HE GETS mobbed on the streets of Los Angeles and in his native Armenia. Yet in his adopted homeland of Australia, he can walk down the streets of Marrickville, where he owns Jeff Fenech’s famous old gym, and not get so much as a knowing sideways glance. Welcome to the weird world of Victor Darchinyan.
Unlike some other high-profile Australian boxers, Darchinyan’s level of fame here seems to be in inverse proportion to the number of quality opponents he sends to the canvas.
Pound for pound, Darchinyan is widely rated one of the world’s toughest and most exciting fighters.
In his 35 professional bouts, he has lost just twice and drawn once, while 26 of his 32 victories have come by knockout. It is a remarkable achievement against other highly ranked boxers.
Aficionados of the sweet science have no doubt Darchinyan is special and highly deserving of an accolade such as the Herald’s Sports Performer of the Year award, presented by Colonial First State.
Jamie Pandaram, who covers boxing for the Herald, wrote in February that Darchinyan was ”better than Jeff Fenech, more comprehensive than Kostya Tszyu. When Vic Darchinyan finally hangs up the gloves, he will be recognised as the greatest pugilist ever to fight for Australia.
”Darchinyan is a once in a generation fighting machine who glides above the other two because he has the hunger of one and the smarts of the other. When Darchinyan fights, never is it more evident that here is a man attempting to break another’s will while showing unquestionable loyalty to his own.
”He has stopped three former world champions in succession in the lighter weight divisions, a feat as difficult as winning three successive Melbourne Cups.”
Born in 1976, multilingual, university educated, a former soldier and just 166 centimetres tall, Darchinyan is nicknamed ”Raging Bull” because of his performance in the ring – a southpaw with a knockout punch in both explosive hands. But he is also entitled to rage about his lack of recognition in Australia.
As one magazine profile noted earlier this year: ”Despite the Raging Bull nickname, world titles and fabulous knockout record, Darchinyan gets fewer autograph requests here than Sydney FC’s second-choice goalkeeper.”
Another reporter who strolled through Martin Place at lunchtime with Darchinyan six months ago saw just one well-wisher come forward to congratulate the super-flyweight titleholder: ”Despite recently making the short list for the prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year Award, he is just another face lost in the hustle and bustle of cafes, buskers and business people.”
As Darchinyan has acknowledged, his low profile locally is in large part due to the fact he often fights overseas and his bouts are shown on pay-per-view television.
His first professional fight was in 2000 at Sydney’s Star City Casino. He took the Australian flyweight title the following year and in 2004 beat Columbian Irene Pacheco in Florida to claim his first world title, the IBF flyweight belt. A year ago, in the super-flyweight division, he unified the IBF, WBA, WBC belts by mauling glamour boy Cristian Mijares of Mexico in a bout in California.
In Darchinyan’s most recent fight, in July, he suffered his second defeat, beaten on points in Florida by Ghana’s Joseph Agbeko as he tried to climb another weight division to claim the IBF bantamweight title.
Despite lucrative offers to call the US and Armenia home, Darchinyan has stayed loyal to Australia, saying he loves life here despite the lack of public acclaim. His Australian romance began when he met Fenech while representing Armenia at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. He took out citizenship in 2004.
Fenech, a three-division world champion and Darchinyan’s former trainer, predicted years ago that the Raging Bull would be regarded as an all-time great in the lower weight divisions. Even Australian Idol star Guy Sebastian reckons he should win the Sports Performer of the Year because: ”He is one of the great unsung legends of Australian boxing.”
Australians recognised Sebastian as a talented young singer. An honourable step in rightfully recognising Darchinyan as an Australian sporting idol would be to ”Vote 1 Vic”.