Shocks in boxing can be strange things when we look back on them. Today we look at a bout that, at the time, was a monstrous upset but now, more than a decade on, the newer fans to the sport may not even realise this bout was an upset. In fact many new fans will look back on this and think it little more than a coming out performance, when the reality is that it was a massive upset that helped put a previously rather unknown fighter on the map. Big time. This bout, from 2007, was a huge upset, but on reflection that can be easily forgotten.
July 7th 2007
Harbour Yard Arena, Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Nonito Donaire (17-1, 10) Vs Vic Darchinyan (28-0, 22)
In one corner was the "Raging Bull" Vic Darchinyan, an unbeaten Australian based Armenian fighter who had been ripping up the Flyweight division. The Darchinyan wasn't just 28-0 but had been destroying his competition. He had claimed the IBF title in 2004, when he stopped the then 30-0 Irene Pacheco and had made 6 defenses of the title. From those 6 defenses 5 were by stoppage with the one decision being a technical decision over Donaire's brother Glenn Donaire. The 31 year old was aggressive, strong, tough and in great form with some even ranking him in the pound for pound rankings.
Not only was Darchinyan destructive but he was lout, brash, arrogant and getting the Flyweight division a lot of attention outside of the usual markets for the little men, Asia and Latin America.
Whilst Darchinyan was seen as a star of the lower weights not too much was known about the 24 year old Nonito Donaire. He had mostly been fighting as a Super Flyweight but dropped the extra 3lbs to face off with Darchinyan and had lost once, early in his career. Although Donaire was a Filipino he had fought most of his career in the US, but had done so against some relatively weak opposition. In his first 18 bouts the most noteworthy opponent he had faced was probably Ilido Julio, a one time fringe contender, or Kaichon Sor Vorapin, who had fought for a world title in 2005. Neither of whom were particularly notable.
Donaire was seen as the next victim for Darchinyan. The next man for him to chew up and spit out as he continued to steamroll his way into the bigger money fights. Despite that being the view going in no one had managed to convince Donaire that he was there to lose.
From the opening round it was clear Donaire was full of confidence, starting fairly fast and letting his shots go early. It was an unexpected tactic from Donaire, but one that seemed to make a statement of intent. Darchinyan might be the man with the reputation as the danger man but Donaire was going to try to bully the bully. Dachinyan had moments in the first round, but it was a much better round for Donaire than the unbeaten champion.
Despite the good opening round from Donaire we saw Darchinyan start to work his way into the bout. Donaire continued to punish Darchinyan in the second round, though it was a competitive bout as Darchinyan started to find something of a groove. Round 3 however was a very comfortable one from Donaire who was landing big counters when Darchinyan rushed in and controlled the tempo at range without taking the risks he had in the early rounds. The most notable thing about round 3 however was that we saw Darchinyan rocked, hard, by a left hook.
Sporting a cut from round 3 Darchinyan was in a hole as we entered round 4, and unfortunately for the champion he was being timed and countered over and over. Worryingly for Darchinyan his much relied upon left hand was landing but having no effect at all on Donaire, who was taking things with no issue at all.
Darchinyan continued to struggle in round 5, being picked off by some very solid shots. Despite them landing clean Darchinyan was taking them well. And then he didn't.
Midway through round 5 Darchinyan rushed in and was caught by an absolute beauty of a left hook. He hit the canvas hard but managed to get back to his feet just as the referee counted 7, stumbling head first into the ropes as he did so. Moments later Darchinyan was flat back on his back. Although he had got to his feet he hadn't been able to remain on them. Soon afterwards he had his team around him whilst Donaire and his team celebrated.
Amazing since this bout both men have done great things. Donaire is still a relevant fighter today, reaching the WBSS Bantamweight more than 12 years after this win. By the time he had that WBSS final had won world titles up to Featherweight and almost certainly booked a place in the Hall of Fame.
As for Darchinyan he went on to unify the 3 major titles at Super Flyweight, and was a notable contender at Bantamweight. His last fight came in 2017, when he was 41 and although perhaps not a popular choice, he certainly deserves to find his name on the ballot, in the future, for the Hall of Fame.
Thinking Out East
With this site being pretty successful so far we've decided to open up about our own views and start what could be considered effectively an editorial style opinion column dubbed "Thinking Out East" (T.O.E).