Sunday, August 14, 2011

Notes from Agbeko-Mares

  • The Joseph Agbeko-Abner Mares bout will forever be known as the "Russell Mora Fight."  The ultimate scores or outcome of the match should be tossed out the window.  Mora did such an incompetent job in refereeing the fight that he sabotaged the end result.  He incorrectly ruled a knockdown in round 11 and repeatedly failed to deduct points from Mares for numerous low blows.  If the fight was refereed correctly, the swing in scoring from just those actions would have been monumental.  If Mora did his job properly, than Mares would have fought in a completely different manner and Agbeko would have had more energy throughout the match.

  • Think for a second of how painful it would be to get hit in the family jewels over a dozen times in an hour.  Also, factor in Agbeko's advanced age; older fighters with more wear and tear on their bodies don't recover nearly as well as their younger counterparts do.  For another example about how low blows can significantly alter the course of a match, remember in the Miguel Cotto-Zab Judah fight where Judah was rocking Cotto in the early rounds.  By the fourth round, Cotto landed two thunderous low blows, and Judah was not the same in the rest of the fight.  Now, take into consideration that Agbeko was hit by more than a dozen damaging shots.  Ultimately, Mares' win is tainted by his repeated low blows and the referee's refusal to deduct points.

  • The technical aspects of the fight were not as important as the overriding illegality of these punches.  Sure, Mares got off some snappy combinations in the early rounds, but how do we know that Agbeko wasn't significantly damaged by the illegal shots?  Any fighter would have been affected by that kind of abuse.  Most probably, his movement was stunted because of the lingering pain and/or debilitating nature of the low blows. 

  • In terms of Agbeko's performance, he displayed bravery and determination, regardless of the outcome.  He didn't resort to cheap tactics when he had every reasonable right to do so.  Even after all of the illegal shots, he came on in the second half of the fight and gave himself the chance to win.

  • From a technical perspective, the turning point of the fight was the 8th round, when Agbeko started to throw lead uppercuts.  Mares had no answer for that punch.  In actuality, Mares' defense was pretty bad throughout the fight.  His glove positioning constantly moved, similar to a miniature golf obstacle.  Thus, he was not in position to defend himself from incoming fire.  Agbeko landed stinging jabs and some thunderous right hands because of this flaw. 

  • Mares did have the correct strategy in terms of going to the body and being first with his punches.  His left hook to the body was his money punch all night.  He also threw solid combinations and got out of firing range pretty well.  When Mares decided to counter, he scored well with solid right hands and left hooks. 

  • Furthermore, Mares showed that his chin was top-notch.  That right hand which Agbeko landed in the fourth round might have been the best punch of his career.  Mares' knees buckled, but he took the punch and pressed on.

  • From a conditioning standpoint, Mares left a lot to be desired.  He had a six-year age advantage over Agbeko and yet Agbeko, the man who had to overcome repeated fouls, was the fresher fighter down the stretch.  By the 10th round, Mares was throwing a lot of arm punches.  Mares' defense, which wasn't great throughout the fight, continued to deteriorate as the night progressed.

  • In a perfect world, the Nevada Athletic Commission would suspend Russell Mora.  Nevada needs boxing and it’s essential for the state's economy to continue to get big fights.  With Russell Mora, Vic Drakulich, Jay Nady and Joe Cortez, the jurisdiction has four problem referees.  At a certain point, promoters steer fights away from states with shoddy refereeing.  The inability of Texas and Florida to consistently get big fights, despite favorable boxing demographics, can be partly attributed to their weak regulatory commissions and their erratic referees and judges.  No, Las Vegas is not in danger of losing all of its boxing activity, but even if it loses a few fights a year because of problems with the Commission, that would be a serious blow to the state.  With a few more performances like Mora's in high-profile fights, the state's reputation for fairness in its officiating and judging could be significantly damaged.  

  • The Nevada Athletic Commission prides itself on being one of the most progressive regulatory bodies in boxing.  If it wants to maintain that reputation, then the Commission must seriously reconsider who it selects for high-profile fights.  There have been numerous refereeing issues over the last four years, so much so that a top-to-bottom review of its referee training program needs to commence immediately. 

  • Furthermore, the IBF should do the right thing and order an immediate rematch.  If I were Agbeko, I'm not sure that I would take the fight.  The type of illegal beating he received from Mares could be career-damaging.  Agbeko is a proud man and I'm sure that he wants his belt back, but why go through all of that again? 

  • For Mares, the win demonstrates very little.  Nonito Donaire would pick him apart with his speed, accuracy and power.  It isn't clear that Mares would have won either of his fights in the Showtime bantamweight tournament without the illegal low blows.

  • Finally, the Showtime announcing team had an exemplary night.  The broadcast crew of Gus Johnson, Al Bernstein and Antonio Tarver did not pull any punches.  They called the action honestly and with warranted indignation.  They got the story of the fight right.  Agbeko-Mares was about fouling and incompetence, not Mares' victory.  Jim Gray's interview with Russell Mora was devastating, as the ref refused to acknowledge that he blew the knockdown call in the 11th, even after watching it on replay. 

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