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Mares Beats Agbeko To Win Bantam Tourney..AVILA RINGSIDE

David A. Avila

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LAS VEGAS-A strong body attack and some missed low blows by the referee resulted in a majority decision for Abner Mares over IBF bantamweight champion Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko and with the victory he took the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament on Saturday.

 

Ghana’s Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) started slowly against Montebello’s Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs) at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and suffered from some missed calls. Still, it was a very riveting contest and the title changed hands amid a pro-Mares crowd.

 

Mares opened the fight in the first round with both guns blazing to the head and the body. It was a plan of attack that Mares used throughout the fight. A combination dropped Agbeko near the end of the first round. A replay showed that it seemed to be a slip but Agbeko did not complain.

 

“I like to work the body,” said Mares. “Opponents tend to back away or they hold me down.”

 

Agbeko’s constant use of his arm to hold Mares’ head down resulted in numerous blows below the belt. Referee Russell Mora warned Agbeko many times to refrain from that tactic and it would later prove pivotal in the fight.

 

Agbeko also used jabs to keep Mares out of range of his power shots and that would be his main weapon. The Ghanian fighter kept the fight at arms distance but was tagged by a clean right hand by Mares in round two.

 

Mares and Agbeko turned round three into a tactical affair as the African fighter was more intent on counter punching. A counter left hook by Mares scored big as did  his repeated body attacks.

 

A big overhand right by Agbeko wobbled Mares in round four but the Southern Californian maintained his balance and resumed the body attack. But it was clearly Agbeko’s round.

 

Mares landed a pretty left hook to the body and head combinations and a fierce counter right hand in round five to take back the momentum. Agbeko continued his jabbing attack and setting up the right hand.

 

Big counter lefts and rights continued Mares’ assault on Agbeko in round six. An accidental clash of heads resulted in a cut on Mares left eye as the strong African boxer began to score more often.

 

Round seven saw Mares slow down and allow the more tactical Agbeko to win the opening minute. Though both slugged it out near the end it was Agbeko who scored more clean blows.

 

In the eighth and ninth rounds Mares slowed down his attack and Agbeko began to score more with his jab and accidental head butts. But in the closing seconds of both rounds Mares scored with counter rights but Agbeko seemed to be busier.

 

Mares escaped a point deduction for a low blow and dropped Agbeko with a left hook in the 11th round. A replay of the knockdown showed that Mares left hook was indeed below the belt. That knockdown did not proved to be the winning margin as Mares won by majority decision 113-113 and 115-111 on two score cards to win the IBF world title and the finale of the Showtime Bantamweight Tournament.

 

“The first knock down was good and the second one I hit him on the belt,” said Mares adding that Agbeko’s tactic of using his arm to force Mares head down prompted the blows below the belt. “He (Agbeko) was holding me down.”

 

Mares wins the world title and claims as the best bantamweight in the world by winning the tournament. But out there is WBO-WBC world titleholder Nonito “Filipino Flash” Donaire that could result in the ultimate bantamweight finale.

 

“I’m hoping for anything,” said Mares about possibly fighting Donaire in a mega showdown.

 

Not pleased with the outcome was Agbeko.

 

“I felt I had two opponents in Abner Mares and the referee,” said Agbeko. “The referee took away my title tonight not Abner Mares.”

 

Other bouts

 

Texas heavyweight Eric Molina 18-1, 14 KOs) started slowly against Kentucky’s Warren Browning (14-2-1, 9 KOs) who started quickly against the favored fighter. But it didn’t last long as Molina’s pinpoint punching proved too much in winning by knockout and grabbing the vacant WBC U.S. heavyweight title.

 

Browning bulled his way inside with his strength and fired overhand rights and uppercuts to score early inside against Molina in the first round. But that would be it.

 

Round two saw Molina aggressively fire combinations to create more space. Though several blows landed Browning clowned at the attempt, then while moving into punching range a short right hand floored the Kentuckian. He beat the count and jumped back to his feet. Back to attack mode Browning was not shy but was hit with a right to the body then a right to the chin and down he went again. Once more he beat the count.

