Former junior featherweight kingpin Nonito Donaire will return to the ring this fall to reacquaint himself with a familiar foe.
Top Rank Boxing chairman Bob Arum revealed on Friday that Bay Area native Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs) will square off against hard-punching Armenian – and three-division champion – Vic Darchinyan in a 10-round rematch at featherweight on Nov. 9 as part of an HBO-televised tripleheader.
If finalized, the main event will likely feature former WBO featherweight champion Miguel Angel “Mikey” Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs) moving up in weight to challenge reigning WBO junior lightweight title holder Roman “Rocky” Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs).
In the opening bout, Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KOs) will face Demetrius Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs) for the vacant WBO junior middleweight championship.
Though the venue has yet to be confirmed, Arum said the fight would most likely be held at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Frank Espinoza, Darchinyan’s manager, said the 37-year-old southpaw has wanted this fight for quite some time and will have to prepare himself well now that he has received such an opportunity for redemption:
“He’s at the point in his career (where) he doesn’t want to wait any longer. He wants redemption, and by beating Donaire, the doors will open for him again.”
The bout will mark the first for both men at 126 lbs. Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs) signed on for the bout after agreeing to fight at 126 – only after Donaire declined his request for a catch weight bout at 124.
Espinoza said that despite being the smaller guy, Darchinyan is up for the challenge:
“This is the first time at 126 for both of them, but Donaire is coming off a loss and the surgery and my guy is coming off two wins.”
Cameron Dunkin, Donaire’s manager, said that despite Darchinyan’s awkward fighting style, he’s still a dangerous fighter who’s fueled by revenge:
“You never take a guy like this lightly. Anything can happen in this business.”
The rematch for Darchinyan has been six years in the making. When he first stepped into the ring against Donaire on July 7, 2007, Darchinyan, nicknamed “Raging Bull,” was just that – relentlessly manhandling and knocking out his opponents.
He even punished Donaire’s older brother Glenn – and broke his jaw in the process – nine months earlier en route to a sixth-round technical decision.
Donaire, meanwhile, entered the bout as a relative unknown despite having a record of 17-1 with 10 knockouts. But he changed everything that night with a single punch – knocking Darchinyan out with a flush counter left hook in the fifth round to win the IBF and IBO flyweight championships.
The win earned Donaire knockout of the year and upset of the year honors from Ring Magazine and from that moment on, a new star was born in boxing.
Donaire — who was born in the Philippines and has lived in San Leandro — went on to win titles at super flyweight and bantamweight before he embarked on his 2012 fighter of the year campaign at junior featherweight, where he won the WBO, IBF and Ring Magazine titles.
Donaire’s wave of momentum ultimately came to a screeching halt in April, when he was unexpectedly dominated by Cuban sharpshooter and fellow 122 lb. titleholder Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Donaire admitted afterwards he didn’t take the bout seriously enough and wasn’t in top shape.
Arum said that Donaire’s performance was the worst he had ever seen. What makes the rematch intriguing is which version of Donaire will ultimately show up come fight night:
“ … when something like that happens you don’t know for sure if a fighter can snap out of that so that remains to be seen … I don’t know whether we’ll see the Donaire we were used to seeing before the Rigondeaux fight or another version of the Donaire who fought Rigondeaux.”
Darchinyan’s career, meanwhile, has been somewhat of a roller coaster ride following the loss to Donaire.
He knocked out world champions Dmitry Kirilov and Cristian Mijares to become the first fighter to unify the IBF, WBC, and WBA 115 lb. world titles in 2008, but came up short in recent bantamweight title bouts against Joseph Agbeko, Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno.
After losing a unanimous decision to WBC bantamweight champion Shinsuke Yamanaka last April, Darchinyan rebounded with two straight wins: a dominant decision win over then-undefeated prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle that September and a fourth-round TKO of Javier Gallo earlier this May.
The rematch with Donaire will be Darchinyan’s second since signing with Top Rank, which also promotes Donaire.
Dunkin said that Donaire, who had separate surgeries to repair tendon tears in his shoulders following the Rigondeaux bout, has been eager to step back inside the ring and will take his training more seriously in anticipation of the Darchinyan rematch:
“He said, ‘Look, I’m 30 years old and I want to finish strong.’ He knows Darchinyan will be really fired up for this fight, so Nonito will really prepare for this one.”