In the main event of Showtime Boxing’s bantamweight single-elimination tournament at the Emerald Casino in Tacoma, Washington, Colombian world titleholder Yonnhy Perez, 20-1-1 (14), rematched Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko, 28-2 (22), over 12 very entertaining rounds that saw neither man give any quarter.
Agbeko dropped a unanimous decision to Perez on Halloween of last year and had not fought since. Perez was coming off a draw with Abner Mares a few months back and seemed to riding a wave of momentum. But it was the sharper Agbeko, who has an unusual style similar to that of fellow Ghanaian fighter Azumah Nelson, that kept Perez, a more straightforward volume puncher with countering ability, off balance.
Agbeko was sharp early, dodging punches and landing his jab and right hand in a number of differently angled ways. Perez stayed the course, working the body, moving forward and letting his hands go.
Agbeko seemed to bank the first two rounds, utilizing good footwork and his right hand but Perez battled back in the third to get back in the fight. Along the way, however, Perez took a punch from Agbeko that opened up a cut, which referee Eddie Cotton confirmed, and from then on, Agbeko would swipe at the blood running down into his right eye.
Back and forth the fight went with both men getting in their licks in what was a torridly paced fight. Agbeko shortened up his right hand and dropped it to the head and body, then changed it to a long-range weapon and landed that too. Perez stalked, working his way inside with his jab or waiting on a miss to come back with a left hook.
The amount of sustained action throughout was impressive as Agbeko had the lead coming into the middle of the fight. But in the sixth, a brawl broke out as Agbeko came out hard-charging and hell-bent to make this a war.
Perez had been getting picked apart slowly by the sharp Agbeko but in the sixth, he came alive and got Agbeko on the ropes, pounding away with hooks. Agbeko came back with a long double one-two but Perez pressed forward and dropped in a huge right hand. He landed two more to close out his best round of the night so far.
Perez rallied to take the seventh as well but seemed tired from all the catching he had done and dropped the eighth. Agbeko seemed recharged and took control with his jab and right hand again. His punches seemed straighter, more varied in angle and just quicker out of the gate, while Perez was just a step behind.
However, at least on this card, Perez would rally yet again in the ninth and tenth, boxing steadily while Agbeko’s offense gave way to a lot of defense. Still, by the final championship rounds, both men were exhausted.
Agbeko seemed just a bit fresher in the final two rounds as he boxed and moved his way to the win. Perez was game down the stretch but it was Agbeko who had control.
In the end judges had it 116-112, 117-111, 115-113 for Agbeko, who regains his IBF title from Perez and goes on to the finals against Abner Mares in what will surely be an exciting bout.
It was a trial by fire for young bantamweight Abner Mares, 21-0-1 (13), as he suffered an early knockdown, a furiously streaming cut on his scalp and a point deduction to take a split decision over Vic “The Raging Bull” Darchinyan, 35-3-1 (27), in the evening’s opening bout.
The bout was all action from bell to bell as Mares started out boxing early behind his jab and right hand. Darchinyan, the older fighter at 31 years to Mares’ 24, seemed to pick his spots and use his unusual style and footwork to his every advantage, firing from his awkward southpaw stance and landing his left, seemingly at will.
Mares was the busier of the two fighters, digging in to the body early. While he was blocked a lot, the constant rain of punches and the overall pressure had Darchinyan on the back foot and defensive most of the night, looking to get off his uppercut, which didn’t happen nearly as often he wanted. A clash of heads would open up a cut that was a problem all night for Mares, as it streamed into his right eye. It was high on the left side of the scalp and deep enough that the bleeding would not be staunched all night.
In the second round, Mares seemed in control, though a few lefts of Darchinyan had gotten through. But a left hand caught Mares and he fell back stunned, his glove touching canvas but never going all the way down. Darchinyan pressed the attack landing a right hook and a left again. But Mares was game and he dug back to the body and the traded all the way to the bell.
In the third, Mares found his footing a bit as Darchinyan stayed crafty but let Mares dictate the tempo a with his output. Mares was a little out of his game but trying to find something actively that would work. Mares got a low blow warning from referee Robert Howard and followed that up by eating a Darchinyan right hook, then countering with an uppercut. Late in the round, Mares landed a hard right hand that rocked Darchinyan.
Mares would lose a point in the fourth for a low blow while pressing the attack and looking to get to the older fighter’s body. Mares seemed spurred on by the point loss and kept at Darchinyan.
Darchinyan came back strong in the next round, dropping in left hands, switching from one stance to another and leading Mares into traps. Still, Mares, who is the youngest member of this four-man tournament, kept coming.
Mares would take the next two rounds on this card. The sixth was done on pure aggression. Mares dug to Darchinyan’s body and then came up with left hooks and right hands. He took a left uppercut from Darchinyan, whose shots looked cleaner but were coming less often than Mares’. Late in the round, Darchinyan did get in a solid left hand that was the punch of the round, following it up at the bell with another but Mares controlled much of the action.
In the seventh, Mares got a lucky break when a jab that glanced off Darchinyan caught “The Raging Bull” coming in and off balance. Darchinyan went down and it was ruled a knockdown but replays showed it to be more of a shot resulting from lack of balance.
Darchinyan roared back in the eight, countering effectively and getting in his left hand. But Mares would turn the tables again in the following stanza, digging downstairs and getting Darchinyan on the ropes. Darchinyan landed a nice uppercut and body shot but Mares would not be denied as he pressed forward behind a one-two and relentless pressure.
The fight began to get a little sloppy in the championship rounds. Both men knew the fight was on the table and big bombs flew accordingly. Mares landed a left hook in the 11th that would have knocked out most men but Darchinyan is far from that and rode out the hazy storm.
Both men dug deep as hell in the final round, tearing into each other with lefts and rights, looking for that opening and willing their tired limbs to throw. It was too close to call in this round as both men had their moments and both seemed too tired to land that one effective series to get them over the top.
In the end the judges saw it for Mares 115-111, 115-112 with one judge scoring it for Darchinyan, 115-111 for a split decision. Mares now moves on to the finals where he will face Agbeko.