Back in 2007, Vic Darchinyan was in the midst of a dominant flyweight title reign and Nonito Donaire was largely unknown. But that changed quickly when they squared off and Donaire scored a spectacular fifth-round knockout to win the title.
A lot has changed for both since, but a rematch always has been a possibility -- and now it is on.
Donaire and Darchinyan will meet in a scheduled 10-round rematch at featherweight on Nov. 9 in the middle fight of an HBO-televised tripleheader, Top Rank chairman Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Friday. Arum said the venue for the card, while not definite yet, likely would be the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas.
"Darchinyan is an awkward guy and he can punch," said Cameron Dunkin, Donaire's manager. "He's a dangerous guy and he really wants this fight and revenge. You never take a guy like this lightly. Anything can happen in this business."
The opening fight of the card has been set: Vanes Martirosyan (33-0-1, 21 KOs) against Demetrius Andrade (19-0, 13 KOs), both U.S. Olympians, for a vacant junior middleweight title in a bout originally scheduled for Sept. 7 in Los Angeles, but moved when the Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.-Brian Vera main event was postponed.
The Nov. 9 main event is not signed yet, but assuming it is finalized, it will feature former featherweight titlist Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs) moving up to junior lightweight to challenge titleholder Roman "Rocky" Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs).
"It'll get done," Arum said. "We're a few dollars apart with Martinez, but it'll get done."
Darchinyan, a 37-year-old southpaw, signed for the fight with Donaire after finally agreeing to face him at 126 pounds. He had wanted to fight at a catch weight of 124 pounds, but Donaire, 30, declined to go that low. It will be the first fight at featherweight for both.
"Vic has wanted this fight for a long time. He wants redemption," Frank Espinoza, Darchinyan's manager, said. "This is a fight he's been waiting for. I was able to get him that opportunity, but now it's up to Vic to prepare himself well. I've only had Vic for one fight, but here we are, in our second fight together, and he's got the rematch with Nonito that he has wanted for a long time.
"Of course, it was monetary, too [accepting the higher weight], but it's good money for Vic. He's at the point in his career he doesn't want to wait any longer. He wants redemption, and by beating Donaire, the doors will open for him again."
Darchinyan (39-5-1, 28 KOs), who lives in Australia, is in the middle of a visit to his native Armenia, but Espinoza said he would train in Los Angeles and open camp Wednesday.
Donaire, the consensus 2012 fighter of the year, is coming off his first defeat in 12 years, a decision to Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13 in a junior featherweight unification bout.
Donaire (31-2, 20 KOs), a native of the Philippines who moved to San Leandro, Calif., said he did not take the fight with Rigondeaux seriously enough. He was not in top shape and lost a clear decision to a technical master and two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist. After the fight, Donaire also had surgery on both of his shoulders.
"Donaire is coming off the worst performance that I've ever seen where he was seemingly unprepared for the fight with Rigondeaux and listless, and when something like that happens you don't know for sure if a fighter can snap out of that, so that remains to be seen," Arum said. "I don't know whether we'll see the Donaire we were used to seeing before the Rigondeaux fight or another version of the Donaire who fought Rigondeaux, so that makes this rematch with Darchinyan interesting."
After Darchinyan got knocked out by Donaire, he went on to become a dominant junior bantamweight champion, but struggled against top opponents when he moved up to bantamweight -- losing title fights to Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno and Abner Mares -- and then junior featherweight, where he lost a world title fight against Shinsuke Yamanaka.
But Darchinyan has won two fights in a row at junior featherweight, a mild upset of hot prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle last September and a fourth-round knockout of Javier Gallo in May. The fight with Gallo was Darchinyan's first fight with Top Rank, which he signed with mainly hoping to get the rematch with Donaire.
"Vic is the smaller guy, but he's up for the challenge," Espinoza said. "He really wants to fight Nonito again. This is the first time at 126 for both of them, but Donaire is coming off a loss and the surgery and my guy is coming off two wins."
Dunkin said Donaire was anxious to fight again and that his shoulders are OK following separate procedures this past spring to repair tendon tears.
"He's happy and wants to get back in the ring and fight. He's anxious to fight," Dunkin said. "He kept asking me, 'When are we gonna get the contract? When can I fight again?'
"He was really disappointed in himself and didn't think he fought as well as he should have against Rigondeaux. He said, 'I know I can beat him but I didn't, so you gotta give him credit. He beat me.' But Nonito said he didn't train properly and that he took it for granted. He says that won't happen again. He said, 'Look, I'm 30 years old and I want to finish strong.' He knows Darchinyan will be really fired up for this fight, so Nonito will really prepare for this one."