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Mares Beats Agbeko To Win Bantam Tourney..AVILA RINGSIDE

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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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Boxing Odds and Ends: A Travesty of a Heavyweight ‘Title Fight’ Jake Paul and More

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It’s official. On Wednesday, Feb. 22, a formal press conference was held in Sofia, Bulgaria, to announce the forthcoming fight between Mahmoud Charr, formerly known as Manuel Charr, and Kubrat Pulev. They will meet in Bulgaria’s capital city on March 30 at a 12,000-seat arena.

Charr vs Kubrat bears the imprimatur of a world heavyweight title fight (WBA version). Charr is considered the champion, notwithstanding the fact that others have held the title since he first laid claim to it more than six years ago.

The WBA, as we know, recognizes two champions in some weight classes, a “super” champion and a “regular” champion. The “super” designation was created in 2000. It was designed to segregate title-holders into levels of accomplishment. In theory, a “super” champion has made five successful defenses and is recognized as a world title-holder by at least one of the three other major sanctioning bodies. “Super” champions are allowed certain liberties with respect to mandatory title defenses.

The bifurcation was greeted with hoots of derision. The Panama-based WBA trivialized the sport.

Mahmoud Charr

Mahmoud Charr was born in Beirut but has resided in Germany since he was a little boy. He won the vacant title with a 12-round decision over unexceptional Alexander Ustinov in Oberhausen, Germany.  It was a close fight. TSS ringside correspondent Phil Woolever had Ustinov winning 7 rounds to 5, but conceded that the verdict could not be called an injustice.

The title that Charr won was vacated by Ruslan Chagaev who won the belt from Fres Oquendo, lost it to Lucas Browne, and got it back by decree when Browne’s post-fight urine tests showed evidence of banned substances. But Chagaev never fought again. His fight with Browne was his last.

Charr’s first defense was to come against Fres Oquendo. Slated for March 23, 2019 in Cologne after being pushed back from September of the previous year, the match never came to fruition when Charr tested positive for two banned substances. Things get really muddled from here with Charr pushed to the sideline by legal battles complicated by Don King’s shenanigans. King arranged a fight in Florida between Charr and his fighter Trevor Bryan and succeeded in getting Bryan the WBA belt when Charr was unable to get a visa. The belt is vacant again after Bryan was knocked out by Daniel Dubois who, in turn, was knocked out by “super” champion Oleksandr Usyk.

There are more threads to this saga but let’s not go there. Suffice it to say that after defeating Ustinov, Charr was out of action for the next three-and-a-half years. He’s had only three fights since 2017 and to say that his opponents were men of low repute would be giving them the best of it. In his most recent assignment, in December of 2022, he scored a second-round stoppage over 46-year-old Swiss-Albanian slug Nuri Seferi. That brought his record to 34-4 (20). He has been stopped three times, most recently in 2015 when he was halted in five frames by future cruiserweight champion Maris Briedis.

Kubrat Pulev

Kubrat Pulev will have the home field advantage in Sofia. Charr will have youth on his side. He’s 39; Pulev is 42.

Pulev sports a 30-3 record. The losses came at the hands of Wladimir Klitschko (L KO 5), Anthony Joshua (L KO 9), and Derek Chisora (L SD 12). He last fought in December at the OC Hangar in Costa Mesa, CA, where he won a lopsided decision over Polish journeyman Andrzej Wawrzyk.

In a previous engagement here at the Hangar, a concert hall that seats a shade over 3,000, he TKOed Bogdan Dinu. That bout is remembered mostly for what happened after it ended. In an incident that went viral on social media, Pulev surprised Jennifer Ravalo, a self-styled journalist, with a kiss on the lips. That animated women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred and led to an 8-page spread in Playboy (of Ravalo, not Allred). The California State Athletic Commission fined and suspended Pulev and mandated that he undergo sexual harassment training. The suspension lasted 120 days.

The match between Charr and Pulev, says a blurb about it, is an “eagerly anticipated” clash between “two evergreen living legends.” We will let you provide the punchline, The winner is expected to fight Martin Bakole who was knocked out by Michael Hunter.

Jake Paul

Jake Paul, the enfant terrible of prizefighting, returns this Saturday on a card in San Juan, Puerto Rico, that will air on DAZN. Paul, an influencer who brought his big social media following with him when he took up fisticuffing, is coming off a first-round stoppage of Andre August, a no-name fighter from Texas. Saturday’s sacrificial lamb is a fellow from Dickinson, North Dakota (by way of Benicia, California) named Ryan Bourland.

