LAS VEGAS - You beat the best, you are the best and this Saturday, Aug. 13, the best bantamweight in the world will emerge when finalists Joseph King Kong Agbeko and Abner Mares clash in The Bantamweight Tournament Final: Winner Takes All live on SHOWTIME (10:00 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast).
The highly anticipated matchup for Agbeko's International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight title and the promising, unbeaten Mares' WBC Silver championship belt will take place at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nev.
Agbeko, of Bronx, N.Y., by way of Accra, Ghana, will bring a record of 28-2 with 22 KOs into the 12-round bout. Mares, of Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., by way of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, is 21-0-1 with 13 stoppages.
Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $75, $50 and $25, along with a limited number of VIP suite seats priced at $150, are available at the Hard Rock Hotel Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.Ticketmaster.com or by phone (800) 745-3000.
Doors open Saturday at 3:00 p.m. The first non-televised undercard fight starts at 3:30 p.m.
Agbeko and Mares were scheduled to meet last April 23, but the fight was postponed when Agbeko was injured moments after his arrival at Los Angeles International Airport for fight week. Doctors diagnosed the champion with sudden onset sciatica, a back injury.
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What the fighters and executives said Thursday:
JOSEPH KING KONG AGBEKO
"It's great to be back. Las Vegas is like my home. I made my U.S. debut here. I want to thank my promoter, Don King, and all who made this fight and tournament possible.
"It may be Mares' dream to become world champion but my dream is to become No. 1 pound-for-pound in boxing. A loss on Saturday would not give me that chance, so my only option is to win.
"I don't understand why Mares is a (near 2-1) favorite. I'm the champion. I just want a fair fight.''
"I want to thank everyone for the opportunity to do what I love, and that is boxing. I want to thank the media for the attention and support they give the little guys. I want to thank SHOWTIME for allowing me to enter this tournament and showcase my talent.
"The final is here and I'm really happy about that. I had a tough fight in my last fight against (Vic) Darchinyan and now I am ready make my dream come true.
"I am totally ready for this. There's no way I can lose. The thought of defeat is not in my mind. I am ready for a war.''
ALAN HOPPER (Vice President of Public Relations, Don King Promotions)
"On Saturday, we are going to have a barn-burner. In Joseph King Kong Agbeko, we have a true Ghanaian warrior who follows in the footsteps of greats like "The Professor" Azumah Nelson.
"This is for Abner Mares: If you want to know what I mean by this, just ask the head of your promotional company, Oscar De La Hoya about a fighter from Ghana by the name of Ike "Bazooka" Quartey. He knocked Oscar on his tail -- but to Oscar's credit he got up and knocked him on his butt and flurried at the end to win the fight. But he can tell you what it's like to be in the ring with a warrior from Ghana. IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko is one of these warriors.
"I say this so you know what you are up against, Abner. I wish you luck and may the best man win."
DAVID ITSKOWITCH (Chief Operating Officer, Golden Boy Promotions)
"We're very excited about the culmination of this tournament and on Saturday. Wwe are going to witness a great night for boxing.
"This tournament would not have happened without the visionary work of Ken Hershman and his staff who have done an outstanding job which we appreciate."
CHRIS DEBLASIO (Senior Director Communications, SHOWTIME Sports)
"On behalf of Execute Vice President and General Manager SHOWTIME Sports, Ken Hershman and Executive Producer, David Dinkins, Jr., I want to thank the fighters for staying committed to this tournament. In Agbeko versus Mares, you won't find a more competitive and compelling matchup this year in boxing.
"This fight is of major importance to the bantamweight division and on Saturday night we will see who the best bantamweight in the world is.
"Boxing, which began on the network in 1986, has always been our flagship sport and this bantamweight tournament is just one of the innovative ways that SHOWTIME Sports has made its mark in this industry.''
FRANK ESPINOZA (Mares' Manager)
"From day one, I knew Abner had the makings of a champion. Joseph Agbeko is one of the best in the world, but on Saturday we are going to see the coronation of boxing's newest superstar.
"I want to thank Ken Hershman and everyone involved for this tournament.''
"I love being here in this kind of big-fight atmosphere. When I started boxing, I could only dream of this kind of opportunity. I'm well-prepared and ready for a war.''
"I'm not cocky, just confident. I am really looking forward to Saturday. Bring it on.''
"I'm extremely happy to be involved in this event. I want to fight the winner of Agbeko-Mares and win another world title.''
"I want to thank Golden Boy and everybody who had a part in making this show happen. This is a great card full of champions. I'm ready to put on a show on Saturday night.''