Tomorrow night on Showtime, live from the Honda Center in Anaheim, a highly-anticipated rematch of a controversial fight will take place, and it's a pick'em affair.
It's not Cotto vs Margarito II. It's the bantamweight title fight between Abner Mares (22-0-1, 13 KO) and Joseph Agbeko (28-3, 22 KO). On August 13, Agbeko lost the IBF title and the Showtime bantamweight tournament crown to Mares, but it certainly wasn't without great criticism. Mares landed a plethora of unchecked low blows in the fight, and referee Russell Mora came under fire for what was either a dreadfully and obviously biased or completely incompetent performance (for the record, we lean toward the latter).
Mares, though, understood the controversy, and made no bones about the IBF-ordered rematch. Tomorrow, it's here, unfortunately overshadowed by the big card at Madison Square Garden.
[ Related: Weigh-In Photos for Mares vs Agbeko II ]
After the jump, seven Bad Left Hook staffers and one guest analyst lay out their cases and make their picks for the fight.
Firstly I'd just like to note that I don't think Agbeko is going to barely win the fight, I just think at least one judge will rob him. Take away the five-point swing Mares got in the first fight due to the innocently wrongly called knockdown early and the criminally called knockdown late (which should have been a point deduction going the other way), I had Agbeko easily winning the first fight after a rocky early start. Agbeko, like he did against Yonnhy Perez, will improve in the rematch. And Mares will not get away with the low blows he was throwing the first time. Unless Mares learns how to implement legal body work, it's going to be an easy night for Agbeko. But even if he does, he'll still come up short in a close, competitive fight. Joseph Agbeko by split decision.
Re-watching the first fight between the two in an attempt to figure out what to expect from the rematch requires a very specific type of attention. One has to be able to look beyond referee Russell Mora's criminally bad job in the fight and try to also imagine what would be the end result if Agbeko wasn't being sapped by repeated shots to the cup. It seemed that Agbeko was figuring Mares out as the fight wore on and if he feels like he has Mares' timing going in, maybe this is his fight to take. I think we'll see every shot that is even slightly low for Mares get jumped on by the referee. Assuming that's the case, with Mares' history of low blows, we're due for either a point deduction or him to abandon the body attack. That should make things even easier on Agbeko. So I'll go Agbeko in a close decision. Joseph Agbeko by decision.
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The first fight was good, but I went back and read the round-by-round and remembered how furious I became during the fight. It all came back to me in a rush of great anger. Russell Mora, who should never referee again and I'll say that without thinking I'm even slightly in the wrong, ruined that fight. Watching the fight again earlier today, I also remembered something else: Once Agbeko got going, Mares really didn't look good in comparison, and I had Agbeko leading the fight by the time Mora made a complete mockery of the affair with the knockdown call in the 11th round. Abner is very talented, but he's a dirty fighter, period. He was no saint against Vic Darchinyan either. I think there's going to be controversy again. At some point, Mares is going to hit Agbeko low. He does it. And I think that just like last time, it'll be a fight where Agbeko has a perfectly good argument to have his hand raised. But he won't get the cards. Expect Agbeko to feel he was robbed, this time in California, and not Nevada. Abner Mares by decision.
I've got a lot of respect for Joseph Agbeko. As Floyd Mayweather would say, "he a helluva fighter." But....I think Abner Mares beats him again on Saturday night. Mares has the physical gifts, the talent, and a proven fighting spirit. All due respect to Agbeko, I think this is Abner's fight to lose, and I don't expect him to do that. Mares by decision in a controversy-free fight, something in the ballpark of 7-5, 8-4 in rounds. It'll be close and action-packed, but this time Mares will walk away decisively the better man. Abner Mares by decision.
[ Related: Final Presser Quotes From Abner Mares ]
I can't help but remember how effective Mares was in their first fight before all the low blows. Agbeko found his groove later in the fight and made it closer (before the low blow knockdown effectively ended the fight), but Mares controlled much of the fight. Agbeko is getting older and Mares is a young, fresh, and motivated guy. If he doesn't let the first fight effect him and attacks the body and not the, you know, I expect Mares to win decisively. Abner Mares by decision.
I really like Agbeko, and feel that he has been an underrated fighter for the past few years while being a top bantamweight. Nevertheless, I like Mares to win this fight. Both men are versatile, but I think Mares' greater athleticism will carry the day. As long as he doesn't hit "King Kong" in his jewels then he should be fine (good rule to live by). In a fight that could very well be better than its pay-per-view counterpart, Mares will effectively mix boxing with aggression to pull out a hard-earned decision victory, and stake his claim as the best bantamweight in the world. Abner Mares by decision.
[ Related: Final Presser Quotes From Joseph Agbeko ]
Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares will be facing off in a rematch like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito on the same day. Like that match up there is a sympathetic figure, as Agbeko was dealt repeated low blows and we can imagine the judges and referee will be looking to keep Mares honest this time. Unlike the other match up, Abner Mares has a chance of coming out of this fight with his reputation restored. The two men fought each other on fairly even terms, fouling aside. And, considering Agbeko's health issues and Mares youth the expectations are on Mares to win again. However, Agbeko is the craftier fighter and won't be as harshly scrutinized as his opponent. While Mares focuses on pressuring Agbeko with conclusively clean punches to the head, I suspect Agbeko will unleash his boxing arsenal of counters. I predict Mares gets warned for a low blow once in the first two rounds, before ultimately losing a debatable point in the middle rounds. Joseph Agbeko by decision.
Interesting matchup that I think will follow the pattern of the first fight. Abner will come out hot and overwhelm Agbeko in the first couple rounds. Agbeko will adjust and turn the tide in the middle rounds, leading to a somewhat dominating performance down the stretch. If Mares can't get Agbeko out in the first couple rounds, I don't see him winning this fight. I also expect Mares to get a point deducted for low blows. Its going to be a focus for the ref, and Mares always strays a little low. Joseph Agbeko by decision.