Under the same spotlights and on the same canvas that he'll perform Saturday night, Vic Darchinyan last year nearly beat a man to death.
Darchinyan, constantly flinging a punishing left hand that his promoter calls a "whipping hammer," knocked down Mexico's Victor Burgos once in the second round of their March 2007 flyweight title fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson. He pummeled Burgos so badly in the 12th that the referee stopped the fight and Burgos slumped trying to rest on a stool.
Hours later, Burgos had emergency brain surgery to remove a blood clot from his head. He remained comatose for days from what Armando Garcia, the California State Athletic Commission executive officer, described as "a boxing-related accident."
Southern California boxing publicist Alex Camponovo, a friend of the Burgos family residing in Tijuana, said Burgos is "still in rehabilitation. He has had to re-learn everything. How to walk. How to talk."
Darchinyan on fight night was denied an opportunity to visit his fallen opponent at the hospital, but he has followed Burgos' progress from a distance.
Darchinyan, 32, an Armenian who resides in Australia, said, "I called through my promoter and heard he's getting better. I found out he's OK. I was very happy."
This is the part of boxing that is nearly impossible to balance, especially for a fighter.
"You know, it's boxing," Darchinyan said. "There's two guys in the ring, and if you don't punch him, he'll punch you, and the same thing that happened [to Burgos] can happen to you. At the end of the day, I'm concerned with my opponent, and I want him to be able to go home to his family, not to the hospital.
"But in the ring, I want to destroy him."
Darchinyan (30-1-1, 24 knockouts) doesn't hesitate to say that's his plan Saturday when he returns to Carson as International Boxing Federation super-flyweight champion to fight Cristian Mijares (35-3-2, 14 KOs), the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Assn. super-flyweight champ.
Mijares, a popular fighter from Mexico, is a slight favorite over the southpaw Darchinyan.
"I'm going to press him, push him around, punish him, and knock him out," Darchinyan said. "I'm going to destroy him."
If it sounds insensitive, that's because Darchinyan is in fight mode, promoter Gary Shaw said.
"He's remorseful about Burgos, he was truly concerned and worried about what happened, but when it comes to fighting, Vic's a different person," Shaw said. "He really wants to hurt the opponent. All he thinks about is winning, winning by knockout and hurting the opponent.
"No one wants to make someone incapacitated, or ruin that person's family. Believe me, I've seen bad things happen in the ring, and I was sick to my stomach over Burgos, but there's two Vics at work here. I eat all my meals with him, and I already know tonight's dinner speech: 'I'm going to break [Mijares] in half. . . .' "
Darchinyan is 2-1-1 in the four fights post-Burgos. He was knocked out by Nonito Donaire and lost his IBF flyweight title in his first bout after the Carson victory. He rebounded in August to win the super-flyweight belt with a fifth-round TKO of Dimitri Kirilov.
Now, he faces Mijares, a savvy, technical fighter who boasts convincing victories over Jorge Arce and former U.S. Olympian Jose Navarro. Darchinyan predicts a knockout by the third round.
"I don't want to go to the hospital again, but I will knock him out cold -- and destroy him," Darchinyan said.