by Cliff Rold
It’s the sort of boxing crime that will spawn urban legend, touches of myth. As the days pass into months and years, many will forget how good a fight it really was, how closely competed and how much of a rally now former IBF Bantamweight titlist Joseph Agbeko (28-3, 22 KO needed.
He might have been on the verge.
He wasn’t there yet.
The egregious incompetence referee Russell Mora showed in round eleven, ruling a nut shot a knockdown, sealed the fate of Agbeko. Because of that call, because of its blindness and stench, time will likely remember August 13, 2011, as a night when Joseph Agbeko came to the land of dreams and found a nightmare.
Found himself robbed.
As in all good myths and urban legends, there will be strong hints of truth.
It’s not all true.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Agbeko A-; Mares B+/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Agbeko B; Mares B-/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Agbeko B+; Mares B/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Agbeko A; Mares A/Post: Same
For a full recap of the fight, consult here: http://www.boxingscene.com/russell-mora-mares-get-better-agbeko-sin-city--42634
It’s not all true because Mares (22-0-1, 13 KO) did a lot of things right in the fight. He wasn’t responsible for the unwillingness of Mora to deduct points and worked what was available. Mares was ahead as both men hit the final third of the contest. Sure, part of that was working the fringes of the rules by way of belt line.
A lot of it was accurate punching above the waist. Agbeko started slow, and somewhat lethargic, a not so surprising development from an aging little man who had to sweat extra to make weight. The failure to make weight on the first try Friday looks to have been telling. Agbeko was not as sharp as he was for his bout with Yonnhy Perez in the first round of the tournament.
Once Mares started to slow down, Agbeko’s physical strength and guts made the fight entertaining. Beginning in round nine, the tide turned and maybe he could have pulled off the comeback.
We’ll never know for sure. The assumption by some is that if Mora takes a point in the eleventh, Agbeko wins the round and the rally plays to him. The problem with that assumption is it creates a whole new final round. Mares gave away the twelfth on Saturday. He could not have in what DC Comics fans might call the “Earth-2” version of the fight.
One wishes they could have seen such drama. Mora may have been distracting but he didn’t stop the leather flying. Mares and Agbeko fought their hearts out on Saturday, fouls and all.
There is a perfect place to settle all this and it need not be on a world where Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle made a Huntress all their own.
The place is a ring, right on this world, in an immediate rematch. Fans who saw what was often excellent action Saturday, between controversies, deserve to know who the better man is. So do the fighters. Abner Mares is an entertaining, tough kid who should be able to wear or not wear his belt with dignity. Agbeko is a proud warrior who has experienced sure defeat only once in three blemishes and needs to know whether the latest truly belongs.
This is the part of the show where typically the fighters can be laid against the tapestry of their division, weighing their options. It would be fine to debate their chances against a Nonito Donaire or Anselmo Moreno.
It’s just not what it right.
The IBF is in the best position to make the right thing happen and there can be only one just call.
Report Card Picks 2010: 25-10
Time is always of the essence and there just hasn’t been enough in the last couple weeks to give the divisional ratings the update they need (and deserve). That should be rectified between now and next week.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]