petition the IBF to let Darchinyan fight for the interim title and try and get him the rematch with Mares. Can't say I disagree with that tact. Bottom line is this, while we should certainly feel some empathy for what Agbeko is going through, the reality is that his ailment shouldn't afflict or affect other able-bodied fighters. This may seem harsh but the game and business of boxing will move on with or without Agbeko. As for the “interim” tag, I know some folks will no doubt be up in arms over it but this is precisely why this type of thing was created. That if a champion is unable to perform his duties, other fighters would have a chance to advance their careers. When the champion returns, whoever has that “interim” belt faces off against him. Yeah, this whole process has been bastardized in the past but when done correctly for the right intentions, it is effective.

 - I was told that as Agbeko was ruled out of this past weekend’s bout, that after attempts by Golden Boy Promotions to match Mares with Tomoko Kameda, a last-ditch effort was made to bring in Chris Avalos. The fight would've been easy to make as Avalos is under the GSP banner and he had made it clear he was willing to accept that assignment on short notice. I was told that Golden Boy and Mares' management balked at it, believing that the emotional letdown of fighting for their first world title, then being in limbo, and then having to re-focus on a late replacement was something they were not amenable to. Personally, I would've rolled the dice. You don't get paid for training and I think Mares is that much better than Avalos under any circumstance. Then again, that's easy for me to say; I have no real vested interest in it.

My point isn't to second guess but what I'm saying is that in this current climate when fighters are at that stage when all their bouts are on either Showtime or HBO, when your turns comes up and you can't make it (regardless of whomever’s at fault), you basically have to wait another four-to-six months for your number to get called again. That means if you have one of your fights postponed in a given calendar year, you're basically losing about half your opportunities to make money inside that ring and make ends meet. 

Vic Darchinyan
- Speaking of that, now I'm not the “Czar” Ken Hershman but as it stands, the earliest available date to go through the with the finals looks to be August. In charting the last five years of Showtime's summer broadcast schedule (always helps to have old “Peanuts” and Miami Hurricane Football calendars around the office), they have always telecast on the second week of July (this year, it’s the July 9th fight between Brandon Rios and Urbano Antillon). For the last four out of five years, the network has had a card on the first week of August.  

Now, if I'm Showtime, I’d make it clear we want to go ahead with the Agbeko-Mares fight for the integrity of this tournament. However, if Agbeko can't get medical clearance in due time, I try and make the return bout between Darchinyan and Mares, with an agreement that the winner faces Agbeko down the line. Again, the sciatica of Agbeko shouldn't paralyze the rest of the division or the network.

- Speaking of which, just looking at what was still a pretty sizable crowd at the Nokia Theater (where a large contingent of Armenians showed up for their fighters on this card), I think the second chapter of Mares-Darchinyan would draw a pretty big crowd in Southern California. I would guess there were about 3,000 patrons at the fights, which I think is pretty good, considering that the main event featuring a local Mexican-American boxer was scrapped. Now, if you add on the controversy of their first encounter, I think a rematch does very well out here.

Honestly, I hope it takes place at a venue like the Home Depot Center in Carson (which I think is the perfect joint for it). Nothing against the Nokia Theater, which is about a hop, skip and a jump from where I reside, but I've been told by more than one fan who has bought a ticket to that venue that the sight lines aren't the best in that facility, unless you are seated on the stage area.

- And as a scribe/boxing fan who is a life-long resident of the “City of Angels,” this is a great time to be involved in the sport. In addition to the show this past weekend, we had the Saul Alvarez fight at the Honda Center in March; you have May 14th at the Home Depot Center for the semi-finals of the “Super Six.” The Staples Center hosts the bout between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sebastian Zbik on June 4th and the aforementioned Rios-Antillon card on July 9th takes place at the Home Depot Center. And Golden Boy has already stated its intentions to come back to the home of the Lakers on September 17th for its traditional Mexican Independence Day weekend pay-per-view card.

Add in the busiest club-show circuit in the country (the numbers don't lie), there is no doubt that Los Angeles/Southern California is the capital of boxing in the United States.

