Abner Mares gets controversial MD over Joseph Agbeko

By Paul Strauss: In the post fight interview, new International Boxing Federation (IBF) and Showtime bantamweight champion Abner Mares expressed a desire that Jim Gray not ruin his moment. Too late........Jim not only ruined his moment, he also vilified Referee Russell Mora, and essentially accused him of being responsible for Mares' victory. Gray has a history a trying to create controversy and drama, and this night he swooped in on Mora like an ugly turkey vulture intent on gobbling up a choice bit of road kill.

The controversy started when Antonio Tarver and Al Bernstein expressed dissatisfaction with Referee Mora's failure in not taking more forceful action against Mares' repeated landing of low blows. Often what occurred simultaneously was Agbeko's illegal action in pulling down of Mares' head. In his post-fight interview, Mares reiterated that point, and said he was not trying to hit Agbeko low, but because Agbeko pulled his head down just as he was unleashing a body attack, it would sometimes cause a blow to land on or below the beltline.

Surprisingly Al Bernstein, who generally is very objective, was outspoken in his criticism of Mora. In fairness to Mora, he did appear to repeatedly warn both fighters.....i. e. Agbeko for pulling Mares' head down, and Mares for low blows.

The announcers, including Gray, made the point that Vic Darchinyan apparently circulated a video tape of Mares landing low blows. That's somewhat laughable, because Vic has many times been accused of employing dirty tactics himself. It's the pot calling the kettle kind of thing.

It's a shame this low blow controversy has tainted a very good, exciting, action packed fight. Mares definitely carried the edge in much of the fight. He started off fast, and punched with authority, ripping off multi-punch combinations, going up and down, and then mixing in surprises like three right hands in a row. He had Agbeko off balance.

Right away in the first round, Referee Mora was faced with a tough decision. Agbeko missed a wild left hook, which threw him off balance. Just as he was headed downward and toward the ropes, Mares landed a shot to the top of Agbeko's head. Agbeko went to the canvas, and Referee Mora felt because a punch landed at the same time as Agbeko was going down, a knockdown had occurred. So, right off the bat Mares got a 10-8 round.

In the second round, Mares continued with his varied attack, primarily to the body. In the third round, he also got in a good left hook to punctuate things. In the fourth round, Agbeko landed a great overhand right that buckled Mares legs. The little guy proved then and there that he has a great chin. Before long Mares was back on the attack. In the fifth round, there were more instances when Agbeko pulled Mares' head down, and Mares landed some low blows. Referee Mora warned them both about their offenses.

In the sixth round, Agbeko came inside a punch with his head down, possibly hoping to land a counter punch. However, the top of his head clashed with Mares' face, causing a small cut on the left eye lid. There was no foul and no penalty, but Referee Mora did stop the action and acknowledged that the cut was due to an accidental head butt. The round ended with a very good exchange.

Tarver pointed out when a fighter is on his game, he is managing distance well and his timing is good. He didn't think Agbeko was on with either of those things. He just didn't look sharp. In the seventh, Mares continued to control things and kept up his body attack, but it also appeared some of the blows strayed south of the border. At that time, Bernstein admitted to being upset that Referee Mora hadn't penalized Mares for the infraction.

Up to this point, Agbeko was landing some good rights, but that wasn't enough to win him rounds. Agbeko's twenty-two kayo's are often due to his overhand right. It's hard for opponents to pick it up, because often times Agbeko's upper body has bent down, in and to his left. It's from that position that his right hand comes over the top. For his opponents, it's like getting hit by an invisible guy off to the side.

In the ninth round, Mares ran into another Agbeko right. But, he weathered it okay. He did seem to be slowing a bit, and his punches noticeably were losing steam. Referee Mora again warned both fighters of their usual offenses.......i. e. Agbeko for pulling Mares' head down, and Mares for low blows.

In the tenth round, Agbeko was making better use of his jab, and was administering a decent body attack of his own, and he threw a few good lead rights into the mix. Another low blow landed by Mares initiated another strong protest by both Bernstein and Tarver. In the eleventh round, Agbeko continued to step things up and increase the pressure on Mares, but Mares managed to land a very nice left hook. Then the usual happened once again, Mares fired a left to the body, which caromed off of Agbeko's left glove, which was just below the belt. The punch definitely was low, but Referee Mora apparently thought it was at the beltline and legal.

Agbeko went down, and instead of sending Mares to a neutral corner, and giving Agbeko up to five minutes to recover, Referee Mora signaled a knockdown and started the count. That meant another 10-8 round for Mares. Mares boxed for the remainder of the eleventh and then into the twelfth as well.

When the decision was announced, one judge scored it a draw at 113 a piece. The other two judges scored it 115=111 for Mares. Hence, Mares came away with a MD. Al Bernstein offered his curious opinion that the result would have been different if Referee Mora would have signaled a low blow had occurred and then penalized Mares one point. But, would that really have made any difference, at least as far as the winner of the fight was concerned

If my California math is correct, the point total difference would have been one for the penalty, plus no knockdown, which means no 10-8 round. You would potentially have a 10-9 round for Mares. However, you have to deduct one penalty point for the low blow that Bernstein contends occurred. So, there would be a two point swing. The (113) draw would become 112-114 for Agbeko. The two scores of 115-111 would become 114-112 for Mares, so it would seem he would still have his win, but it would be a SD rather than a MD. This little scenario is assuming the only point of contention is the low blow/knockdown mentioned by Al Bernstein. Undoubtedly Agbeko's camp and his fans would attempt to further muddy the waters.

All of which might become a moot point, because it appears Agbeko's people are filing a formal protest on Monday with the sanctioning body (IBF), demanding a rematch. It's probably a safe bet to assume that Showtime would like to televise it, since this tournament championship fight was action packed. It's also a safe bet that Referee Russell Mora will not be chosen as the referee. What will Jim Gray do with no one to descend upon? None the less, Abner Mares deserves hardy congratulations for having fought a great fight. By the way, in the post fight interview, he seemed willing to have a rematch.

Article posted on 14.08.2011

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