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How Mares Beat Moreno

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MaresMoreno Hogan30Abner Mares fought like a man possessed on way to successfully defending his WBC super-bantamweight title against Anselmo Moreno on Saturday night, in what turned out to be the Panamanian’s first defeat in more than a decade.

I’ll be honest here. Prior to the fight, while Mares’ high volume and aggression would likely prove troublesome on the scorecards for the counter punching Moreno, I thought the slick southpaw wizard’s jab and superior mobility would be enough to keep the young Mexican turning and following, resulting in Moreno winning a close decision even though Mares would likely be the one receiving the benefit of the doubt in many of the close rounds based on him being perceived as the “effective aggressor”.

Well, there were certainly some close rounds during the fight, some of which could have gone either way. In the end, however, it turned out that not only was  Mares awarded many of those close rounds, but also the rounds in which he seemed to clearly come off second best to Moreno as well. Mares was given the verdict by scores of 116-110 twice, and a truly mind boggling margin of 120-106 by James Gen-Kim.

Although I thought the fight was closely contested –not a robbery- and that Moreno was on the wrong side of some choice officiating –the knockdown in the 5th and the point deduction in the 11th were questionable- I must concede that Abner Mares fought a very good strategic fight against an opponent who’s difficult to work out. Moreno’s style is designed to frustrate and spoil.  It’s not easy to keep pressing the attack when you’re faced with an elusive target like Moreno, who is constantly turning, slipping and sliding to his positions. Moreno has a way of disrupting an opponent’s rhythm by moving away, allowing them to close the distance on him before quickly switching direction behind a jab or a hook before starting over, or by blunting an attack by ducking underneath and forcing a clinch. Vic Darchinyan is a solid fighter yet he was mastered like never before or since at the hands of Moreno. At no point in their fight was Darchinyan successful in pinning Moreno to the ropes or in getting beyond Moreno’s right shoulder posture and straight left hand. Although Mares’ physical strength at 122 pounds and Moreno’s lack thereof had plenty to do with the final outcome, I feel Mares’ style and choice of tactics were also largely responsible.

Here, I’d like to focus on some of the key areas where Abner Mares had success against Anselmo Moreno Saturday night. Anselmo Moreno’s style is tough to figure out. Abner Mares found a way.

morenowin11122012

As on display {above} against Frederic Patrac here, circling behind the double jab is the staple of Moreno’s game. This is how he occupies his opponents as he’s moving to his positions. Notice how Moreno escapes to his opponent’s blindside, over their left shoulder and away from their trailing hand as he’s throwing the double jab. By the time his opponent responds and turns, Moreno has already exited, taken an angle on them. Again, this is how Moreno remains one step ahead of his opponents.

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By contrast, notice how Mares has backed Moreno into the corner. As Moreno tries to  exit via his double jab, Mares slips, parries, then counters the first Moreno jab with a right cross. As a result, Moreno is forced to abandon his second jab and retreat. Compare Mares’ body alignment to that of Patrac’s in the final pictures above.

Unlike Frederic Patrac, by anticipating the double jab and then countering over the top of it, Mares has avoided being turned by Moreno.

Mares was also effective in forcing Moreno to the ropes.

morenowin11122012 3

As Moreno throws a jab, Mares is able to slip outside and rush Moreno. Because Mares is explosive and quick with his charge, Moreno can’t do a thing but fall back to the ropes, where Mares unleashes a barrage of body shots. See how Mares gets his lead foot outside of Moreno’s as he’s charging in.

Mares knew how to deal with an elusive target on the inside as well.

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Look here how Darchinyan is thinking of nothing but hitting the head as Moreno is up against the ropes. In this position, Moreno’s head is the only thing that can move. Darchinyan neglects this fact and aims for it anyway. Moreno, a defensive specialist, ducks under the punch and easily moves away from the ropes and away from any danger.

Compare how Mares attacked Moreno in the same position.

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As Moreno is backed into the ropes, Mares knows that he’s slick and will be trying to avoid head shots by bending at the waist. As a result, Mares goes about throwing combinations, lefts and rights to both sides of Moreno’s lower body. Even if the shots aren’t landing clean, Mares is still winning the exchange by keeping Moreno on the defensive -one can’t win a fight without first throwing punches.

morenowin11122012 6

See how Mares intentionally throws a right hand short of the target, in order to allow himself to come back with a left hook to the body. This is first rate combination punching. Moreno can spot the first blow, but the second shot to the body, is not so easy to detect because it was well disguised. 

Abner Mares was comfortable in the center of the ring too. Obviously, part of Mares’ strategy was to stay aggressive and not to give Moreno an inch, but there had to be moments of calm before the storm. Had Mares attacked in a reckless manner, then Moreno would have picked him apart on the way in.

