by Cliff Rold
Russell Mora can’t screw this one up. For fans that can’t afford the Cotto-Margarito rematch so close to Christmas, fans using this as an alternate undercard, and fans DVR’ing for later review, it’s a fine starting point.
Showtime’s Saturday Bantamweight doubleheader speaks for itself from there.
A rematch of the contentious August battle that saw Abner Mares win his first major belt from Joseph Agbeko leads the card. For hardcore followers, equal curiosity is focused on the chief support as slick Anselmo Moreno makes his U.S. debut against arguably the generation’s most exciting little man.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: IBF Bantamweight (2011-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 117 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 117.9 lbs.
Hails from: Montebello, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 22-0-1, 13 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 1-0-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Isidro Garcia, Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Drawn: 1 (Yonnhy Perez)
Previous Titles: IBF Bantamweight (2007-09, 2 Defenses; 2010-11)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 117.25 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 117.6 lbs.
Hails from: Accra, Ghana
Record: 28-3, 22 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-3, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Luis Perez, Vic Darchinyan, Yonnhy Perez)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Wladimir Sidorenko, Yonnhy Perez, Abner Mares)
Title: WBA Bantamweight (2008-Present, 8 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 118 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 119.2 lbs.
Hails from: San Miguelito, Panama
Record: 31-1-1, 11 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #2 at Bantamweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 9-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 5 (Felix Macahado, Tomas Rojas, Wladimir Sidorenko, Mahyar Monshipour, Lorenzo Parra)
Previous Titles: IBF Flyweight (2004-07, 6 Defenses) ; IBF Jr. Bantamweight (2008-09, 2 Defenses); WBC/WBA Jr. Bantamweight (2008-10, 3 Defenses); Lineal World Junior Bantamweight (2008-11, 3 Defenses)
Height: 5’5 ½
Weight: 117.75 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 117.3 lbs.
Hails from: Sydney, Australia
Record: 37-3-1, 27 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #5 at Bantamweight
Record in MajorTitle Fights: 12-2, 10 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 8 (Irene Pacheco, Victor Burgos, Dimitri Kirilov, Cristian Mijares, Jorge Arce, Tomas Rojas, Rodrigo Guerrero, Yonnhy Perez)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 3 (Nonito Donaire, Joseph Agbeko, Abner Mares)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Agbeko B+; Mares B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Agbeko B; Mares B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Agbeko B+; Mares B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Agbeko A; Mares A
Pre-Fight: Speed – Moreno A; Darchinyan B
Pre-Fight: Power – Moreno C; Darchinyan A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Moreno A-; Darchinyan B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Moreno A; Darchinyan A
There are two strong points of intrigue in the main event. The first comes from the low blows in fight one. Mares worked the belt line a lot; everything landed there wasn’t foul. However, as the fight wore on, the gloves certainly strayed lower.
It’s a no brainer; Mares is going to be watched this time. If he is tentative because of it, the slightly quicker Agbeko may have the chance to establish his jab and get some early rounds going his way. That leads to the second point of intrigue.
Tentative or not, there isn’t yet much evidence about how Mares handles rematches. Some fighters get better; some fight the same opponents the same way with similar results. We know Agbeko can adjust and fight the same fighter two different ways. It was evident in his two fights with Yonnhy Perez, where he boxed more in the rematch and won by decisive margins.
Does he have the legs to pull a similar rematch performance out here? Agbeko has been in some tough fights and Mares maintains the advantage in youth.
Youth is also a factor in the support bout. Moreno is almost a full decade younger than Darchinyan with an edge in height and reach. His superior speed and elusive feet could cause a ton of trouble for Darchinyan. This clash of southpaws is also a clash of approaches to the game. Moreno comes to win on points.
Darchinyan comes to eliminate scorecards. This weekend, his attempt is backed up by a boatload more experience. He’s seen the best of three weight divisions and, while he may never have seen anything quite like Moreno, he’s seen a greater range of top looks. Moreno’s toughest foes to date are probably Sidorenko and Cermeno. While both good fighters, neither would likely feature near the top on a list of Darchinyan’s best wins.
This fight could be decided early and could come down to how physically strong Moreno is. It’s hard to tell with finesse fighters sometimes and critical in making up for a lack of single shot pop. If Darchinyan doesn’t feel threatened, he will start trying to run Moreno over. If he lands, and Moreno buckles, it’s going to be a long night for the Panamanian. Even if Moreno stays up, he could struggle to throw enough punches to sway the judges.
There can be good and bad Moreno. Good Moreno has a sneaky uppercut/hook to the body and a creative left behind his right jab. The bad one can get comfortable pot-shotting and moving all night. He's much better in the pocket, letting shots slide off the shoulder and popping quick shots that keep foes off balance. All of Darchinyan’s losses came against men willing to meet him head on. Can he lose if he’s perceived as outhustling a Moreno who gets too cute?
This scribe is one who holds Moreno is high regard (there’s far more good than bad) but has also come to greatly respect Darchinyan. His is the most complete resume among little men since Michael Carbajal, across more weight divisions. Darchinyan has a higher skill level than he gets credit for with a stiff jab and big guts. It’s a tough call. Moreno has never been hit the way Darchinyan will hit him and, until he’s seen doing it, it’s hard to predict he keeps the power puncher at bay all night. The choice here is Darchinyan with the stoppage sometime after the eighth.
In the main event, Mares keeps them up enough to earn another, cleaner victory over Agbeko in a hard fought twelve rounds. Agbeko is going to come out fighting hard but the body attack of Mares isn’t going to disappear. Mares is growing as a fighter, learning in a string of tough fights against serious foes. This is where he puts it all together for a complete performance.
Report Card Picks 2011: 40-14
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]