Bourland, who is reportedly 35 years old but looks older, scored his signature win in 2018 when he avenged a previous defeat with a 10-round majority decision over Jose Hernandez. He has fought only one since then, TKOing a fighter with a losing record in a 6-rounder at a lodge on a remote Indian reservation in North Dakota. That improved his ledger to 17-2 (6 KOs).

Regarding Jake Paul, Thomas Hauser once wrote that he’s worked hard to become a better boxer and is “certainly better than a Golden Gloves novice.” There was a time when this reporter, perhaps naively, thought that Jake had the potential to become a legitimate top-15 cruiserweight, but his recent choice of opponents suggests that he is comfortable just spinning his wheels.

His bout with Bourland will play second fiddle to Amanda Serrano’s featherweight title defense against Germany’s Nina Meinke (18-3, 4 KOs). Although Amanda has a lot of mileage on her odometer, she is expected to have little difficulty with Meinke. In another bout of note, Puerto Rican campaigners Jonathan Gonzalez (27-3-1, 14 KOs) and Rene Santiago (12-3, 9 KOs) will meet in a 12-rounder with Gonzalez’s WBO light flyweight title at stake.

—-

Let’s conclude this write-up on an upbeat note. Hall of Fame boxing writer Bernard Fernandez, a frequent TSS contributor, informs us that his fifth and presumably final anthology is nearing completion with a likely release date of April or May. “Championship Rounds, Round 5” includes a foreword by Gerry Cooney and has drawn glowing reviews from the likes of Dave Kindred and Dr. Gordon Marino who both had an early peek at the manuscript. Kindred, a renowned sportswriter and author, was the subject of a 2021 piece on “60 Minutes.” Marino, a Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at St. Olaf College in Minnesota, has written extensively about boxing for the Wall Street Journal.

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Results from Orlando where Berlanga KOed McCrory in a Possible Prelude to Canelo

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Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom organization was at the Caribe Royale tonight, a non-gaming resort near Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Unbeaten super middleweights Edgar Berlanga and Padraig McCrory squared off in the main event.

The fight started slow, but it soon became apparent that McCrory, a 35-year-old father of three from Belfast, Northern Ireland, was a domestic-level fighter, notwithstanding his undefeated (18-0) record. Berlanga, whose last five fights had gone the distance, roughed him up with some dirty tactics before taking him out in the sixth round with a crunching right hand that sent the Irishman face-first to the canvas. As McCrory pulled himself upright on rubbery legs, the towel flew in from his corner. The official time was 2:44.

As well-documented, Berlanga opened his pro career with 16 consecutive first-round knockouts. Nonetheless, he was let go by Top Rank in what purportedly was an amicable divorce. This was his second fight under the Matchroom banner. Eddie Hearn signed him with an eye on scoring a big-money match with Canelo Alvarez. The red-headed Mexican superstar is committed to returning to the ring in May on Cinco de Mayo weekend in Las Vegas, but hasn’t yet locked in an opponent.

If Berlanga gets the nod, he would be a heavy underdog, but the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico angle (coupled with Berlanga’s new-found reputation as a dirty fighter) would make it an easy sell.

Co-Feature

In only his third professional fight, Cuban defector Andy Cruz was bumped into the co-feature. That was in recognition of his amateur pedigree. Among his accomplishments, he was 4-0 vs. Keyshawn Davis with the last win coming in the gold medal round of the Tokyo Olympics.

Cruz, 28, was expected to win as he pleased against his Mexican opponent, Bryan Zamarripa, and he did win all 10 rounds on all three scorecards, but in common with many great Cuban amateurs, he seemed to lack something in the power department. Zamarripa was 14-2 heading in.

Other Bouts of Note

In a 12-round welterweight contest that was devoid of drama, Uzbekistan native Shakhram Giyasov, an Olympic silver medalist who has lost precious few rounds as a pro, won a lopsided technical decision over well-recycled 34-year-old Mexican Pablo Cesar Cano.