- As it relates to my last point, I've said it before and I've said it again; every boxing fan around this area should be very thankful for the presence of AEG, which owns and operates the Staples Center, the Home Depot Center and the LA Live facility, along with various other properties around the globe. While most big corporate entities have long ago ditched boxing, with their partnership with Golden Boy Promotions, AEG has made boxing an integral part of its business plan. Their COO/CFO, Dan Beckerman, has been a big proponent of boxing and helped push this agenda along. Every fan that enjoys going to major cards that take place in our region should shake his hand.

Till boxing stops its overreliance on the casinos and becomes more of a factor in other major metropolitan cities, boxing will be relegated to being nothing more than a niche sport.

VICIOUS

Everybody loves a winner. Newly-crowned WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz can tell you that. Before his bout with Andre Berto, he was still that guy who quit against Marcos Maidana and would fold under any duress. Now, he's that guy who gritted his teeth and out-toughed Berto and he's back to being the flavor of the month. He was a popular figure at the fights at the Nokia Theater. The lesson here is that as long as you win, the bandwagon will always be full. Regardless, Ortiz was soaking in the attention from the multitude of fans and media that congratulated him throughout the evening.

As for his immediate future inside the ring, I was told by his adviser, Rolando Arrellano, that it's very likely that Ortiz will return on that pay-per-view card on September 17th at the Staples Center. They believe that it’s the biggest stage he can return to and the ideal platform in which to maximize his marketability locally. I get the sense that the Berto rematch will be consummated further down the line and maybe this is the perfect spot to take care of Ortiz’s mandatory against Selcuk Aydin.

REPEAT OR REDEMPTION

There is a very strong likelihood that a rematch between Nobu Ishida and James Kirkland could land on Golden Boy's pay-per-view card on July 30th. It's funny; when they originally met, this was thought of as a mismatch (admittedly, by the likes of me) and now, it's basically a referendum on Kirkland's career moving forward. 

 Gain revenge in emphatic fashion and what happened on the night of April 9th will be simply an aberration. Lose again to this Japanese middleweight and, well, he's fully exposed as a big punching bully who couldn't catch nearly as well as he pitched.

FINAL FLURRIES

Still no word on who Paul Williams will face on July 9th on HBO and I’m hearing that Camp Williams has turned down several live bodies, for one reason or another. Again, why is HBO so insistent on having him back? Word is that Rico Ramos will challenge WBA 122-pound titlist Akifumi Shimoda as the opener that night...IBF lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez will return to the ring on June 11th in Mexico on a fight card that will be televised on Fox Deportes...Cruiserweight Lateef Kayode tangles with Matt Godfrey on June 10th...Did I actually read that “Smokin’” Bert Cooper just fought again? Say it ain't so...Top Rank prospect Roberto Marroquin lost a tough, hard-fought bout with Frankie Leal on Saturday night. Marroquin's progress seems to have stagnated for about a year. Top Rank was concerned enough coming into this fight that their whole matchmaking crew went to Thackerville, OK, to watch this fight in person. Just looking at Marroquin, he looks like a fighter who works the pads too much, with little else. He throws fast, flashy, repetitive combinations but doesn't punch through his target and doesn't punch with all that much leverage and torque...I really enjoyed the first installment of “Three for the Show” on ESPN, which follows Jake Locker, Cam Newton and Tyrod Taylor (who I believe is a sleeper pick and can be a good value pick) on their way to the NFL Draft. The more I see of Newton, the more suspicious and concerned I am about him. Will this guy be a leader of a team and can he be trusted?...I think the idea of expanding the MLB playoffs is a horrible idea...I'm going to give “Game of Thrones” on HBO a shot...Speaking of HBO, “Real Sports” is as top-notch as ever. Did you see the most recent edition? I'm not sure what was more disturbing: the segment on the broken-down former NFL players or the one on the infant cheerleading...Is it just me or are we headed for a Boston-Miami collision course in the Eastern Conference of the NBA playoffs?... .|

Our own East Coast correspondent Alec Kohut has a brand-new weekly online broadcast that airs every Tuesday night at 9:00 PM EST. You can find it by logging on to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/search/aleckohut/
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I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.Twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.

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