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RASKIN’S RANTS: The Real Winners & Losers Of Mares-Agbeko

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SHOCHAMP_AGBEKO-MARES_FIGHT-1492If this life were fair, Russell Mora would be sentenced to about ten of those “bordeline” shots that Mares threw at Agbeko’s groin and legs.

One of these days, we’re going to get a highly entertaining fight that ends with one boxer winning deservedly, no controversy, nobody making excuses, nobody filing appeals. But until that day comes, we have fights like Abner Mares vs. Joseph Agbeko to discuss. This week’s dip into the mini-mailbag asks a simple question that allows me to comment extensively on Saturday’s action-packed but ultimately unsatisfying end to Showtime’s bantamweight tournament:

Eric,

Jay Nady, Laurence Cole, and Arthur Mercante Jr. are like the Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis, and Jack Johnson of lousy refereeing, three absolute legends of sucking. But then there is Russell Mora, apparently the Buster Douglas of awful referees. He doesn’t have a consistent track record of sucking to compete with a buffoon like Cole, but for one night, at the peak of his powers, nobody could touch him. This really might have been the worst single-fight performance by a ref I’ve ever seen.

Here’s my question for you: There’s a certain so-called boxing writer on a certain site you used to write for who reviews the weekend in boxing with incredibly lame and obvious picks for “biggest winner” and “biggest loser.” (In the spirit of the last episode of Ring Theory, where you chose not to give sanctioning bodies or bad writers free publicity by stating their names, I won’t state his name either. But I think you know who I’m talking about.) I can promise you right now, this “writer” will tell us Abner Mares is the big winner because he technically won the fight, and Joseph Agbeko is the big loser because he technically lost. So I’m turning to you to think more creatively and tell me who the big winners and losers from this fight REALLY were. Looking forward to what you come up with.

Thanks,
Alex

Alex,

Thanks for the email, it’s an excellent set-up. I’d be more than happy to tell you who the real winners and losers from the Mares-Agbeko fight were:

BIGGEST WINNER: JOSEPH AGBEKO

Agbeko scored huge sympathy points, which sometimes carry a career farther than a simple “W” does. He also earned major respect points by battling through all the low blows and a slow start (I only gave him one of the first six rounds) to rally and do enough to earn the win had he not had the 11th-round knockdown call go against him and had Mares been penalized at least once or twice like he should have been. That 11th round alone might have been a four-point swing; two judges apparently ruled it 10-8 for Mares, but it should have been 10-8 for Agbeko. Bottom line: People will remember that Agbeko fought his ass off, and he’ll be more popular than ever before on account of the fact that he got blatantly screwed.

BIGGEST LOSER: RUSSELL MORA

Not a whole lot of explanation needed here. This was the height of incompetence, compounded by a stubborn streak. When Mora was shown the slo-mo replay of the “knockdown” punch landing squarely on the cup, he was too pig-headedly defensive to earn back a measure of public support by saying, “Boy, you know, now that I see it in slo-mo, yep, that was a low blow. My mistake. I missed it.” His behavior in the interview matched his behavior in the fight; he was locked into a singular mindset, and he just couldn’t accept that it was the wrong one. The “Buster Douglas of awful referees,” as you called him, should probably go eat himself into a diabetic coma and come out of it in two or three years, when this has all blown over.

EVEN STEVEN: ABNER MARES

Mares’ stock goes neither up nor down. He remains a definite top-five bantamweight who can’t quite win definitively against other top-five bantamweights. He’s an entertaining fighter, but we already knew that. I’d estimate he went low about 15 times over the course of the fight (a few of the shots the Showtime crew claimed were low appeared to me to be on the beltline), but he didn’t seem to be fouling on purpose. He was just throwing one borderline shot after another and figuring, “If I’m not going to lose points for it, why stop?” You can’t hold Mora’s ineptitude against Mares. That said, you can’t really call Mares a winner just because he got his hand raised.

OTHER WINNERS: JIM GRAY, AL BERNSTEIN, INSTANT REPLAY ADVOCATES

Gray is a winner because his boorish interview style was directed at the villain of the moment and therefore was well-received by the public for once. Bernstein is a winner because he (a) identified that Mora was blowing it very early in the proceedings, and (b) criticized him in a rational, even reluctant manner, coming off as the genuine pro that he is. And instant-replay advocates win because the 11th-round knockdown would have been easy to reverse between rounds if the powers-that-be in boxing would finally get into the 20th century—you know, now that we’re 11 years into the 21st.