Giyasov (15-0, 9 KOs) sent Cano (35-9-1) to the canvas in the third round with a body punch. At the end of round 11, as their feet were tangled, he pushed Cano to the canvas and the Mexican ostensibly suffered a broken ankle when he fell. That sent the bout to the scorecards where the decision (109-99 x3) was a formality. With the victory, Giyasov earned a shot at WBA belt-holder Eimantas Stanionis.

The 12-round bantamweight match between Antonio Vargas and Jonathan Rodriguez, two fighters of Puerto Rican descent, was framed as a WBA bantamweight title eliminator. Rodriguez, the underdog, floored Vargas in the opening stanza. He had scored a stunning first-round knockout of 27-1 Khalid Yafai in his previous start and it appeared that another upset was brewing. But the match quickly turned one-sided in favor of Vargas who put Rodriguez on the canvas in the very next frame (and had two points deducted for hitting him after the bell) and then put him down again at the end of round seven with a sweeping left hook after which Rodriguez’s corner properly pulled him out.

Vargas, a 2016 Olympian who had home field advantage in Florida, improved to 18-1 (10 KOs) and became the mandatory opponent for Takuma Inoue who won earlier today in Tokyo. Bethlehem, Pennsylvania’s Rodriguez declined to 17-2-1.

The opening bout on the TV portion of the card was a 10-round flyweight affair that looked like a runaway for showboating Yankiel Rivera until gritty Andy Dominguez made things interesting.

Rivera, who improved to 5-0 (2), was Puerto Rico’s lone representative in the Tokyo Olympics. In Mexico-born Andy Dominguez, he was fighting a former three-time New York City Golden Gloves champion who was also unbeaten (10-0 heading in). Rivera dominated the match but was caught napping in round nine and Dominguez, although all busted-up, hurt him and almost put him down. That was most lopsided round of the fight, but also the only round that Dominguez won in the eyes of the judges.

Photo credit: Ed Mulholland / Matchroom

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Junto Nakatani Turns in Another Masterclass on Saturday’s Tripleheader in Tokyo

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In a rather odd juxtaposition, several of boxing’s best little men were on display today at Japan’s National Sumo Arena in Tokyo. The best of the lot, Junto Nakatani, improved to 27-0 (20 KOs) while tearing away the WBC world bantamweight title from Tijuana’s Alexandro Santiago (28-4-5) who was making the first defense of the title he won in Las Vegas in May when he upset Nonito Donaire.

It was a one-sided beatdown. Nakatani, who had a 5-inch height advantage, won every round before ending the contest in the sixth. The end came at the 1:12 mark when Nakatani terminated the affair with his second knockdown. The first came earlier in the round, the result of a straight left hand. The finisher was a big right hook.

With the victory, Nakatani became a world title-holder in a third weight class. He’s an outstanding talent, worthy of pound-for-pound consideration, and would be favored in a unification fight with Takuma Inoue.

Inoue, the younger brother of pound-for-pound king Naoya “Monster” Inoue, did his part to bring the match to fruition with a ninth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jerwin Ancajas in the main event. Inoue (19-1, 5 KOs) was making the first defense of the WBA diadem he won with a wide decision over Venezuela’s mildewed Liborio Solis. That title was conveniently vacated by Takuma’s renowned brother.

This figured to be the most competitive match on the card and Ancajas (34-4-2) had his moments before Inoue ended the contest at the 0:44 mark of round nine with a four-punch combination climaxed by a shot to the liver. Heading in, Ancajas, who had a long title reign at 115, was 9-2-1 in world title fights and hadn’t previously been stopped.

In the first of the three title fights, 29-year-old Kosei Tanaka became a four-weight belt-holder in record time with a unanimous decision over Mexicali’s stubborn but out-classed Christian Bacasegua “Rocky” Rangel. At stake was the vacant WBO junior bantamweight title.

Tanaka, who previously held belts at 105, 108, and 112, started slow but the outcome was never in doubt after he knocked “Rocky” to the canvas in the eighth frame. The judges had it 119-108, 117-110, and 116-111. With the victory, Tanaka improved to 20-1 (11). In his only defeat, he was stopped by countryman Kazuto Ioka. He hunkers for a rematch but, if it happens, he might wish that it hadn’t. Ioka is long in the tooth – he turns 35 next month – but is very good and shows no signs of slowing down. Rangel (22-5-2) had won nine straight heading in, but against questionable opposition and was making his first start outside Mexico.

The Teiken Promotions card was presented in association with Top Rank and aired in the U.S. on ESPN+.

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