There were a few moments during the fight when Mares actually turned counter puncher in an attempt to find an opening to launch his high pressured assault.

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Look how Mares feints a half jab for Moreno to counter with a left straight. As Moreno throws the left straight, Mares ducks and lands an overhand right {a shot he had repeated success with against Moreno}. One of the most useful weapons against a counter puncher is the feint. By feinting, Mares was able to draw out a lead from Moreno, so he could then counter Moreno’s initial counter.

Another main reason why Mares was successful against Moreno was because he avoided throwing single shots.

morenowin11122012 8

See here how Darchinyan throws one shot at a time. As Vic throws a jab and leaves it hanging, Moreno slips outside and counters with a straight left to the body. Moreno immediately comes back with a jab, followed by a straight left hand to the head of Darchinyan. Vic was easily countered because Moreno knew he only threw single shots in the center of the ring. Moreno landed three shots to Vic’s one.

morenowin11122012 9

Let’s see how Mares attacked. Moreno is in his usual defensive posture –left glove by the chin, right shoulder facing Mares. A common attack for an orthodox fighter to lead with is a jab, followed by a right hand. Moreno is a brilliant counter puncher and he obviously knows what punches to expect during certain scenarios in the ring. This is where Mares is very hard to figure out. As Mares comes forward, he leads with a left uppercut, followed by a right cross. Although the pictures don’t show it, Mares is actually punching as he’s moving. Needless to say, as Mares is advancing, Moreno probably isn’t anticipating such an unpredictable attack combination. Counter punchers thrive on anticipation. Mares’ attacks against Moreno gave him nothing to key off.

Of course, the fight wasn’t all one way traffic. Anselmo Moreno had plenty of success himself later in the fight, especially with his body punching. But for me, Abner Mares did enough to stymie Moreno’s style and deserved the decision. Mares managed to handle Moreno in a way that no fighter has managed before because of:

  • High volume, particularly in combination.

  • Speed advantage.

  • Far superior physical strength at 122 pounds.

  • Extensive body punching.

  • Unpredictability of attack.

  • Ability to counter a counter puncher.

  • Unrelenting inside after shortening the distance.

Moreno, on the other hand, had some success but ultimately fell short because of:

  • An inability to inflict any real hurt or damage on Mares.

  • Unable to keep Mares off because physical strength at 122 pounds isn’t as prominent.

  • Inability to avoid the ropes.

  • Relatively low volume.

  • Often on the back foot in a fight going to the score cards.

Regardless of what the judge’s cards suggest, the fight was close and it was contested at a really high level of skill. It was a pleasure to watch two elite talents, both in their primes, test their skills against one another and leave everything on the line the way they did. As always, one man had to lose and unfortunately for him, that man was Anselmo Moreno. I’m certain he’ll likely feel hard done by with the wide scoring, but as I mentioned earlier, this can’t really be deemed a robbery of any kind. Yes, it was reasonably close, but having watched it twice now, I felt there was a clear winner. One man seemed to want it slightly more than the other. That man was Abner Mares.

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

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Madueno Upsets Pauldo and Lopez Overcomes Escudero at Whitesands

When it comes to professional boxing down in the Tampa Bay area, Canadian transplant Garry Jonas is a one-man band.

The architect of the Wednesday Night Fights series, Jonas doesn’t have to pay a site fee for the shows that he promotes because he owns the venue. The shows that he stages at his Whitesands Events Center in Plant City air on his live streaming platform ProBoxTV. His series currently has only one sponsor, a bookmaking operation called SportsBetting.Ag., and he owns that too. (A self-styled serial entrepreneur, Jonas continued his assault on the established order last week with his purchase of the respected Boxing Scene website, but that’s a story best saved for another day.)

Jonas promotes high-grade club fights. When he started this venture, he promised entertaining, well-matched fights and tonight he delivered. The “A” side fighters in the co-main events were matched tough.

In the featured bout, lightweight Justin Pauldo (17-2, 1 NC) was upset by Mexico’s Miguel Madueno. Managed by Jolene Mazzone, the former VP and matchmaker for Main Events and trained by Ronnie Shields, Pauldo, a resident or nearby Orlando, was unbeaten in his last 12 heading in.

In his previous start, Madueno turned in a lackluster performance against surging Canadian campaigner Steve Claggett. His showing (he was 30-1 with 28 KOs heading in) was inconsistent with his record. Tonight, he was more pugnacious, out-working the man in front of him, a 4/1 favorite. The decision was split; 97-92 and 95-94 for Madueno, 95-94 for Pauldo. There were no knockdowns, but the Mexican had a point deducted in round 5 for leading with his head.