 

Molina began round three looking to drop that big right hand and found an opening as Browning moved to fire a blow. Down he went again but this time referee Robert Byrd stopped the fight at 26 seconds of the round.

 

“He came out wild, I stayed calm and took him out,” said Molina who fights out of Lyford, Texas. “They (fans) know there is a true Mexican heavyweight contender.”

 

Former flyweight world champion Eric Morel (45-2, 23 KOs) proved he can hang with the talented bantamweights by steamrolling Daniel Quevedo (13-12-2, 8 KOs) in four rounds by technical knockout.

 

Puerto Rico’s Morel, who is also known as “Little Hands of Steel,” proved it by knocking down the usually sturdy chinned Quevedo twice before the Mexican fighter remained on his stool at the end of round four. A perfectly placed right uppercut floored Quevedo in round two and a four punch combo did the job in round one.

 

Though not ranked in the top 10 in the WBO bantamweight division where dynamic Nonito Donaire holds the crown, Morel is eager to face the “Filipino Flash.”

 

“I would definitely be ready for him and definitely be the next WBO bantamweight champion,” said Morel.

 

A listless Carlos Molina (14-0-1, 7 KOs) dragged through eight rounds with Mexico’s Juan Manuel Montiel (6-4-3, 1 KO) in a fight that was scheduled to be a junior welterweight bout but was moved up in weight when the California boxer was unable to make weight. The eight round fight ended in a split draw.

 

Molina just didn’t have his A game perhaps due to the attempt to make the agreed upon weight limit. Though he was the bigger puncher he just couldn’t manage enough energy to offset the high energy output of Montiel.

 

Judge Lisa Giampa scored it 77-75 for Montiel and Dwayne Ford tabbed 77-75 Molina, Dick Houseman had it 76-76 resulting in a split draw.

 

Newly arrived Cuban refugee Angelo Santana (11-0, 8 KOs) blasted out Germany’s Ramzan Adaev (8-1-1, 7 KOs) with a neck wrenching left hand during a heavy exchange. It was the second knockdown of round two and the impact from that punch was heard throughout the arena. Santana won by knockout at 2:06 of round two of the junior welterweight match. It was Adaev’s first pro loss.

 

“I wanted to make a statement to my promoter, Don King; the sport of boxing; and boxing fans everywhere that I am ready to fight the best at the 140-pound limit,” Santana said in the ring after the fight.  “I want Brandon Rios or Vernon Paris.”

 

 

 

 

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Fast Results from Las Vegas: Shakur Wins a Snoozer; Pedraza Stops Rodriguez

Arne K. Lang

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Shakur Stevenson, the 23-year-old Newark native and 2016 Olympic silver medalist, had the distinction of headlining the first of Top Rank’s two dozen MGM “Bubble” shows, an event that marked the return of boxing to Las Vegas after a 101-day absence. Tonight, he headlined the first true post-pandemic boxing show in Nevada, the first show that allowed full capacity.

Stevenson was matched against Jeremiah Nakathila at the Virgin Hotels (an awkward plural). A 31-year-old policeman, Nakathila hailed from the same town in Namibia that produced Julius Indongo, fodder for Terence Crawford in 2017.

Indongo lasted into the third round vs Crawford; Nakathila went the distance vs Shakur and lost every round on all three scorecards.

In common with virtually all of Stevenson’s former opponents, Nakathila found Shakur almost impossible to hit. But Stevenson respected Nakathila’s big right hand and kept the fight at a distance, pot-shotting the Namibian rather than throwing combinations. He knocked Nakathila down in the final seconds of the fourth round with a right hook that landed high on the head, but Nakathila wasn’t badly hurt.

Stevenson (16-0, 8 KOs) pitched a shutout but yet lost luster in a monotonous fight. This was the U.S. debut for Nakathila (21-2) who had won 10 straight, all inside the distance, since traveling to Ekaterinburg, Russia, and losing a majority decision in a 12-round fight with a local man.

Shakur is expected to fight WBO 130-pound champion Jamel Herring next but also has his eye on Oscar Valdez. A match against Herring wouldn’t get the juices flowing, but Valdez may bring out the best in him.

