By Cliff Rold, photo by Tom Casino
After a barn burning run that included a Yonnhy Perez, the Showtime Bantamweight tournament, and a tournament final rematch, Abner Mares gets his breather.
Well, it’s what it looks like as he moves into a new division for a catchweight bout with a WBC 122 lb. belt on the line. Across the ring is a man who represented the U.S. at the 1996 Olympics, a teammate of Floyd Mayweather, before emerging as one of the world’s best Flyweights in the early 2000’s.
A pair of losses and a stint behind bars for sexual assault appeared to eliminate Eric Morel from the upper echelon of boxing but he’s rebuilt. Morel has won eleven in a row since 2008, including a disputed call against Gerry Penalosa, to earn what is probably his last serious shot.
He’s not believed to have a big shot to win and, given his age, looks like the sort of foe who brings a name more than a chance. Is it the case?
Let’s go to the report card.
Previous Titles: IBF Bantamweight (2011-12, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 119.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 117.6 lbs.
Hails from: Montebello, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 23-0-1, 13 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-0-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Isidro Garcia, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Drawn: 1 (Yonnhy Perez)
Previous Titles: WBA Flyweight (2000-03, 5 Defenses)
Height: 5’6 ½
Weight: 120 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 118.6 lbs.
Hails from: Madison, Wisconsin (Born in Puerto Rico)
Record: 46-2, 23 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #7 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-2, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 6 (Sornpichai Kratindaenggym, Gilberto Keb Baas, Denkaosan Kaovichit, Isidro Garcia, Jesus Rojas, Gerry Penalosa)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Lorenzo Parra, Martin Castillo)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Mares B+; Morel B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Mares B; Morel B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Mares B; Morel B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Mares A; Morel B
For a fighter who can be relied on to do hard body work in just about any fight, one of the things that sets Mares apart is that he’s also a clever boxer. He knows how to use his jab to control opponents and never gets too dependent on any one shot.
His lack of serious knockout power explains some of that. He’s had to develop his overall game, something his own fundamental base and Olympic background (competing for Mexico) assisted. Mares keeps a good work rate and has deceptive speed, all of which is bad news for Morel.
Morel, while still with decent speed, is unlikely to be physically stronger than Mares on Saturday. He’s always had sneaky power but doesn’t always commit to it fully. His best shot will likely come from attempting to make a negative fight against Mares. Make the younger man chase, hit and hold, frustrate…those are the keys to victory for Morel.
It won’t make a winning viewing experience, but other options could be foolhardy. Morel, at 36, won’t have the legs to stay in the trenches with Mares. In his loss to Martin Castillo many years ago, he lacked the muscle to keep the more aggressive man at bay. It’s some of the same, and worse, here.
If Morel can keep a fight from breaking out, or at least contain the action, he might be able to stink out a new title belt.
To do that for twelve rounds will be hard. Fans know Mares is educated at working the hips and flirting with low blows without getting consistently called. If Morel tries to take the fight negative, Mares can answer and force space to land hooks to the body and head.
Mares just has too much of everything for Morel. There might be close moments in the first four rounds, but Mares should take over and lay a steady beating en route to a lopsided unanimous decision.
Report Card Picks 2012: 15-3
Cliff’s Notes… Regular readers will note the picks count jumping from 14 to 15 wins for the year. Being that a pick was made on the Juan Manuel Marquez fight last weekend, the adjustment is warranted...In similar fashion, look for Anselmo Moreno (32-1-1, 11 KO) to hold onto his WBA Bantamweight belt against David De La Mora (24-1, 17 KO) on the Mares-Morel undercard. De La Mora is sturdy, can crack, and gave Koki Kameda a good run last year. His problem is that he doesn’t always stay as active as he should. Against the taller, slicker Moreno, arguably the best fighter on the show, he may never get started. Barring a perfectly timed power shot, this looks like a Moreno decision with space.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]