Arce still has much fight left in him

Jorge Arce, right, never gave an inch to the bigger, stronger Vic Darchinyan. Fightwireimages.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Jorge Arce's left eye was puffy after only one round Saturday, courtesy of that heavy left hand with which Vic Darchinyan couldn't miss him.

When Arce came out for the second round, he seemed to have that "What did I get myself into?" look on his face.

The feeling at that moment was, if Arce were to be knocked out quickly, he might want to consider retiring. He's only 29 years old, but when a fighter in the lighter weights has had nearly 60 fights, many of them bruising wars of attrition, 29 could be old.

Considering the wherewithal he displayed in lasting 11 rounds with one of the biggest hitters in boxing, Arce has no reason not to continue the battle.

There was as much postfight talk about Arce's gritty performance as there was of Darchinyan's 11th-round technical knockout. Had the ringside physician not advised the referee to stop the fight because of cuts before the 12th round, Arce (51-5-1, 39 KOs) most likely would have finished the fight.

Even with all the punches he absorbed during 33 minutes of action at the Honda Center, Arce never even tasted the canvas.

"Jorge Arce, he's got huge [heart]," said Darchinyan's promoter, Gary Shaw, who said he had warned the Darchinyan camp heading in that Arce would not be dispatched easily. "You ask everybody around Vic, I told all of them, 'This guy is not going down in two [rounds].'"

Arce lost 10 of 11 rounds on all three scorecards.

For the most part, Darchinyan dominated him. But as the fight wore on, Arce began to do some damage, especially to Darchinyan's body. The Mexican's confidence appeared to grow, even though he was losing round after round.

His look changed from the one he had before the second round to one that said, "No way am I not going to finish this fight."

Unfortunately for the courageous soul, he eventually had no choice but to quit, as the doctor stopped the fight after Round 11.

"I came to fight," Arce said. "I wanted to continue to fight. I am a puncher, and I had a puncher's chance. There was only one round left, and I was following him the whole fight. He's a good fighter, but I think it was a competitive fight.

"I think I hurt him a couple of times with body punches. I gave the best of me. Of course, I would love a rematch. I don't like to see a fight end like this."

A lot of fighters say stuff like this after they are stopped inside the distance. Sometimes it's to be taken with a grain of salt. But Arce's backbone demanded that his words be taken as gospel.

Darchinyan is not one to extol an opponent, but even he was impressed by Arce's mettle.

"I hit him with some good uppercuts and I hurt him, but I couldn't finish him," said Darchinyan, who defended his three super flyweight titles. "Congratulations to him. I was hitting him with some great punches, but he kept coming."

Arce said the severe cut over his right eye that caused the stoppage came from something other than a Darchinyan punch.

"He is a dirty fighter who throws a lot of elbows," Arce said. "I also have a gash on the top of my head from an elbow."

Punches, elbows, whatever. Arce took them better than his countryman, Cristian Mijares, did. Darchinyan knocked out Mijares in the ninth round in November. And Mijares won a lopsided decision over Arce in April 2007. Retiring should be the last thing on Arce's mind.

"I think he should continue fighting," Shaw said. "He just went 11 rounds with the single best fighter in the lighter weights."

When Top Rank's Bob Arum, who promotes Arce, stood on the dais in the postfight news conference, he said he wanted to introduce "a gallant warrior." Sure, Arum is biased, but he was speaking the truth.

Minutes earlier, Arum was asked what advice he will have for Arce in light of what had just transpired.

"To continue fighting," Arum said. "It was a tremendous, gutty performance."

Arum did have one caveat.

"He should fight only right-handers," Arum said. "And if he fights a lefty, have somebody teach him how to fight a southpaw. It was the same stuff as when he fought Mijares."

Yeah, but Mijares never hit Arce nearly as hard as Darchinyan did.

And Arce wasn't knocked flat the way Mijares was when he fought Darchinyan.

Retire? Don't think so.

Robert Morales covers boxing for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram.