Last November, I had the opportunity to watch Abner Mares in training as he prepared for the Darchinyan fight. Though he had been an intriguing prospect ever since he made his comeback from the eye injury, I walked away from the interview even more impressed by his skill set and work ethic. His dedication to his profession was obvious and he showed excellent flexibility in styles as he was put up against a variety of sparring partners.
I like what I have seen in Mares when he boxes and when he presses the action, and I think that his ability to change up his method of attack should be the key for tonight's bout. Too talented all around, and he should be the hungrier fighter.
I also don't care for Agbeko showing up over the limit at yesterday's weigh-in. If the extra poundage is a sign that he was struggling to come down to 118, he won't enjoy the stamina-draining body blows that Mares will dish out repeatedly throughout the fight. Mares UD-12
I favored Mares in April, and I really favor him now. Agbeko is a good fighter, and he's a crafty guy who is tougher than all hell. But the back condition scares me off of picking him for this fight. I'm hoping he's 100%, because he's a real fighter who got to this point in his career the honest way, and I'd hate to see him beaten mostly by something he has no control over. But even if he's on his game and has no physical problems, I like the younger man here. Mares is talented, but what makes him a special young fighter in my book is his toughness. We've seen him tested, hard, by both Yonnhy Perez and Vic Darchinyan. There's no doubt that Mares can get through a hard battle, and Agbeko has never made anything easy for opponents. I like Mares by decision here, and I'm hoping we'll see the real Agbeko, because if we do, I can't see this being less than a really good fight. Mares UD-12
Finally, a fight worth getting excited about. It's been awhile. More 4-man tournaments please, as bringing a group of strong fighters together is the best way to insure a steady stream of quality action.
I was leaning towards Agbeko, but his issues making weight yesterday are a cause for concern. He's been fighting at bantamweight for a decade now, and at age 31, perhaps making 118lbs has become too much of a drain? And against a strong young fighter like Mares that's going to battle hard for 12 rounds - that factor could play heavily, especially over the later rounds. So while I think Agbeko is the better overall fighter, I'm now on the fence when it comes to making a pick.
My pick: Not going to make one, but just hoping it's a good fight.
If you look at their recent careers, the two fighters' quality of opponents has been pretty similar, and their records aren't far off. Mares has a majority draw against Yonnhy Perez, and Agbeko has a loss against Perez that he recently avenged. Both also have close decision wins against Vic Darchinyan on their recent pedigrees. But I watched all of these fights, and to my eyes Mares looked more impressive across the board. I believe he has stronger fundamentals than Agbeko and a better defense. Also, Agbeko's early career is filled with pathetically weak competition, which couldn't have taught him much. His recent injury sends a red flag, and his attitude seems more subdued than normal and lacking in confidence--especially when compared to Mares, who seems implacable. I see Mares coming out and working the body, weakening Agbeko and winning the late rounds on route to a clear UD.
There's very little to separate them, both have good chins and both are of a similar level in terms of skill, the only differences are Agbeko is the bigger puncher whilst Mares is the slightly quicker boxer.
I believe this will be a back and forth affair with the victor being the one who can handle the pace the better. Mares is the younger, fresher fighter and I believe that's what will tip the fight in his favour in the later rounds. I'm going for Mares via a close points decision in a great fight that will leave people salivating in anticipation of a rematch.