By Jake Donovan
From the moment he was declared an ex-titlist, Joseph King Kong Agbeko has been eagerly awaiting his December 3 rematch with Abner Mares. Even better news for the South African fighter, is that he won’t be alone when he makes the road trip to the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
His first fight with Mares – which served as the Showtime Bantamweight tournament finals, staged in Las Vegas this past August – came without the on-hand support from promoter Don King, who was traveling out of the country at the time.
The bout was marred with controversy, as repeated low blows from Mares went without penalization from referee Russell Mora. Making matters worse, Agbeko was twice called for knockdowns, including a moment in the 11th when even Mares believed he would lose a point for a punch that went well south of the border but was apparently missed by the third man.
Even though King wasn’t able to attend the fight, the fact that Mora was in the ring to begin with went against his own pre-fight concerns. This time around, he’ll be up front and center to ensure that his fighter is given a fair shake every step of the way.
“I will be there at the fight,” King confirmed on Wednesday afternoon, before offering his take on the first fight. “The referee should’ve (done) the right thing from the very beginning. I even told Nevada state commissioner Keith Kizer from the very beginning that they should’ve changed the referee based on what I knew and heard about him. The drama could’ve been avoided.
“Keith Kizer defended him until the very end, until the condemnation came down like an avalanche. It’s a sad state of affairs, but a terrible disservice was done for boxing in Las Vegas.”
Many have argued that an equal amount of injustice was served to Agbeko, whose second tour as a bantamweight titlist lasted a mere 10 months and without a successful title defense.
The bantamweight tournament began in grand fashion for Agbeko, who was able to avenge an earlier loss to Yonnhy Perez. Their October ’09 fight saw Perez score a controversial 10th round knockdown and cruise to the finish line for the upset win and the bantamweight titlist.
Agbeko gained revenge 14 months later and in emphatic fashion, dominating the Colombian en route to a wide decision win in the opening round of the tournament.
The finals wound up delayed by four months after Agbeko collapsed at the airport during fight week, suffering from a sudden case of sciatica. The ailment pushed the fight back to August, with the shoddy officiating from Mora only adding to what had already been a struggling year for the 31-year old.
As far as his team is concerned, though, Agbeko doesn’t enter this fight on a loss but as a victim. King is confident that he has a fighter who can overcome the steepest obstacles to ultimately come out on top, shades of another famous South African he used to promote.
“I remember when I had the legendary Azumah Nelson and first promoted him. Salvador Sanchez needed an opponent for his world title fight at Madison Square Garden, and I told him I lined up an easy opponent. After their incredible fight, Salvador came up to me and said, ‘Don’t bring me any more easy opponents.’
“I believe I have the same type of fighter in Agbeko. I certainly don’t count the loss that he had in his last fight because of Mr. Mora and his poor officiating. However, it’s now up to Mr. Agbeko to stand up and be accounted for, to show that he can live up to the faith we put in him and take care of business against Abner Mares. All Agbeko has to do is show up and be ready for this fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]