Co-Feature

Junior welterweight Julian Rodriguez stepped up in class and suffered his first pro defeat at the hands of Puerto Rican veteran Jose “Sniper” Pedraza. Rodriguez’s corner stopped the fight after nine rounds owing to severe swelling over both of Rodriguez’s eyes.

Pedraza switched from southpaw to orthodox effectively while repeatedly peppering his opponent with an effective jab. New Jersey’s Rodriguez entered the contest 21-0. Pedraza, a 2008 Olympian and former 130-pound world title-holder, improved to 29-3 with his 14th knockout.

Other Bouts

In a mild upset, Dallas junior lightweight Manuel Rey Rojas (21-5, 6 KOs) won a unanimous 8-round decision over Toledo’s Tyler McCreary (16-2-1). McCreary, who had a strong amateur background, was making his first appearance since being widely outpointed by Carl Frampton in November of 2019. The judges had it 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

Welterweight John Bauza, in his first outing since joining David McWater’s stable, had a laugher vs. Houston’s Christon Edwards who left his corner without his mouthpiece and likely would have been easy meat without this oversight. Bauza knocked him down three times before the bout was halted at the 0:40 mark of round two. From North Bergen, New Jersey via Puerto Rico, Bauza (15-0, 6 KOs) was purportedly 178-8 as an amateur. Edwards (12-3) entered the contest riding a 6-fight winning streak.

Welterweight Xander Zayas, an 18-year-old rising star from Sunrise, Florida, via San Juan, improved to 9-0 (7) with a third-round stoppage of Larry Fryers (11-4). As a pro, Zayas has answered the bell for only 21 rounds. It was the third straight loss for Fryers, originally from Clones, Ireland, who was making his first start with new trainer Wayne McCullough.

In his final fight before the Tokyo Summer Olympics, middleweight Troy Isley (2-0, 2 KOs) scored a fourth-round stoppage of Philadelphia’s LaQuan Evans (4-2). Evans was losing but didn’t appear hurt when referee Russell Mora waived it off with 34 seconds to go in the fourth and final round.

Photo credit: Miket Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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Marco Antonio Barrera and More at the First SoCal Club Show in More Than a Year

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RINGSIDE REPORT by special correspondent Tarrah Zael — MarvNation Promotions hosted “Return of the Legends” on Friday, June 11, at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena in Whittier, CA. Along with a pro card, there was an exhibition featuring the legendary Mexican warrior Marco Antonio Barrera.

It was the first club show in more than a year in Southern California. Local celebrities eager to watch live boxing were everywhere.

In what seems to be a trend of former boxers entering the ring after their retirement, the “Baby-faced Assassin” Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7, 44 KOs) boxed with retired brawler Jesus Soto Karass (29-13-4, 18 KOs) in a six-round bout with two-minute rounds. It was Barrera’s first fight in a decade. He last fought in 2011 when he TKOed Jose Arias in the second round. This win came not too long after a bloody defeat from the heavy puncher Amir Khan, leaving Barrera fans worried that he may have lost his fire.

Soto Karass’s last fight saw him win a majority decision over undefeated Neeco Macias in a 10-round super welterweight contest in 2018. The win would be his first in five years and last of his professional career. But he was competitive in virtually all of his defeats.

Barrera and Soto Karass battled with big 16-ounce gloves in an exhibition with no judges. The 47-year-old, former three-division world champion Barrera landed multiple hooks upon the former title challenger 38-year-old Soto Karass. The living legend had fun and the two hugged at the finish of what looked like a sparring session.

The exhibition was the main event. When it was over, boxing legends Antonio Margarito and Erik Morales entered the ring for pictures and conversation. Marco Antonio Barrera and Morales had a well-known trilogy and hope to continue their rivalry next month with an exhibition in Dallas.

Pro Bouts

In the co-main event, upcoming Pico Rivera boxing star Angel “El Moreno” Rodriguez (9-0, 6 KO) returned to the ring after a long pause from the 2020 pandemic in a six-round lightweight bout against southpaw Bergman Aguilar (15-8-1, 5 KOs).

