Photos: Tom Casino/SHOWTIME
LOS ANGELES – Two-division world champion Vic “Raging Bull” Darchinyan and former International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight champion Yonnhy “El Colombiano” Perez will clash in the new main event on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING this Saturday, April 23, live on SHOWTIME® (10:30 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) from Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE.
The 12-rounder for the vacant International Boxing Organization (IBO) 118-pound title between Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KOs), of Sydney, Australia, by way of Armenia, and Colombia’s Perez (20-1-1, 14 KOs), of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., was elevated to main event status after a fight between IBF champion Joseph Agbeko and undefeated WBC Silver Belt champion Abner Mares was postponed after Agbeko suffered what doctors diagnosed as likely the sudden onset of sciatica earlier in the week.
A formal announcement was made today prior to a final press conference at ESPNZone. All four boxers were in attendance.
This marks the third time that a Darchinyan fight has been moved into the telecast’s top spot after a main event fell out. The other times came on March 6, 2010 (against Rodrigo Guerrero) and June 3, 2006 (against Luis Maldonado). It will mark the 13th time Darchinyan has fought on SHOWTIME. He is No. 3 on the all-time list for network appearances behind Julio Cesar Chavez (17) and Evander Holyfield.
Tickets are on sale at Ticketmaster.com, via Ticketmaster charge-by-phone lines (800) 745-3000 and at STAPLES Center Box Office.
Doors at Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE open at 4 p.m. PT. The first non-televised undercard fight starts at 5 p.m.
The event is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, Don King Productions, Thompson Boxing and Golden Boy Promotions, and is sponsored by Corona and DeWalt Tools.
What the fighters and their promoters/representatives said Thursday:
“I feel bad for Joseph Agbeko and wish him the best. It’s unfortunate but sometimes things just happen. What everyone should know is that they are going to get is a great fight. We will put on a great show.
“This is the third time I’ve been moved up to the main event. I won both and I’m very confident I’ll win again.
“Yonnhy is a gentleman. He’s a clean fighter who loves to come and fight and show who is better in the ring.
“But he will be standing right in front of me and will feel my power like never before. Yonnhy is a bigger guy than me, but everyone will see how powerful I really am.
“I am still upset with the way my last fight went. But I’m really looking forward to this fight and moving forward. I want a rematch with Mares or Agbeko very badly.
“I am sure everyone will enjoy this fight and everyone will see how focused I am.’’
“Last night before I went to bed I said a prayer for Agbeko because he’s a champion like I was and I know he does this for his family. I know how difficult it must be to not be able to perform Saturday night.
“I can’t wait for Saturday. I know Vic has said a few things about me and how the fight will go and I really hope he can back those words up. It will be difficult to achieve the things he’s said.
“Whether I was fighting for or second, I was still fighting Vic. I am strong and ready for anything he has to offer. I expect him to come out aggressively, but if he decides to change and box, I am prepared.
“In the end, I will be the winner.’’
ALAN HOPPER (Don King Promotions)
“I want to apologize to all the fighters on the card. Obviously, Joseph wants to fight. Abner, we are so sorry for you. We’re very serious about getting all the treatment we can so we can fight as soon as possible.
“The first words out of Joseph’s mouth were, ‘this can’t happen, this can’t be happening, I need to fight on Saturday.’ ’’
“Saturday was a night I really dreamed for. I was set to make my country proud. It was a very big blow to all of us. I want to thank the doctors who took care of me.
“Obviously, Abner is a very good fighter that I have to beat to prove that I’m the best bantamweight in the world. I can’t wait to get well so I can fight him.”
“I wish Joseph the best of health. I put myself in his position and it’s hard. It’s not his fault – he’s a great champ. He’s a warrior.
“Everyone knows it would have been a great fight, but it’s only fair to give him his time to heal.
“He earned his spot in the finals, just as I did, so he deserves his time to get well to make this fight happen.
“I know that some of you are sad or mad that we’re not fighting, but you have to understand that health comes first.
“I trained hard and I’m disappointed. I know there were some names mentioned for possible replacements but we believe it’s only fair to give Joseph a chance to heal so we can fight in the finals of the tournament.”
CHRIS DEBLASIO (Director, Sports Communications SHOWTIME)
“On behalf of Ken Hershman and everyone at SHOWTIME Sports we are of course disappointed by the news that Joseph Agbeko will be unable to fight against Abner Mares on Saturday night. But the new main event between Perez and Darchinyan promises to deliver fireworks. They both always make for exciting fights.
“Vic Darchinyan is one of the most prolific fighters that have appeared during the 25 years of fights on our network. He’s fought a dozen times on SHOWTIME and always to the delight of the fans. He’s a huge draw and has an exciting style. Yonnhy Perez matches up very well against Darchinyan and both of these guys are former world champions and deserve their shot in the spotlight. For these guys to meet in a single-fight telecast is certainly the right thing to do.
“The bantamweight division is one that this network has been heavily invested in for years. Beyond Saturday night there are still a number of intriguing fights within this division that the fans want to see and which makes sense for us to explore the possibilities of making happen.”
RICHARD SCHAEFER (Golden Boy Promotions CEO)
“Obviously it was a huge blow for Abner. He trained very hard.
“I don’t know why the mood is so somber, guys. This is not a funeral. We have as our main event a barnburner between Yonnhy Perez and Vic Darchinyan. This is good news. This is great news for fight fans.
“When we had the press conference for the first round of this tournament, Gary Shaw said the main event tonight would be Vic Darchinyan vs. Yonnhy Perez and he was right.’’
GARY SHAW (Darchinyan’s Promoter)
“Joseph has nothing to be ashamed of. Injuries happen.
“Richard (Schaefer) and I spent all day yesterday going back and forth with Ken Hershman of SHOWTIME, trying to find Abner a fight because when you train that hard you want to fight.
“Can Vic fight Abner? Can Yonnhy fight Abner? In the end, we felt we should stick with the original plan and go with the showdown between Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez.
“I’m speaking as a promoter here: If Agbeko cannot fight in a timely fashion and defend his title, I will personally petition the IBF to let the winner of this fight for the title against Mares. Abner should have the right to get that title and nobody should have to wait an inordinate amount of time.
“These are two fighters I represent fighting each other. I’m not even sure I will stay in arena to watch. I have special feelings about Vic and Yonnhy and it’ll be tough.
“Vic gets great ratings on SHOWTIME. He is in for a helluva fight. Yonnhy is a great fighter. This isn’t the way I pictured the two of them fighting, but this is for the IBO belt, so one of them will walk away with a belt and a chance at becoming the No. 1 mandatory contender.’’
KEN THOMPSON (Perez’ Promoter)
“You have the best most dangerous bantamweight in the world fighting a living legend. But Yonnhy Perez has no fear. He left his fears in the jungles of Colombia fighting for his country.
“Yonnhy wants his world title back very badly. He’s on a quest. Saturday, he takes the first step.’’