Co-Feature

The co-main was an entertaining 10-round light heavyweight affair in which Edgar Berlanga stablemate Najee Lopez improved to 10-0 (8) with a hard-earned majority decision over Marcos Escudero (14-3). One of the judges had it a draw (95-95) but he was overruled by his cohorts who had it 97-93 and 99-91.

Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent but was born and raised in the Atlanta area, hadn’t previously gone beyond six rounds. He was the house fighter. Named the 2023 Prospect of the Year by the ProBox team of TV commentators, Lopez was making his eighth appearance at Whitesands. Escudero, a South Florida-based Argentine had won four straight heading in at club shows in Delray Beach, FL after back-to-back setbacks in competitive fights with Joseph George.

Escudero, who did most of the leading, had many good moments. The 99-91 tally against the Argentine was a head-scratcher. (Commentator Paulie Malignaggi said the offending  judge, Alvaro Rodriguez, should have his fee withheld and be forced to serve a one-year suspension.)

Also

In an 8-round lightweight contest, former two-time Olympian Tsendbaatar Erdenebat, a 27-year-old Mongolian southpaw who began his pro career in China and now resides in southern California, improved to 9-0 (4) with a unanimous decision over Guinea-born Mohamed Soumaoro (11-3) who was a willing mixer but was out-classed. The scores were 79-73 and 80-72 twice.

As one would expect from a two-time Olympian, Erdenebat is a good technician who puts his punches together well, but doesn’t have a lot of power. If his name rings a bell, he’s the fellow who purportedly sent Ryan Garcia to the hospital from the effects of a body punch during a sparring session.

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Two Featherweight Title Fights Top a Strong Bill at Turning Stone on Saturday

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When Top Rank announced in December that they would be returning to Turning Stone Resort & Casino for an ESPN+ show on March 2nd featuring two featherweight world title fights they promised a deep action-packed show. Usually such words fall by the wayside as the event ultimately comes together but in this instance the docket is loaded from top to bottom with name attractions, undefeated prospects, local grudge matches and two very well-matched co-headliners.

In the first of the co-headliners, Luis Alberto Lopez (29-2, 16 KOs) makes the third defense of his IBF featherweight belt against Japan’s Reiya Abe (25-3-1, 10 KOs). Lopez is a popular brawler whose aggressive style and lack of attention to defense usually makes for entertaining fights. Abe, a southpaw, is a slick boxer who is coming off a career best win against Kiko Martinez last April. Abe has a style similar to that of Ruben Villa who outboxed Lopez to a ten round unanimous decision win in 2019.

The co-headline finale is being contested for the vacant WBA featherweight title between Otabek Kholmatov (12-0, 11 KOs) and Raymond Ford (14-0-1, 7 KOs). Both fighters were highly touted heading into the pro ranks. Ford has the speed advantage but Kholmatov has a big edge in power. Social media seems split right down the middle on this fight and oddsmakers agree installing Kholmatov as a very slight favorite as of this writing.

Also on this show is the return of the ever popular Nico Ali Walsh (9-1, 5 KOs) who bounced back from his first career defeat on Dec. 16 at a show in Guinea where he defeated a Frenchman with a 9-2-1 record (mysteriously, that fight isn’t yet listed on boxrec). He will face off against Luke Iannuccilli (7-0, 3 KOs). Walsh, Muhammad Ali’s grandson, will make his debut at Turning Stone Resort Casino in the same exact arena where his aunt and Boxing Hall of Famer Laila Ali made her professional boxing debut in October of 1999 with her legendary father sitting ringside. This will mark the fourth time a member of Muhammad Ali’s family has fought at Turning Stone.

The card also includes several contests featuring up-and-coming undefeated fighters. One match in particular to keep an eye on is an eight-round welterweight bout between a pair of unbeaten fighters in Rohan Polanco (11-0, 7 KOs) and Tarik Zaina (13-0-1, 8 KOs). Zaina opened some eyes last November when he defeated Marcelino Lopez and Polanco is coming off three consecutive wins against opponents who had a cumulative record of 39-3.

Finally I would be remiss if I didn’t notate the local grudge match on the docket between Gerffred Ngayot (6-1, 5 KOs) of Buffalo and Bryce Mills (14-1, 5 KOs) of Syracuse. They are scheduled to face off in a six-round bout in the 140-pound division. They are on this show because each have solid local fan bases and matching them was a way to help fill the stands. Mills is a sharp accurate counterpuncher with all-around solid skills. Ngayot is an aggressive fighter who is not afraid to be first and fire away to the body. Stylistically this could turn into quite a barnburner and each have plenty of motivation to make a statement on what is a much bigger stage than they are accustomed to.

We are often quick to criticize those in the sport when cards come together that are seemingly either loaded with mismatches or bouts that just don’t pique much interest. This is an instance where those involved need to be applauded for putting together a card from top to bottom that will certainly give fans plenty of bang for their buck.

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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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