In the early rounds, Rodriguez unloaded a flurry of body shots upon Aguilar, a Costa Rica native, causing him to take a knee. There wasn’t much coming back from Aguilar and when Rodriguez connected with a power shot in the second round, Aguilar took a knee again and stayed down for a count of “7.”

In the third round, Rodriguez invited his opponent to come into his range and Aguilar took the bait. Once there, Rodriguez unloaded hard power shots upon the body of Aguilar and down to his knee he went once again. Referee Ray Corona counted to seven and allowed the Costa Rican to continue as he did not look badly hurt. But when it happened yet again, Corona did not fall for his antics and called the fight off. It ended at the 1:40 mark of round three, a KO win for Rodriguez who retained his undefeated record.

Undercard

Two heavy hitting super welterweights fought to a bloody majority draw in the fight before the co-main event. Diego Padilla (1-2-1) of South-Central Los Angeles and Oleg Zumenko (3-1-1) representing the country of Ukraine laid into each other all four rounds.

In the first round, Padilla going forward delivered wide punches and uppercuts while Zumenko chose to study his opponent. But after being dropped by an uppercut, studying by the Ukraine fighter was over. A hard right cross by Zumenko slowed down the Los Angeles fighter and we saw an almost even amount of power shots from both brawlers that continued until the end of the fight. Padilla switched his stance multiple times to offset his opponent but that did not stop the Ukrainian from moving into his line of fire. Judge Ron Stevens scored the bout 40-36, but Max DeLuca and Damian Walton both had it 38-38.

Long Beach native Tyrell “Dirty Left” Washington (3-0, 3 KO) knocked down Nebraska’s Ginno Montoya (0-4) with a three-punch combination in the opening round of a scheduled four-round welterweight bout and referee Raul Caiz Jr. halted it at only 1:19 of the first.

Houston featherweight Adrian Leyva (2-2) won a four-round decision over Pablo “Bam Bam” Meglar (4-1-1, 3 KO) of South-Central Los Angeles. Although Meglar landed some good combinations and showed a lot of heart, the Texan was the sharper, more technical fighter. One judge scored the bout 39-37 and the others had it 40-36 for Leyva.

Other Fights

 Michael Land (1-2-1) of Houston, Texas and South-Central Los Angeles’ Oliver Galicia (3-0-1, 3 KO) fought to a draw in a four-round super featherweight fight. All three judges had it 37-37.

The opening fight of the show, a scheduled 4-round lightweight clash between Mexico native Braulio Avila (3-9, 1 KO) and Honduras resident Cris Reyes (10-0, 9 KO), ended after two rounds. Reyes stayed calm, cool and calculated against the wild-swinging Avila and sent him to the canvas for an 8-count in the second round with a left hook to the chin. Avila didn’t come out for the third.

Celebrity Watch

Besides Erik Morales and Antonio Margarito, others in attendance included Tattoo, Big Boy, LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Tom Loeffler, Roberto Diaz, and DJ Ray.

Photo credit: Al Applerose

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Boxing Odds and Ends: Fury-Wilder III Particulars, Kirkland Laing and More

Arne K. Lang

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The third fight between Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder will be staged at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on July 24. The pre-fight hoopla kicks off on Tuesday at a press conference in Los Angeles.

The date was no secret. Co-promoter Bob Arum had circled it even before an arbitrator ruled that a unification fight between Fury and Anthony Joshua could not jump the queue. It was Team Fury’s Plan B. But speculation about the venue had centered around two other properties in Las Vegas: Allegiant Stadium and the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

It will be the eighth boxing card in the five-year history of the T-Mobile. The benchmark, attendance-wise, was set on Sept. 16, 2017, when Canelo Alvarez opposed Gennady Golovkin in the first of their two encounters. The event attracted an announced crowd of 22,358 (17,318 paid).

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum notes that the T-Mobile is superior to the MGM Grand in that the operators of rival casinos are more willing to purchase tickets for their best customers. The T-Mobile sits on MGM property behind New York-New York and is half-owned by the MGM (the other half is owned by the Anschutz Entertainment Group which owns arenas around the world including LA’s Staples Center and the O2 Arena in London) but yet is considered neutral territory in that it isn’t attached to a casino. Casino operators have always been skittish about sending their best customers to an event at a rival property for fear they will be wooed away.

