Skills: Despite his extensive amateur career, Perez’s bread and butter in the pro ranks is his tireless workrate, relentless pressure and sublime conditioning. He possesses tight technique, especially during in-fighting, but there isn’t much variation to game. He’s a come-forward fighter who out-wills his opponents. Darchinyan was very good at that during his flyweight days, but the 2000 Olympian proved that he could do more than stalk and punch when he went up in weight. Darchinyan can be a smart boxer when he chooses to be. He proved against world-class boxers, such as Kirillov, Mijares and Mares, that he is an excellent ring general, who can stick and move and counter-punch with the best of them.
Power: Darchinyan, who has scored 27 knockouts in 35 victories, is known for his power but all of his stoppages have occurred at flyweight and junior bantamweight. He has yet to knockout an experienced bantamweight, including Filipino journeyman Eric Barcelona. Perez, who has scored 14 knockouts in 20 victories, is known more the volume of his punches than his power. Most of Perez’s knockouts were scored against journeymen on the club level, but he stopped a few capable opponents, who were normally durable, such as Samuel Lopez and Alexander Fedorov, which suggests that he had heavy hands.
Speed and athletic ability: Darchinyan is no longer the dynamic puncher he was at flyweight but he still has more speed and better reflexes than Perez, who possesses impressive stamina but is rather ordinary in terms of his athleticism. Perez fights at one speed and can appear plodding if his opponent does not directly engage with him. Even at bantamweight, where Darchinyan is clearly not as fast or powerful as he was at 112 and 115, the unorthodox southpaw can change the speed of his punches and footwork.
Defense: While Perez does an adequate job of blocking punches during the heat of battle, his busy offensive style doesn’t really allow him to focus on defending himself from incoming shots. Despite Darchinyan’s penchant for scoring knockouts the little southpaw terror in not as easy to hit as he would seem. His awkward stance and style accounts for some of his elusiveness but his underrated footwork and head movement also helps him to avoid punches.
Experience: This category is not hard to figure despite the high quality of Perez’s recent opposition. Darchinyan turned pro nearly five years before Perez and had gone 128 more rounds that the late-bloomer from Colombia. Darchinyan has faced seven titleholders (including highly regarded fighters such as Donaire, Mijares, Agbeko and Arce) over three weight classes. Perez has faced one titleholder (Agbeko).
Chin: Darchinyan has been knocked out once — to Donaire at flyweight which is nothing to be ashamed of — but he has withstood the best shots delivered from both Agbeko and Mares, both solid bantamweight punchers, without getting seriousl wobbled. (Mares scored a flash knockdown in the seventh round of their fight, which Darchinyan continues to dispute.) Perez is a natural bantamweight who has gone toe-to-toe with the likes of Agbeko and Mares — in fights where he took more shots than Darchinyan did — and was never wobbled or dropped.
Conditioning: Darchinyan is a pro’s pro who always prepares well for his fights, but Perez is arguably the hardest working bantamweight in the world. His pressure fighting, volume-punching style dictates his fanatical Spartan work ethic in the gym and his strong middle-to-late rounds surge in tough fights against Mabuza, Aggreko (first fight) and Mares is proof of his superb conditioning. Darchinyan appeared to fade a bit in his 12-round battles with Agbeko and Mares.
Wear and tear: At age 35 and with 39 pro bouts under his belt, one could confidently assume that Darchinyan has more miles on his “fighter’s odometer” than Perez, who only has 22 pro bouts. However, one must consider Perez’s extensive amateur career (more than 300 bouts) and the fact that Darchinyan knocked out many of his amateur opponents, as well as the majority of his pro foes, which spared him some wear and tear. And then one has to factor in Perez’s last four bouts — against Mabuza, Agbeko, Mares, and Agbeko again — all of which were grueling 12-round encounters. Three of those contests were fight of the year candidates, which indicates how hard-fought they were. And Perez simply got the worst of the action in his one-sided loss to Agbeko in their rematch. Darchinyan is usually the one dishing out the punishment in most of his extended fights, however, his 12-round losses to Agbeko and Mares were tough fights that probably took something out of him.
Corner: Perez’s trainer Danny Zamora is a young Southern California-based trainer who is still establishing his reputation, but it‘s clear that his relationship with the hard-working Colombian is a successful one. Zamora has recently added super middleweight contender Librado Andrade and middleweight prospect Shawn Estrada to his stable. How he fares with the veteran and the 2008 U.S. Olympian will let fans know if the former journeyman fighter is an up-and-coming trainer or if he just caught a break with Perez, who turned pro at the mature age of 26 and had the seasoning of more than 300 amateur bouts. Darchinyan’s head trainer Vazgen Badalian was a respected amateur coach in their native Armenia. Badalian’s prize pupil was Darchinyan, who placed in numerous international tournaments before representing their nation in the 2000 Olympics. Darchinyan turned pro in Sydney under the guidance of former champ Jeff Fenech and later Billy Hussein but he was reunited with Badalian shortly after his first loss to Donaire. The chemistry was obviously still there as Darchinyan unified three 115-pound titles with his old amateur coach in his corner.
Outcome: Perez will take the fight to Darchinyan with all the confidence one would expect from naturally bigger man as battle tested as the Colombian contender. His aggression will force Darchinyan to back up but the Armenian veteran will do so skillfully, sidestepping Perez’s long jab and counterpunching from different angles. The early rounds will be very close and perhaps split on the judges scorecards. Those who value aggression and volume will favor Perez. Those who value clean power punches will favor Darchinyan. Perez’s constant pressure and high workrate will pay dividends in the middle rounds of the bout when he presses Darchinyan to the ropes and hurts the former champ to the body. Darchinyan will tie up Perez whenever he can and complain to the referee of low blows in an attempt to gain a few breathers. However, the proud Australia-based fighter will suck it up and fire back with everything he’s got in the late rounds of the bout. Darchinyan’s rally will earn him a much-needed knockdown when an overconfident Perez walks into a perfectly timed uppercut. Perez will get up on unsteady legs after his first official knockdown but he will boldly resume his attack and surprisingly earn respect from Darchinyan, who will elect to box the game-but-groggy Colombian rather than go for the stoppage in the final two rounds.
Prediction: Darchinyan by close, perhaps controversial, decision.