Mares Impresses, Charlo Destroys In Satisfying Showtime Card
It was a battle of undefeateds Saturday night in California as Jernall Charlo – 24-0 – defended his IBF super welterweight title against Philadelphia tough guy Julian Williams – 22-0-1 – at the USC campus in Los Angeles. This was no mere tuneup. This was two top divisional fighters throwing down. It was, in short, the real thing. Both men were active and sharp in the first, with no one landing anything too significant. Things remained sharp in the second until – bang – Charlo dropped his man with a jab. Williams beat the count and the two men took to banging away for the next several seconds. Things settled down – but then Williams landed hard himself.
It was becoming an exciting affair.
Things got a bit quiet in the third – at least by the standards that had been set by the match so far. In the fourth, Williams started landing clean and hard with some consistency. It remained, however, a very close bout. Williams continued to land in the fifth, but an absolutely thunderous shot from Charlo put Williams down in highlight reel fashion. Williams managed to get up – but Charlo put him right back down again and that was the end of the fight.
Unfortunately, in an act of bad sportsmanship, Charlo refused to tap William’s offered glove after the fight. It was an off putting footnote to an impressive performance. Afterwards, however, the man publicly expressed remorse when being interviewed by Showtimes’ Jim Grey. “I apologize for me being a fighter and letting my emotions take over me,” he said.
The audience at USC appeared to be unforgiving, but that didn’t take away the fact the man apologized in public. What more could be expected of the guy?
It was then time for the main event. Thirty-one-year-old Abner Mares – 29-2-1 – was giving what might be a last grasp at glory by facing the menacing 28-1 Jesus Cuellar for Cuellar’s WBA featherweight title. The first round belonged to the veteran challenger, Mares, who controlled space and fired effectively. Cuellar started trying to rough his man up in the second and managed to find some success. Mares, however, wasn’t simply going to roll over.
Cuellar began asserting himself in the third, moving forward and landing hard. Mares landed straight and clean in the first minute of the fourth. Indeed, the experienced pro re-asserted himself and took the round. Mares went on to employ an impressive skill set throughout the fifth. Cuellar, however, kept the fight very close in the sixth, possibly taking the round with a clean shot in the final seconds. And indeed, things remained close and exciting throughout the seventh.
Yet Mares looked completely in control in the eighth. As the fight moved onto the later rounds it became clear that Mares controlled tempo and distance – but Cuellar landed the harder shots. Depending on one’s preference, it wasn’t hard seeing the rounds go to one man or another. Mares landed hard after the bell at the end of the ninth, of course, but illegal shots simply don’t count. Things remained incredibly close in the tenth – but then Cuellar tasted the canvas in the eleventh.
Cuellar got up, but it looked like Mares was going to stop him. Cuellar managed to survive the round and even remained competitive. Still, it was clear by that point that Mares had the edge. Mares played defense in the center of the ring in the twelfth and began raising his hands in victory before the round even ended. Here was a supremely confident man.
Ultimately, the judges went for Mares by split decision. Those who had possibly written Mares’ career off after his 2015 loss to Leo Santa Cruz had clearly done so too soon.