- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Featherweight titlist Jesus Cuellar has big plans.
"First [Vic] Darchinyan, then Leo Santa Cruz or Abner Mares. Those are the fighters I'm targeting,” Cuellar said on Thursday at the final news conference ahead of his fight with the faded Darchinyan, a former flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder who has had little success once he moved into heavier weight divisions.
Cuellar and Darchinyan square off on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, on the Premier Boxing Champions card headlined by welterweight contender Robert Guerrero (32-3-1, 18 KOs) against Aaron Martinez (19-3-1, 4 KOs). While Guerrero-Martinez will air on NBC (3 p.m. ET), Cuellar-Darchinyan is slated to air on NBC Sports Net’s coverage of the card beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Cuellar (26-1, 20 KOs), 28, of Argentina, will be making the first defense of his second-tier belt -- after being elevated from an interim titleholder. Darchinyan (40-7-1, 29 KOs), the Australian-based Armenian, figures to be easy work for Cuellar, who has won nine fights in a row.
He is hoping a win will lead him to fights with the much better known Santa Cruz, a junior featherweight titlist who is moving up in weight, and Mares, the former three-division titlist. Santa Cruz and Mares may fight each other later this year but all the combinations of those fighters meeting are possible since each is with adviser Al Haymon.
Darchinyan, 39, is hoping to ruin Cuellar’s plans but it seems unlikely. He is well past his best days and has lost two of his last three by harsh knockout to titleholder Nicholas Walters and former titleholder Nonito Donaire.
But Darchinyan is always confident and has always talked a big game.
"I will demolish this kid on Saturday. I have much more experience,” Darchinyan said. “He has no idea what's going to happen. I was a champion for many years and want to win another title. I will show everyone that I'm still capable on Saturday.”
Cuellar brushed off the tough talk and said he isn’t going to allow Darchinyan his quest for bigger fights.
"He can talk as much as he wants but we're going to fight and find out who is better on Saturday,” Cuellar said. “I'm very prepared and ready to represent Argentina. I trained hard and I'm ready to get in the ring. I've put in the hard work and I'm going to step inside the ring and showcase my talent for all of Argentina."