By Johnny Walker
One had to feel a bit of sympathy for middleweight Sergio Mora (28-3-2, 9 KOs), who had been slated to take on newly crowned IBF world middleweight champion Jermain Taylor on one of his favorite televised haunts, ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, only to have Taylor disintegrate mentally and end up in a psychiatric institution instead.
So instead of fighting for a title, the former champion faced virtually unknown Abraham “Abie” Han (23-2, 14 KOs) in a bout that wouldn’t do much for Mora except keep him viable, but could do a lot for Han should he pull off an upset.
“I was depressed — Taylor needs help, and I hope he gets the help he needs,” Mora said before the match.
And after squeaking out a split decision this evening in front of an unhappy crowd at the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, Mora didn’t exactly look elated himself.
With pro-Mora announcer Teddy Atlas keeping a running argument going with the Facebook fans who defied him and voted Abie Han’s way most of the night (finally giving him the fight, seven rounds to five) Mora, always a slick fighter who relies on lateral movement, darting in and out of range, scoring with quick right hands, began to sag in the later rounds. Finally, even Atlas began to lose enthusiasm as Han began to catch up to the aging middleweight more often, scoring some telling blows as the fight progressed.
Han, who after a slow start was on the offensive for most of the fight’s second half, even scored the bout’s only knockdown with a shot that caught an off-balance, clearly sagging Mora on the chin and shoulder and sent him to the canvas in round 10. Mora was also suffering from a couple of facial cuts late in the fight, and was looking more like the dilapidated loser than the split decision winner as the final bell rang.
Mora did edge some early rounds when he looked fresh, but whether it was a lack of adrenaline due to Taylor’s forced pullout, or a combination of Han’s determined effort to stay on the front foot combined with Mora’s age catching up to him, the fans clearly agreed with the score of 115-112 announced for Han, rather than the 114-113 and 115-112 scores announced for Mora. Boxing Insider also scored the fight 115-112 for Han.
Perhaps Friday Night Fights now owes Abie Han a rematch with Sergio Mora — how about it, Teddy?
In the evening’s earlier televised bouts, light-heavyweight prospect Ahmed Elbiali (9-0, 9 KOs) recovered from a sleepy opening round, when he was caught with a hard uppercut, to come out in round two and knock his opponent Dustin Echard (10-1, 7 KOs) through the ropes and out on to the ring apron — from where he had trouble finding his way back into the squared circle.
The fight should have been stopped right then and there, but referee Bill Clancy made the inexplicable decision to allow the virtually defenseless and confused Echard to receive a few more free shots in the head from Elbiali before calling the fight off at 0:44 of round two.
In a “co-feature,” super welterweight prospect Erickson Lubin (9-0, 6 KOs) never got out of second gear against a man fighting on one day’s notice: opponent Michael Finney (12-2-1, 10 KOs) proved cagey enough to make the highly touted Lubin work for his win over eight rounds, scoring a few solid shots of his own even if the judges did deliver identical 80-72 verdicts for Lubin, who will need to do more next time if he is to continue to progress.