There are no plans to hold press conferences in other cities before the final press conference in Las Vegas. London is out because of Covid restrictions and Arum believes that a conference in New York would be superfluous as that would be redundant.

Arum orchestrated the most dappled (and most frenetic) press tour in boxing. Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, traveling in separate Gulfstream jets, covered 21 cities in 12 days to hype their April 15, 1985 clash at Caesars Palace.

“There was no internet in those days,” says Arum. He did not need to elaborate. Press conferences nowadays are live-streamed and people around the world can tune in. Reporters for traditional newspapers, whose ranks have been thinned, are no longer an indispensable conduit for selling a fight.

Kirkland Laing

The late Harry Mullan, who served 19 years as the editor of British Boxing News, had a grand opinion of Kirkland Laing. “He is the most technically gifted boxer I’ve ever seen, a genius in an odd sort of way,” wrote Mullan of Laing who defeated Roberto Duran and was a three-time British welterweight champion, but would be best remembered for squandering his talent. Born in Jamaica and raised in Nottingham, Laing died on Wednesday, June 9, at age 66.

Laing, who often wore dreadlocks, was quite a character. Lore has it that he once adamantly denied using weed to an interviewer while forgetting that he had a joint tucked behind his ear. He purportedly fought most of his fights while stoned.

Laing brought a 23-3-1 record into his date with Duran on Sept. 4, 1982 at Detroit’s Cobo Hall. The first two losses were incurred in domestic title fights with Colin Jones who stopped him in the ninth round on both occasions.

Laing won a split decision but there was no controversy. The consensus among ringside scribes was that Laing won seven of the 10 rounds. He was too quick for the Panamanian tough guy. The Ring magazine named it the Upset of the Year.

This was Duran’s third loss in his last five fights. Reporters, by and large, wrote him off as finished. Needless to say, that appraisal was premature as Pipino Cuevas, Davey Moore, and Iran Barkley would attest.

A year would elapse before Kirkland Laing entered the ring again. For a long stretch during this lacuna, his whereabouts were unknown. His manager Mickey Duff could not find him.

Laing returned on Sept. 10, 1983 in Atlantic City. In the opposite corner was Fred Hutchings, a fighter from Stockton, California with a 22-1 record. Hutchings blasted him out in the 10th round. The last punch landed with such force, said the correspondent for a New Jersey paper, that Laing “fell over backward, his head crashing to the canvas with a loud thud.” Referee Frank Cappuccino started his count but waived the fight off when he reached “6.”

Laing went on to recapture the British welterweight title, but he never fought in the U.S. again. He left the sport with a record of 43-12-1. He scored 24 knockouts and was stopped eight times.

Within months after his final fight in 1994, Laing and his partner Paula Chen who was carrying his child, were reportedly living on the dole. In December of 2001, he was arrested during a massive sweep of East London crack dens. In 2013, he almost died after he fell or was pushed from a fourth-floor balcony. He was then living in a flat in a council estate (i.e., government subsidized housing) in the London borough of Hackney. At the time of his death, he was said to be residing in a nursing home in Yorkshire.

Kirkland Laing was always eccentric, but some of his aberrant behavior may have been a residue of his bout with Fred Hutchings. He was taken to the hospital with a concussion and remained there for four days. His cause of death has not been disclosed.

Sky

Ever the opportunist, Bob Arum was quick to reach out to the honchos at Sky Sport which was left in the lurch when Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn jumped ship, giving DAZN an exclusive. Great Britain’s premier sports channel, Sky needed a new content provider.

Josh Taylor, the fighting pride of Scotland, recently took Sky to task for failing to pick up his recent fight with Jose Ramirez. That was an egregious oversight on the part of Sky – the network missed out on a whizbang fight that produced a result that will live long in British boxing lore – and Arum allows that Sky executives may have been somewhat embarrassed, making them more receptive to his proposal.

The Sky/Top Rank partnership begins immediately with Saturday’s card in Las Vegas headlined by the match between Shakur Stevenson and Namibia’s obscure Jeremiah Nakathila.

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