by Hans Olson
Back on August 13, two of the top Bantamweights in the world met in what would be one of the most controversial fights we’ve seen all year. Abner Mares and Joseph Agbeko engaged in 12 furious rounds of action; most of the legal drama overshadowed by a few questionable knockdowns, a whole lot of illegal low blows, and a post fight Jim Gray interview for the ages.
Saturday night in Anaheim, CA, Mares and Agbeko will look to settle the score.
Let’s take a closer look at both Abner Mares, and Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko.
IBF Bantamweight Champion
WBC Silver Bantamweight Champion
Key Wins: Joseph Agbeko (W12), Vic Darchinyan (W12), Diosdado Gabi (TKO2)
Key Losses: None
Strengths: The 26 year old Mares is a sensational boxer-puncher with a heavy emphasis on body punching. Another key component to Mares and his recent success though, has been his ability to overcoming adversity during a fight in a number of ways. Against Vic Darchinyan, the early moments were disastrous for Abner. Along with suffering the first knockdown of his career, an accidental head-butt cut him above his right eye early on…forcing him to fight through blood streaming down his face during a good part of the contest. He made the proper adjustments against a fighter as unorthodox as Darchinyan, avoiding his power, and outworking him. Against Agbeko, Mares showed a wide range of skill; boxing in and out, attacking the body, and having great resolve when Agbeko caught him with power shots…proving the worth of his chin.
Weaknesses: In boxing, there always seems to be a catch-22. The same strengths of Mares, have at times been weaknesses. Known for his body attack, Mares has had problems keeping his punches up above the belt-line. In the first fight with Agbeko, it was alarming how many times he hit low without being penalized. His tendency to let his punches stray low puts him in danger of point deductions, and possibly even of being disqualified.
What He Needs to Do to Win: To beat Agbeko for a second time, he will need to outbox the Ghanaian challenger early on, work the body (legally), and impress the judges with clean, effective punching. Abner Mares must use his jab and force Agbeko to fight at a distance. Mares rounds can at times be difficult to score, but may prove to be easier with the hometown crowd on his side—who likely will explode in excitement with any punch Mares lands on Agbeko.
Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko
Key Wins: Yonnhy Perez (W12), Vic Darchinyan (W12), William Gonzalez (W12), Sumaila Badu (W12)
Key Losses: Abner Mares (L12), Yonnhy Perez (L12), Volodymyr Sydorenko (L12)
Strengths: Like Mares, Agbeko is a talented boxer-puncher relying on a high punch output to wear down his opponents, something not uncommon in the Bantamweight division. Agbeko fights very well on the inside, in addition to having a very underrated jab. He can box if he needs to, he can war when he has to. Fighting Mares for a second time, he’ll probably have to do both.
Weaknesses: If Agbeko has a weakness, it could be his age. The 5 year age advantage for Mares could be noteworthy. At 31, Agbeko is moving into territory that not many Bantamweights continue to have success at. You could also make the assertion that Agbeko could have stated his case more emphatically when he was repeatedly fouled by Mares in their first meeting, or at least returned the favor (there’s an old adage in boxing that if someone hits you low, you hit them back low). It’s hard to say if this would have benefited Agbeko or not, but when you’re involved in close fights…sometimes scrutiny comes in smaller, more perceptive doses. The widely believed perception is that Agbeko didn’t help his case by not retaliating.
What He Needs to Do to Win: Agbeko can win the fight by taking Mares out of his comfort zone early. If he comes out aggressive and smothers Mares, and works HIS body…Mares will need to make multiple adjustments. Agbeko should also use his lead rights, something he can do by establishing his jab early. If he can control Mares with his jab, and mix in close quarters combat with success, he’ll be able to open up with big right hands in the mid to late rounds.
Prediction: Abner Mares W12 in a heated majority decision.
Boxing Insider’s Hans Olson can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @hansolson