Hozumi Hasegawa and Vic Darchinyan both look to bounce back from losses in separate bouts this Saturday at the Tokyo International Forum. The two southpaws have more in common than coming off defeat as both have seemed ready to crack the top of the sport several times, only to be knocked down and out, literally, each time they were coming through the big door.
That is not to say each man has not had their share of success. Both have won multiple world titles in several weight classes, but the big time stardom and top-10 pound-for-pound status that each seemed destined to achieve has slipped through their fingertips.
Darchinyan makes his attempt to bounce back from defeat in the co-feature. The "Raging Bull," who has thrilled crowds with his wildly aggressive style and stunning knockout power over the years, has had his share of ups and downs. His bravado and excessive trash talking make him the kind of fighter people watch, whether they cheer for him or cheer for him to lose.
Darchinyan began his career with 28 straight wins, with 22 of those wins coming by way of knockout. The southpaw Darchinyan cared little for defense as he bum-rushed his opponents to land his big looping left hand that more often than not sent them reeling. During that time he gained the IBF flyweight title in 2004 and would make six successful defenses.
Then, Darchinyan took on current P4P star, but at the time little-known, Nonito Donaire. The wild, aggressive style that had been so successful cost Darchinyan as he walked into the powerful Donaire's left hook that put him down and out in Round 5. In the blink of an eye the seemingly invincible Darchinyan was written off.
Following the Donaire loss, Darchinyan moved up to super flyweight and began somewhat re-inventing himself. He won three consecutive fights over lesser opposition where he began to use his boxing skills learned from a successful amateur career to compliment his raging aggressive style and power.
Darchinyan netted the IBF super flyweight title during his streak and then stepped up again taking on Cristian Mijares in a unification bout for the IBF, WBA, and WBC super flyweight belts. In what was supposed to be a highly competitive fight, Darchinyan boxed and slugged his way to stop Mijares in the ninth round. Darchinyan showed what he is capable of when he blends some boxing discipline with his aggression and power.
Next up, Darchinyan put his belts on the line against long time all-action Mexican fighter Jorge Arce. Once again, what was supposed to be a close match on paper was turned into a rout. Arce simply could not handle the "Raging Bull's" skills and power. Despite Arce's tremendous heart, the fight was stopped in the 11th round to spare the Mexican slugger further punishment in a fight that was beyond his reach.
Feeling he had conquered the 115-pound division, Darchinyan stepped up to the loaded bantamweight division for a crack at Joseph Agbeko's IBF bantamweight title. Darchinyan was once again getting recognition as a top fighter, but defeating Agbeko and winning a title in a third weight class would cement him among the elite in the sport. But once again, Darchinyan's propensity for unrelenting aggression got the better of him. Instead of blending his boxing skills into the mix, he rushed Agbeko looking for the one punch knockout all night and was clearly beaten on the cards.
Since then, Darchinyan has been up and down and unable to shake the label of someone who has exciting power, but is not disciplined enough to beat the elite of the sport. He returned to 115 pounds to make two successful defense of his belts, but then went back to bantamweight for the Showtime 118-pound tournament.
Darchinyan fought hard against Abner Mares in the opening round but the younger, bigger, faster, Mares was too much and pulled out the split decision win. In the consolation round Darchinyan was impressive again, when despite being the underdog, he dominated Yonnhy Perez in a fifth-round stoppage.
In his most recent outing, Darchinyan went all the way to 122 to challenge Anselmo Moreno for his WBA super bantamweight belt. Darchinyan, who has not been able to truly carry his power above 115, was outclassed losing a wide unanimous decision.
Now Darchinyan will travel to Japan in an effort to get back into the bantamweight picture and grab another world title. He takes on Shinsuke Yamanaka 15-0-2 (11 KO). Yamanaka is considered a talented prospect who grabbed the WBC belt in his last fight by stopping Christian Esquivel in 11 rounds, but Darchinyan will be his biggest test thus far. Darchinyan has long believed he can be a multi-division champion and has plans to begin proving this again on Saturday in Tokyo.
On the same card, Hasegawa (28-4, 12 KO) will be making his first trip to the ring in nearly a year. It was one day less than a year ago when Hasegawa was stopped in four rounds by Jhonny Gonzalez costing him his WBC Featherweight title. Much like Darchinyan, Hasegawa has had an up and down road.
Hasegawa, after losing two bouts early in his career, enjoyed a long string of success fighting in his homeland of Japan. Following his second loss he ran off a long string of wins including picking up the WBC bantamweight title. But despite the success, he was receiving little notice outside of Japan, and those who knew of him considered him a boring fighter due to a lack of power.
Then Hasegawa began drawing attention. The small Japanese fighter suddenly developed a big punch and began delivering highlight knockouts. He stopped Cristian Faccio and Alejandro Valdez in two, destroyed Vusi Malinga and Nestor Rocha in the first round, and then kept Alvaro Perez around all the way to the fourth round before picking up his fifth straight knockout.
The impressive knockouts were gaining Hasegawa attention outside of Japan and set him up for his biggest opportunity to gain international recognition. He would defend his WBC bantamweight title against Mexican Fernando Montiel. Similar to Hasegawa, Montiel had once been considered a boring fighter but had developed into more of a puncher late in his career.
The opportunity was there for Hasegawa and he was taking it by the reigns early on. He was having success taking the fight to Montiel right up until late in the fourth round when Montiel drilled him with a left hook that left him out cold on his feet. A series of unanswered shots from the challenger and the fight was stopped at 2:59 of Round 4.
Hasegawa would then move up two weight classes and fight for the vacant WBC featherweight title against Juan Carlos Burgos, who was undefeated in 25 fights at the time. Hasegawa took a wide unanimous decision, putting him back on the map only to suffer deja vu. Once again he would be dethroned by a Mexican challenger in his homeland by fourth-round knockout. This time it was Jhonny Gonzalez traveling to Japan and stopping Hasegawa to leave with his WBC title.
Hasegawa has not fought since that loss, but will look to get back into the picture once again this Saturday. Standing in his way is undefeated but untested Felipe Carlos Felix (18-0, 10 KO). The majority of Felix's victories have come against opposition with less than 10 fights and losing records. This will be his first test against anyone even close to Hasegawa's skill level.
Also on the card Takahiro Ao (22-2-1, 10 KO) defends his WBC Super Featherweight title against Terdsak Kokietgym (46-3-1, 31 KO). Ao won the WBC belt defeating Vitali Tajbert and has made two successful defenses. Ao previously held the WBC Featherweight title by defeating Oscar Larios and later lost the title in his only defeat to Elio Rojas.
Kokietgym of Thailand is 17-0-1 since 2008 when he lost to Steve Luevano challenging for the WBO featherweight title. Kokietgym's two previous losses came from top competition against Juan Manuel Marquez and Joan Guzman.