n a thrilling shootout, unbeaten but unproven Yonnhy Perez outworked relentless Joseph Agbeko over twelve furious rounds to earn a unanimous decision and a bantamweight title at the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Final scores were 117-110, 116-111, and 117-110.
It looked liked it would be an easy night for Agbeko in the first round when he began pushing Perez back and landing lightning bolt rights and vicious left hooks shortly after the opening bell. By the end of the round, however, Perez was teeing off dramatically on Agbeko, and it soon became clear that neither fighter had been a graduate from the Floyd Mayweather Jr. School of Boxing. From that point on, the fight was a debilitating back and forth struggle between two men who refused to yield.
Perez, 118, took an early lead by throwing one multi-punch combination after another while Agbeko concentrated on landing overhand rights and working the body. Occasionally, he switched to boxing from the outside, using some of his shifty moves and lobbing one UFO after another at Perez with mixed results. Round after round saw Agbeko and Perez exchange blistering punches. Agbeko was the aggressor most of the time and scored with eye-catching shots now and then, but Perez landed more often and his blows were usually cleaner. Too often Agbeko, also 118, would hurl slops at Perez in hopes that something would stick. But when Agbeko was consistent he scored well with body shots and overhand rights. He also began using his head as an effective battering ram in the fourth round. Still, Perez built up a fairly wide lead over the first third of the bout despite the torrid pace.
In the sixth, Agbeko, who started the round on the perimeter only to find himself being outboxed by Perez, charged in with his head and landed one of his Billy goat specials. Perez returned to his corner at the bell with a cut above his left brow. Agbeko, sensing that first blood was a distraction to his inexperienced opponent, accelerated in round seven and battered Perez all over the ring for the first two minutes while Perez pawed away the blood dripping from his eye. Perez fought back and traded blows on even terms with Agbeko in the 8th until he scored with a hard right uppercut on the inside that sent Agbeko retreating to the ropes in a delayed reaction.
In round nine another headbutt left Perez, who had been beating Agbeko to the punch for most of the round, with a second cut, this one over the inside of his right eye. Agbeko came out strong for the tenth and seemed ready to fight his way back into the scorecards, but with less than a minute to go in round ten, the two fighters rammed heads and Agbeko, ironically, turned away from Perez in distress. With Agbeko hunched over and trying to get a call from Robert Byrd, Perez continued to throw punches and forced Agbeko to the canvas with a bodyshot. Byrd scored it a knockdown and Agbeko lost two points in a round he was winning up until that point.
Neither fighter slowed down over the last two rounds, and they continued hammering each other around the ring, with Perez getting the slight edge during most of the frenetic exchanges.
After twelve punishing rounds Perez was awarded a decision that seemed somewhat lopsided in his favor. Seven point margins on two of the scorecards seemed preposterous in light of the frenetic two-way action from bell to bell. Since Agbeko is a junk artist–and his screwballs outnumbered his fastballs 2 to 1 last night–it might be possible that he dulled his own success in the eyes of the judges by hurling so much trash at Perez. Backhand lead rights, wide shots to the hips, borderline low blows, and strange quintuple jabs may have overshadowed some of the fine work he did on the inside, particularly to the body. Ultimately, Perez won the fight by not letting Agbeko take the play away from him for long stretches except in the 5th, 7th, and 10th rounds. For every thunderous right hand Agbeko landed, for example, Perez landed two or three peppering shots in response. In addition, whenever Agbeko stopped leading, Perez would take over for short
periods with rattling combinations and a superior workrate. Agbeko, now 27-2 (22), would retaliate with isolated counters here and there, but Perez simply threw more punches with greater accuracy.
Considering the fact that he is a frontrunner for “The Mangler of the Year” Award, it was high comedy listening to Agbeko complain about headbutts after the bout. He has now disfigured three fighters in a row: Perez, Darchinyan, and William Gonzalez, who resembled a victim of Gilles de Rais after twelve rounds with Agbeko. The phrases “accidental headbutt” and “Joseph Agbeko” should not appear within 1,000 miles of each other.
If Agbeko ever learns how to fight, however, he can become a real force in the bantamweight and junior featherweight divisions. His stamina, heart, determination, and chin are good starting points for a solid professional, but his weaknesses–lunging, reaching, leaning, winging, leaping–are overwhelming. Even his knockout ratio is inflated. Quality fighters nearly always go the distance with Agbeko. To put things in perspective: Of his 22 knockouts, 16 have come against fighters without a single win, and, even more interesting, 20 of his 27 victories have come against fighters with fewer than five wins apiece.
As for Perez, now 20-0 (14), his heart and chin are first-rate, but unless he improves his footwork and learns not to back straight up in front of opponents, his title reign might be as short as that of Agbeko.
In the end it hardly matters. For one night these two driven prizefighters gave nothing but the best of themselves, flaws be damned, and produced something magical.