By Jake Donovan
Unbeaten Mexican-American bantamweight Abner Mares makes the first defense of his title on December 3 against the very man he beat to earn such status, as he prepares for his highly anticipated rematch with former two-time titlist Joseph King Kong Agbeko.
Their first fight served as the finals of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament, but was littered with enough controversy to warrant an immediate return go. Low blows were a big issue in the first fight, as was the shoddy officiating of referee Russell Mora, who issued to Mares several warnings throughout the fight. However, no points were deducted, with one low blow completely missed by Mora in the 11th round, instead ruling the sequence a knockdown.
The blown call proved to be the difference on the scorecards in the end. Rather than Mares losing a point, he was instead awarded a 10-8 round and ultimately won a majority decision by scores of 115-111 (twice) and 113-113.
The rematch takes place in Anaheim, California, not too far from Mares’ adopted hometown of Hawaiian Gardens. Still, nobody involved in the bout – which is co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Don King Productions – seems too concerned about favoritism taking place. If anything, Mares believes that he will be watched closer than during any other fight in his career.
“I know that all eyes will be on me. They’ll be checking every time I go to the body,” Mares (22-0-1, 13KO), a known body puncher who doesn’t plan to veer too far from the script. “I’ve trained this time for a body and also a head attack, but without going headhunting. But I want to be prepared in case the referee begins warning me every time a punch is questionable in his eyes.”
Mares contends that a lot of low blows were the result of Agbeko pushing down on the back of his head, an occurrence for which the African was repeatedly warned by the referee. He also acknowledges that there were a number of unassisted fouls, though none that were intentional.
“A few of my punches went low, I’ll be honest. It wasn’t my intention. I wish more attention was paid to the great performance we both gave in that fight. There were some that were low. I tried to correct them. I was going to the body and he kept pulling my head down.”
At one point, even Mares expected to be cited for the recurring foul.
“I hit him low in the 11th round – even though he pulled my head down and the punch was blocked, it was low - and I was expecting to have a point taken away. I went to a neutral corner, and all of a sudden heard the referee counting. That’s not my fault, I didn’t tell the ref to start counting.”
The fight left Mares with a bad rap as a dirty fighter who constantly throws below the belt. But a quick glance at his resume and his biggest fights point to such claims being a bit of an exaggeration.
“The first time I was cited for low blows was when I had a point taken away in my fight against Vic Darchinyan,” Mares said of last December’s fight against the former two-division champ, which served as the opening bout of the bantamweight tournament.
Still, the 2004 Mexican Olympic boxer – who now represents the first ever home-grown champion for Golden Boy Promotions – prepares himself for anything when he meets Agbeko again in a couple of weeks.
“I’ll be more cautious in that regard because I know everyone will be looking at me extra hard. If I see the ref is being hard on me and telling me to keep my punches up, then I’ll adjust my attack and take it upstairs more.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]