OTHER LOSERS: ADALAIDE BYRD & OREN SHELLENBERGER, BOXING FANS, OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Byrd and Shellenberger are mild losers for their slightly-too-wide 115-111 scorecards (though you could argue they’re winners because Mora’s atrocious officiating made their questionable scoring barely worth mentioning). The fans are losers because they got an unsatisfying result and because an attractive 118-pound opponent for Nonito Donaire failed to emerge (Donaire thumps either Mares or Agbeko). And De La Hoya is a loser for pulling the ol’ tweet-n-delete with a disgusting comment about Showtime’s broadcasters having bet on Agbeko. You would think after getting sued for slander once, Oscar might have learned his lesson. Not so much. Time to put child locks on that Twitter account, Richard.

That wraps up this week’s mini-mailbag. Now here are a handful of bullet-pointed bloviations to get you through your Monday:

• Sure, I’m curious to hear what the investigators have to say about what they think really happened the night Arturo Gatti died. But mostly, I’m sad to be thinking about this again.

• Speaking of sad, what the hell happened to Kermit Cintron? It’s not just that he seems to have hit the wall so suddenly and without a punishing fight to blame it on; it’s that he’s emerged as the least interesting fighter on the planet. As flawed as he always was, he used to be fun on several levels, whether he was landing sensational knockout blows, shaving the NBC peacock into his hair, or even diving out of the ring like Mick Foley. Now he’s just kinda hanging around. But, hey, it could be worse. He could be David Tua.

• I’ve been away from television access most Friday nights and Saturday mornings this summer, so I’m very thankful indeed for ESPN3.com. However, I can’t begin to figure out how it’s determined which clips the website is legally blocked from showing. This past Friday, they cut out Joe Tessitore’s tribute to Scott LeDoux and the audio of an ESPN Radio interview. I would have thought ESPN-owned materials would be fair game. Then again, Lennox Lewis is currently on his second premium-cable broadcasting gig, so there’s a lot I don’t understand about this business.

• When a fighter goes down and Steve Smoger doesn’t even start to count, you know it was a sensational punch. Dannie Williams made himself a prospect worth watching with a right hand that proved not all fighters named Antonio Cervantes are created equal.

• TBS’ Lopez Tonight, a talk show that frequently welcomed boxers as guests, has been cancelled due to low ratings. The lesson: All of the Americans without senses of humor are already watching Jay Leno, making it hard for other unfunny hosts to attract an audience.

• Two things very much worth watching this coming weekend: the season finale of ESPN2 Friday Night Fights, with its outstanding short-notice main event of Demetrius Andrade vs. Grady Brewer; and the return of Alfredo Angulo, which will hopefully be viewable somewhere on the internet. Solid stuff as far as the mid-August doldrums go.

• This has nothing to do with boxing, but I’m positing the theory that The Situation’s romantic affection for Snooki is an act, designed to get him more camera time this season after he slipped into a supporting role in Season Three. I’m also not going to rule out the possibility that Sitch went legally blind prior to the fourth season. (That would certainly explain why the normally image-obsessed Situation is suddenly allowing himself to appear on camera with a dead poodle stapled to his head.)

• Look for a new episode of Ring Theory (http://ringtheory.podbean.com) this week. I’m not sure yet what topics we’ll be discussing, but I do know that you won’t hear much talk from Bill Dettloff about the volume of his footsteps.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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Johnny Famechon was a Hero in Australia Where Willie Pep Had a Bad Night

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Willie Pep was good at boxing. He wasn’t so good at math. Ah, but hold the phone; we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a story about Willie Pep, but about former world featherweight champion Johnny Famechon who passed away last Thursday, Aug. 4, in Melbourne, Australia, at age 77.

Famechon was five years old when his parents left his birthplace in Paris and settled in Melbourne. He came to the fore in an era when boxing was still a mainstream sport and home-grown champions were national idols. The locals turned out in droves for the parade in Johnny’s honor when he returned to Melbourne after taking the featherweight crown from the Cuban-born Spaniard Jose Legra in a big upset at London’s Prince Albert Hall.

HeraldSun

Famechon’s Welcome Home Parade

Famechon’s first title defense came against Japan’s Fighting Harada. They met in Sydney, Australia, on July 28, 1969.

At age 26, Harada was a battle-tested veteran. He previously held world titles at flyweight and bantamweight and would be remembered as the only man to defeat the great Brazilian boxer Eder Jofre, a feat he accomplished not once, but twice.

Only two boxers in history – Bob Fitzsimmons and Henry Armstrong – had won world titles in three of the eight classic weight divisions. Harada, who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, was bidding to become the third.

Team Harada insisted on a neutral referee. The British promoters chose Willie Pep. A legend in the sport, Pep had previously shared a ring with another Famechon, having out-pointed Johnny’s uncle Ray Famechon in a featherweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in 1950.

