CARSON, Calif. – The Armenian city of Vanadzor is one of contrasts, with picturesque architecture dating back to the Bronze Age flanked by an unsightly chemical plant.
Likewise, one of Vanadzor's most successful exports, Australian-based Vic Darchinyan, is a paradoxical character who splits opinion in the boxing world.
A little man with a giant punch, Darchinyan systematically demolished Mexico's Cristian Mijares with a ninth-round knockout at the Home Depot Center on Saturday night.
The victory established him as the first man to unify the 115-pound title and provided dynamic entertainment for the watching television audience.
On the surface, the 32-year-old Darchinyan has little downside. An aggressive and unorthodox puncher, he offers guaranteed entertainment and has a chance to emerge as one of boxing's genuine stars.
However, the boorish manner in which he conducts himself out of the ring does nothing to help the sport that he clearly lives and breathes.
In this era when fans increasingly are indicating they have tired of the histrionic and self-promoting antics of fighters with more mouth than merit, Darchinyan does himself no favors.
He showed little grace in victory, interrupting the Mijares camp as they spoke at a postfight news conference and sarcastically imparting his "thanks for the belt."
Such a lack of class was uncalled for and conflicted starkly with the poise and determination he had shown less than an hour earlier, in what must rate as one of the most impressive performances of his 33-fight career.
Yet if he can keep fighting like he did against Mijares (36-4-2), it may not matter.
"I have got a fighter who talks a lot of [expletive]," said promoter Gary Shaw. "But he backs up that [expletive]."
Darchinyan promised before the fight to destroy Mijares and he did so. He was ahead 79-72 on all three scorecards when the contest ended with Mijares flat on his back in the final second of the ninth – thanks to a crushing straight left.
From the moment an uppercut dumped Mijares on the canvas in Round 1, there was going to be only one winner, as his clubbing left hand hit the target again and again.
Mijares looked a far cry from the polished performer who racked up seven straight title fight victories in 2007 and 2008.
Most critics had predicted another triumph for the popular Mexican, whose personality and looks have attracted a strong following.
But Darchinyan was a different prospect altogether and never allowed his rival to get into his rhythm.
"A lot of people thought Vic was like Jorge Arce [whom Mijares beat in April 2007]," Shaw said. "But Vic is different. He is the Mexican-killer."
Darchinyan's only defeat remains his knockout at the hands of Nonito Donaire in July 2007, a blemish on his record that many believed would hasten his demise from the elite level.
This, however, was an emphatic reminder he still has the goods and is among the very best in the lower weight classes.
A rematch with Donaire, who beat Moruti Mthalane of South Africa in Las Vegas on Saturday night, is highly unlikely.
Instead, Darchinyan is looking at Fernando Monteil and Israel Vazquez as potential fights to boost both his reputation and earnings.
"I look at boxing a different way," Darchinyan said. "For me it is just about the boxing. When my son grows up I want people to know he is Vic Darchinyan's son – and for that to mean something.
"I want people to remember me, and it is not just about staying in one division and defending your title so many times."
First though, there will a trip to his native Armenia, to where it all began in the amateur ranks.
There will be a round of interviews, some promotional appearances and a chance to catch up with old friends.
And, of course, a visit to Vanadzor, the ancient city where the delighted locals can greet a favorite son who has secured his own place in boxing history.
- Vic Darchinyan
- Cristian Mijares