Abner Mares retained his WBC super bantamweight title tonight in a gritty, often very dirty fight with Anselmo Moreno, but despite the fact that two top fighters delivered a pretty entertaining bout, and one that was quite unique in the way it played out and just looked as it went down, officiating wound up the story of the night yet again, a tale all too familiar for boxing fans.
The judges scored the fight 116-110, 116-110, and 120-106. BLH scored it 113-113, and most scores I saw on Twitter and on the site were in the realm of 113-113, 114-112, 115-111, with the latter being pro-Mares scores. Mares deserved the win enough that it's certainly not a huge issue that he won -- well, more on that in a moment -- and I saw nobody score it for Moreno that I recall. A draw was high-end for Moreno. I scored the fight seven rounds to five in his favor, and that's where some other stuff starts to come into play.
Before we get into the refereeing job from Raul Caiz Jr, let's start with the judge who scored this fight a shutout for Mares, Dr. James Jen-Kin. Dr. Jen-Kin is a veteran judge, a respected sort (all it really takes is being old and around for a long time and you're "respected," basically), and someone who has been around the block more than a few times.
But if he thinks Abner Mares won every round of this fight, perhaps he's been around the block a few too many times. Golden Boy fighter and Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi said after the fight, "Honestly, the poor guy, he missed a great fight," and figured that Dr. Jen-Kin must have fallen asleep.
There is no defense of the 120-106 score. Let's just get that out of the way now and move on. The judge was out of his gourd.
As for Caiz, his greatest sin was when he chose to take a point from Moreno for pushing Moreno's head down, despite the fact that Mares had been warned, as usual, about five times for various infractions. It was Moreno who lost the point, though, and Mares never did, and upon Caiz's last "if you do that one more time..." warning to Mares, even Showtime's Al Bernstein burst out with an, "I'm sick of this!" spiel. Bernstein was highly critical of Mares' familiar dirty tactics, but perhaps more critical of the officials who continue to allow him to get away with this without losing points, and without losing fights.
Abner Mares is a very good fighter. He's talented, he's smart, he's aggressive, he's fearless, and he's good enough to win without all that stuff. And a certain level of dirty boxing is even endearing. Toward the end of his relevant career, even nasty old Joel Casamayor was something like an old man that knew all the tricks, rather than a dirty SOB.
But Mares may be going too far. He hit Moreno in the groin. He hit him in the spine. He used his head. He did just about everything you can do, mixing it in with his skills and his aggression, and he fought a mostly good fight, if you accept that these tactics are part of boxing, even if you think he goes overboard.
The point is, Mares is flirting with serious backlash, and it's not like he's such a big star he doesn't want to have fans and stuff. Also, he seems like a nice kid. But he's a miserably dirty, mean fighter. It's just how he is, but at some point, officials need to get him in line, because they keep giving him enough rope to just go out of control.
Anyway, the fight. Moreno was able to do well when he got separation, when he could keep the fight near the center of the ring, but Mares needs to be given credit for keeping Moreno out of his comfort zone the entire fight. Anselmo made a few adjustments, too, fighting better on the ropes as the fight progressed, and just like in the first Joseph Agbeko fight, Mares faded down the stretch after such a big early effort. There was a time in the middle rounds where Mares was really beating Moreno up, and imposing his style and his will, but that couldn't last forever, and it didn't.
It was an interesting fight, and sort of hard to describe. As Steve Farhood put it, it was two different fights happening at once. One of them was Mares' fight. The other was Moreno's. Mares probably did enough, plus the two points he gained for the knockdown and deduction, to win the fight for most people, but Moreno did better than these scores would indicate, particularly the absolutely insane shutout.
It was a good fight, warts and all. The officiating was another story, but boxing officiating seems to always be a story. Nothing's going to change any time soon, and there's nothing anyone can do to force change as long as those in real power are happy enough.