Some thought that Pep would favor Fighting Harada. American referees put a higher premium on aggression than did their foreign counterparts and Harada was a little buzzsaw who rarely took a backward step. But others thought that Pep’s selection favored Famechon, an elusive counterpuncher with whom the Connecticut “Will-‘o-Wisp” could identify; their styles were similar.

Pep had been the third man in the ring for four previous title fights, three in Jamaica and one in Brazil. But this fight would be different. He would be the sole arbiter. If the fight went the full 15 rounds, Willie Pep would be the judge and jury.

During the bout, Famechon scored one knockdown, sending Harada to the canvas in round five, but Harada scored three, knocking Famechon down in rounds two, 11, and 14. The last of the three knockdowns was the harshest, but Famechon made it to the final bell.

The fight ended in a clinch. Immediately upon separating the fighters, Pep raised both of their hands, a signal that the fight was a draw.

Fighting Harada’s handlers were outraged and demanded to see the scorecard. A policeman at ringside was empowered to give it a look-over (Australia had no boxing commission). What the policeman found was that there was indeed a discrepancy. However, it was the opposite of what Team Harada anticipated!

The fight was scored on the antiquated system whereby the winner of a round was awarded five points and the loser four points or less. In the case of an even round, both fighters got five points.

After 13 rounds, Fighting Harada had amassed 59 points on Pep’s card. He won the 14th round, giving him an aggregate total of 64 points. But when Pep added up the numbers “59” and “5” in the column where he kept the aggregate total, he came up with “65.”

Oops.

When Pep signaled that the fight was a draw, people stormed the ring from all sides. Newspaper reports said the belligerents were about evenly divided. Famechon, the Aussie, was the crowd favorite, but Fighting Harada was well-backed in the betting markets, a very big industry in Australia. Many were even angrier when Famechon was summoned back to the ring to have his hand raised.

The Famechon-Harada fight aired live on Japanese television. In Japan, there was a great outpouring of outrage. Pep had been instructed to score a round 5-4 if the round was narrow and 5-3 if there was a clear-cut winner. Despite the knockdowns, Pep scored every round 5-4 or 5-5. In the revised tally, he had Famechon winning 6-5-4 in rounds.

“Harada loses to referee” was the headline in Japan’s leading sports daily. Willie Pep made no friends in Australia either. There were shouts of “Yankee go home” as he left the ring.

Famechon and Harada met again five months later in Tokyo. One would assume that Fighting Harada proved superior and got a fair shake, winning the third title denied him in Sydney. But don’t assume.

Harada was well ahead after ten rounds but faded. On the deck in round 10, Famachon returned the favor three rounds later, knocking Harada down hard with a perfectly placed left hook. Harada was in dire straights when he came out for round 14 and Famechon put him away.

Harada never fought again and Famechon left the sport six months later after losing his crown to Vicente Saldivar. Johnny was only 25 years old, but had crammed 67 fights into a nine-year pro career and said enough is enough.

Famechon’s post-boxing life took a tragic turn in 1991 when he was hit by a car while out jogging on a Sydney highway. He spent several weeks in a coma and several years in a wheelchair but eventually recovered most of his motor skills and regained his speech to the point where he could serve as a boxing color commentator on television. In 2018, a larger-than- life statue of Famechon was unveiled at a public park in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston where he was a longtime resident.

For the record, Johnny Famechon finished his career with a record of 56-5-6 with 20 KOs. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to his loved ones.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Fast Results from Fort Worth Where Vergil Ortiz Jr Won His 19th Straight by KO

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In a match pushed back from March 19, Vergil Ortiz Jr moved one step closer to a mega-fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford or Errol Spence Jr or Boots Ennis with a ninth-round stoppage of England’s feather-fisted Michael McKinson. The end came 20 seconds into round nine when McKinson appeared to injure his knee as he fell to the canvas, an apparent residue of the body punch that put him on the deck late in the previous stanza. To that point, Ortiz had seemingly won every round.

It was the 19th win inside the distance in as many opportunities for Ortiz who resides in nearby Grand Prairie and was making his first start with new trainer Manny Robles. McKinson was undefeated heading in, but had scored only two knockouts while building his record to 22-0.

Ortiz, ranked #1 at welterweight by the WBA and the WBO, pulled out of the March 19 bout after being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder associated with over-training.

Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, says that Ortiz will fight the winner of Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford next assuming that the fight gets made, and if doesn’t get made, Ortiz’s next fight will be with one or the other. The WBA, which stamped tonight’s fight an eliminator, may push to have Ortiz fight their secondary title-holder, Eimantas Stanionis.

Co-Feature

Houston’s Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) successfully defended her WBA/WBC world flyweight title with a unanimous decision over plucky 4’11 ½” Venezuelan southpaw Eva Guzman who had won 14 straight coming in, albeit against soft opposition. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Guzman (19-2-1) was game, but just didn’t have the physical tools to overcome Esparza whose lone defeat came at the hands of talented Seneisa Estrada.

