By Dan Rafael
Four of the top bantamweights in the world -- Vic Darchinyan, Yonnhy Perez, Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares -- will be part of a single-elimination tournament on Showtime, which finalized the event Wednesday, promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com.
The semifinals will take place in Leon, Mexico, on Dec. 11. Darchinyan, the junior bantamweight champion, who is staying at bantamweight after winning a fight in the division in May, will face Mares in the main event. Perez will defend his 118-pound title in a mandatory rematch against former titlist Joseph Agbeko in the co-feature.
The winners are slated to meet in the first quarter of 2011 or early in the second quarter, Shaw said.
Shaw, who promotes Darchinyan and Perez, said the tournament, which has been in the works for a couple of months, was finalized during an afternoon conference call.
"It's a very exciting night of fights for a great year-ending card on Showtime," Shaw said. "Time to see who the real 118-pound champion will be."
The participants have familiarity with each other.
Perez (20-0-1, 14 KOs), a California-based Colombian, claimed his title with a decision win against Agbeko (27-2, 22 KOs), who is from Ghana but living in New York, in October in one of the best fights of 2009. In his first defense, Perez and Mares (20-0-1, 13 KOs), a 2004 Mexican Olympian living in Los Angeles, battled to a majority draw in a barnburner in May.
Before Agbeko lost to Perez, he made a successful title defense against Australia's Darchinyan (35-2-1, 27 KOs), winning by unanimous decision in a July 2009 slugfest.
Each of those bouts were televised on Showtime.
"I think it's a great opportunity for these guys," said Frank Espinoza, who manages Mares and Perez. "I think what Showtime is doing for the bantamweight division is great. You have four top boxers in the division. The winner of the tournament will be a superstar in the making. There's a lot of good stuff in this tournament and I am looking forward to this.
"I know Abner and Yonnhy are also looking forward to the tournament. We are happy that everyone involved, Gary Shaw, [Mares promoter] Golden Boy, [Agbeko promoter] Don King and Ken Hershman from Showtime made this happen. We're really excited."
Showtime had hoped to stage a six-man tournament similar to the Super Six World Boxing Classic that it is in the midst of in the super middleweight division. It invited unified titleholder Fernando Montiel and junior bantamweight Nonito Donaire, who is moving up in weight, owns a win a knockout against Darchinyan and is on most pound-for-pound lists. However, neither is in the field because their promoter, Top Rank, declined to participate.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com; follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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