- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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In 2007, Vic Darchinyan, known as the "Raging Bull," was all the rage. The big puncher from Armenia but based in Australia was a flyweight titleholder with a growing reputation as one of the fiercest punchers in boxing.
He had made six defenses and was a darling of Showtime when he was matched with Nonito Donaire for what was supposed to be another big knockout performance.
However, the victim of the big knockout was not Donaire. Instead, it was Darchinyan, who was knocked silly via a spectacular fifth-round knockout. It was such a crushing knockout that when Darchinyan came around and was interviewed on Showtime, he had no recollection of having been stopped.
Since then, Darchinyan (29-1-1, 23 KOs) moved up to junior bantamweight, in which he stopped Federico Catubay in the 12th round in October to get back on track before being held to a controversial draw in a February title eliminator against Z Gorres in the Philippines, where unruly fans marred the fight by tossing water bottles and debris into the ring.
Despite the draw, Darchinyan is getting another title shot when he meets Russia's Dimitri Kirilov (29-3-1, 9 KOs) at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, Wash., on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
Opening the telecast, 2004 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist Andre Dirrell (15-0, 10 KOs), coming off a sensational fifth-round knockout performance of Anthony Hanshaw in May, faces Mike Paschall (17-0-1, 4 KOs) in a 10-round super middleweight bout.
As usual, Darchinyan, a southpaw, is predicting a knockout, even though Kirilov, who is making his second defense after his initial defense against Cecilio Santos in February resulted in a draw, has never been knocked out.
"Kirilov has never been KO'd before. He's going to get his first knockout this Saturday," Darchinyan, 32, said. "I have not made any changes in my game plan. Against Nonito Donaire, I just got caught, that's all. If anything, I am more focused than I ever was before. My left hand is much stronger. My right hand is faster.
"I never respect my opponents before I fight them. I respect them only after I knock them out. I help them wake up and help them to their corner. The people come out to watch the KO and that's what I am here for."
Kirilov, 29, who is trained by Freddie Roach, is the boxer to Darchinyan's role of slugger. Kirilov understands that and says that is how he is approaching the fight.
"Darchinyan has a very unorthodox style, but it makes no difference," Kirilov said. "I will fight the way I always have. I will use my boxing skills and strategy to keep him off me. It does not matter how much power he has or he says he has. I've been in the ring with big punchers before. Whatever Vic Darchinyan has, it's not enough to beat me. Freddie tells me, 'The bigger they punch, the harder they punch, the harder they fall.'"
Said Darchinyan: "Freddie Roach says I am predictable. The only thing he can predict is that his boy is going to get knocked out."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
1mEthan Sherwood Strauss