Other Fights of Note

In a 10-round match contested at the catchweight of 150 pounds, Blair “The Flair” Cobbs rebounded from his first defeat with a career-best performance, a wide decision over former WBO 140-pound world titlist Maurice Hooker. It was the second straight loss for Hooker who returned to the ring after a 17-month hiatus and came out flat. Cobbs put him on the canvas in the opening frame with a combination and decked him twice more with straight lefts in round two.

Things got somewhat dicey for Cobbs in round five when he suffered a bad gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt, but Hooker, who had stablemate Bud Crawford in his corner, hesitated to let his hands go and couldn’t reverse the tide. The judges had it 96-91 and 97-90 twice for the flamboyant Cobbs who improved to 16-1-1 (10). Hooker, a consensus 5/2 favorite, lost for the third time in his last five starts and slumped to 27-3-3.

In the opener to the main portion of the DAZN card, Uzbekistan’s Bektimir Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), a super middleweight growing into a light heavyweight, dominated and stopped overmatched Sladan Janjanin. Melikuziev put Janjanin down with a body punch in the opening minute of the fight and scored two more knockdowns before the bout was halted at the 2:18 mark of round three.

This was Melikuziev’s third fight back after his shocking one-punch annihilation by Gabriel Rosado. Janjanin, a well-traveled Bosnian who fought three weeks ago in Massachusetts, declined to 32-12 and was stopped for the eighth time.

Also

Chicago welterweight Alex Martin (18-4, 6 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia journeyman Henry Lundy. The judges had it an unexpectedly wide 98-91, 97-92, 97-92.

Martin was coming off a points loss to McKinson and this bout was his reward for taking that fight on short notice. Lundy (31-11-1) has lost five of his last seven.

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a lightweight who appears to have a big upside, advanced to 11-0 (9 KOs) at the expense of Mexican trial horse Rodrigo Guerrero whose corner wisely pulled him out after five one-sided rounds. It was the ninth straight loss for Guerrero (26-15).

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Conlan Wins His Belfast Homecoming; Breezes Past Lackadaisical Marriaga

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“The Return of the Mick” was the label attached to tonight’s show at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reference was to local fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan who returned to his hometown in hopes of jump-starting his career after suffering his first pro loss in a brutal encounter with Leigh Wood.

In that bout, a strong “Fight of the Year contender, Conlan was narrowly ahead on all three cards heading into the 12th and final round when the roof fell in. Wood, who was making the first defense of his WBA world featherweight title on his home turf in Nottingham, knocked the favored Conlan unconscious and clear out of the ring.

This was the sort of fight that can shorten a man’s career. Hence the intrigue in Conlan’s homecoming fight tonight against Miguel Marriaga. On paper, the Colombian, a three-time world title challenger, was a stern test considering the circumstances.

To the contrary, Marriaga had no fire in his belly until the final round when he hit Conlan with a shot that buckled his knees. But, by then Conlan was so far ahead without overly exerting himself that there was virtually no chance of another meltdown.

While Conlan won lopsidedly, the scores – 99-89 and 99-88 twice – were somewhat misleading. True, “Mick” had Marriaga on the deck in rounds 7, 8, and 9, but the punches that put him there did not look particularly hard.

Conlan, 30, improved to 17-1 (8). Marriaga, 35, declined to 30-6.

After the fight, Conlan expressed the hope that Leigh Wood would give him a rematch.

Other Bouts of Note

In an entertaining 10-round welterweight scrap that could have gone either way, Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) rebounded from his defeat in Dubai to Regis Prograis (TKO by 6) with a hard-fought unanimous decision over 33-year-old Welshman Chris Jenkins (23-6-3). The judges favored the local fighter by scores of 97-94 and 96-95 twice.

Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth title-holder, had the best of the early going, working the body effectively while frequently finding a home for his uppercut, but he could not sustain his advantage.

Thirty-four-year-old Belfast super middleweight Padraig McCrory who got a late start in boxing, scored the most important win of his career with a fifth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Periban, a former world title challenger. McCrory had Periban on the deck three times – once in the second and twice in the fifth – before the bout was halted at the 2:14 mark of round five.

It was the fourth straight win inside the distance for McCrory who improved to 14-0 (8 KOs). Mexico’s Periban, who returned to the sport in April after missing all of 2020 and 2021, fell to 26-6-1.

Highly-touted welterweight Paddy Donovan improved to 9-0 (6) with an 8-round unanimous decision over Yorkshireman Tom Hall (10-3). The referee scored every round for Donovan, an Irish Traveler trained by Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy Andy Lee, the former world middleweight title-holder.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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