Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko II Preview & Prediction

Credit: Tom Casino / Showtime

On December 3, Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko fight in a rematch of a controversial August bout. Mares won a unanimous decision in a bout noted more for its botched officiating than anything else. Mares earned the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament victory and his first professional world title, but there is a lot between the lines.

  • Date: Saturday, December 3, 2011
  • Site: Honda Center, Anaheim, California
  • Title: IBF Bantamweight Title: 12 Rounds

Mares vs. Agbeko II Preview

Credit: Tom Casino / Showtime

Not to beat up referee Russell Mora all over again, but it’s impossible to discuss their first encounter without addressing his horrific performance. After all, his refereeing was so surreal and awful that it totally took the focus off an otherwise sizzling fight between two top bantamweights.

The obvious victim of this was Agbeko, as dozens of low blows crashed into his groin area without a point deduction. It’s fair to say that Mares would have been disqualified by just about any other referee. But to not deduct any points put Agbeko in a bad spot, as he was obviously hurt by the cumulative affect of the dozens of illegal blows.

Then there were the two knockdowns of Agbeko. The first one, which occurred in the opening round, was iffy, but the ruling was somewhat understandable. The 11th-round knockdown, however, was a total farce, as Agbeko crashed after a particularly hard shot to the groin. Everyone besides the referee seemed to know it was a low blow. So when you discount at least the last knockdown and figure in the penalties that should have been issued, Agbeko comes away looking the victim of a royal screwjob.

In a weird way, I felt sorry for Mares. Sure, it’s difficult to extend goodwill to the recipient of bad officiating and the man inflicting the fouls. At the same time, the way things shook out ended up painting Mares as a loser—a fighter who was utterly dependent on a bad referee to win. That assessment might be correct, but maybe it isn’t.

Mares certainly has a tendency to stray low, as he also illustrated in the Darchinyan fight. But it is his job to fight, not referee. If Russell Mora rightfully deducted points, Mares would have likely made the correction. And there is no guarantee that the only thing separating Agbeko from victory was the low blows. Every time we begin down the road of “If the ref did this…” we must remember that the conditions of the fight would have also changed.

Maybe Mares would have fought harder under different conditions. Maybe Agbeko would have been appreciably better without absorbing low blows, or maybe only negligibly better. If Agbeko had more energy without the low blows, maybe Mares would have answered the call. The point is that it’s impossible to go back and look at the first fight and leave everything the same and just start deducting points from Mares as if nothing else in the fight would have changed.

The first fight’s result was spoiled. But certain things remain clear. Namely, this is a great matchup between two versatile and prideful fighters who are really hungry for a clear win. With some adequate officiating, fans will be able to concentrate on these two great warriors as they match skills one more time. And this time—let’s hope it’s the fighters, and not the referee or judges, who get most of the spotlight.

Vital Stats

Mares: The Mexican-born Californian is still only 25 years old. He stands a shade over 5’4” with a reach of 66-inches. Abner was a decorated amateur, fighting for Mexico in the 2004 Athens Olympics. His win over Agbeko earned him his first title and the Showtime Tournament win. Mares is 22-0-1 with 13 stoppages.

Agbeko: The 32-year old Agbeko has been a pro since 1998. Standing 5’5” with a 66-inch reach, he matches up well physically with Mares. His record is 28-3 (22 KOs) and unlike Mares, he was able to defeat Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez clearly. Considered somewhat of an afterthought heading into the tournament, Agbeko revived his career with a pair of inspiring performances.

Style

Mares: You can sense Mares wants to brawl all the time, but the well-schooled IBF champion can also box when the situation calls for it. Most boxing insiders knew the kid could dish it out, but his last few outings have also seen Mares display the requisite toughness and durability he will need to rise to the absolute top of the sport.

Agbeko: “King Kong” is an aggressive and strong bantamweight who can muscle opponents around and prevail via his incredible physical strength. But when that isn’t working, Agbeko is also capable of thoughtful boxing—counterpunching and being calculating, as he lets his opponents dig their own grave.

Questions

Mares: After sailing through the first 5-6 years of his career with little resistance, will the rigors of having 4 demanding 12-rounders in 18 months leave him a bit tattered? Is he capable of stepping it up a notch, in an effort to finally notch a clear win over a top 118-pounder? Is he a little too comfortable operating outside the rules? Is it just a matter of time before Mares allows point deductions or even a DQ to cost him a win? Will the referee of this bout be looking at Mares with hyper-critical lens?

Agbeko: Did the controversy from the first fight detract attention away from the fact that Agbeko was having major problems with the speed and youth of Mares? Is age and wear beginning to subtly catch up on Agbeko? Will he be a significantly more formidable fighting force if spared dozens of nut-shots? With such a divergent range of effectiveness shown over the years, which Agbeko will show up?

Agbeko vs. Mares Rematch Prediction

Usually when two fighters rematch, you have a decent grip on what to expect. Their first fight, however, was so bizarre that it left more questions than answers. Nevertheless, this looks to be a well-matched contest between two fighters who leave little to separate each other. This should be a really good fight.

The first fight left a bad taste in the mouths of both combatants. Agbeko feels victimized, but there is unfinished business for Mares, who probably feels he needs a more conclusive triumph to take his career to the next level. With so much on the line, expect a feverish battle.

I would look for the youth, speed, and boxing ability of Mares to be the predominant factors of this fight. Agbeko will remain dogged as ever and should be able to zing Mares with power shots as he did in their first bout. Mares, however, is tough and rugged—as illustrated by his last 3 fights against top competition.

Mares will resolutely soldier through Agbeko’s shots, landing more en route to a close 12-round decision.

Prediction: Abner Mares wins by majority 12-round decision.

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