By Jake Donovan
All of the televised participants made weight for Showtime’s bantamweight doubleheader, which takes place Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA.
The main event features unbeaten titlist Abner Mares, who makes the first defense of his crown against the man he acquired it from, former two-time champ Joseph Agbeko. Both fighters came in at 117 ¾ lb, just under the bantamweight limit.
The bout is a rematch to their controversial August encounter, in which Mares won a majority decision. The controversy stemmed from poor officiating on the part of referee Russell Mora, who failed to penalize Mares despite numerous low blows thrown and landed over the course of their 12-round affair.
Overlooked in the process was the thrilling, competitive nature of their fight, which was why both parties were eager to do it again.
Mares (22-0-1, 13KO) became the first fighter that Golden Boy has promoted from pro debut to a major championship thanks to the win. It also earned the 2004 Mexican Olympian bragging rights as the winner of the Showtime Bantamweight tournament.
Going in, Mares was the only fighter to have never won a title, but now reigns as the only titlist once the smoke cleared. He advanced to the finals thanks to a split decision win over Vic Darchinyan, overcoming the first knockdown of his career as well as a nasty cut to turn on the heat in the second half to ultimately surge ahead.
Agbeko (28-3, 22KO) began the tournament with revenge on his mind, and gained it in a big way in dominating previously unbeaten Yonnhy Perez to regain his bantamweight belt. The Dec. ’10 tournament opener was a rematch to their Halloween thriller 14 months prior, in which Perez scored a controversial 10th round knockdown en route to a points.
However, Agbeko has since endured bad luck. His tournament finals bout with Mares was scheduled for this past April, but was forced to reschedule after the Ghana native – now living in and fighting out of the Bronx – suffered a sudden case of sciatica during fight week.
In the co-feature, Vic Darchinyan vies for a title in a third weight class when he takes on Anselmo Moreno, who fights in the United States and on Showtime for the first time.
Moreno (31-1-1, 11KO) came in at the bantamweight limit of 118 lb., while Darchinyan was slightly lighter at 117.75.
The fight marks the ninth title defense for Moreno, who won the belt in 2008 and rides a 25-fight win streak heading into this fight. The Panamanian southpaw was a notable omission from the tournament, but signed with Golden Boy Promotions over the summer and is anxious to make a statement in his stateside debut.
Standing in front of him is Darchinyan (37-3-1, 27KO), a former two division world champion. Darchinyan has become the unofficial face of Showtime boxing, a network regular since 2006. He has captured hardware at flyweight and super flyweight, serving as the latter division’s lineal champ on the strength of his Nov. ’08 upset knockout of Cristian Mijares, coming just 16 months after being humiliated by Nonito Donaire for the first loss of his career.
Darchinyan previously attempted a run at a bantamweight belt, but came up short in a July ’09 points loss to Agbeko. The aforementioned loss to Mares knocked him out of the tournament finals, but made a statement in an emphatic shutout technical decision over Perez in the consolation bout in April.
Both bouts air live on Showtime, beginning at 9PM ET.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]