In a great action fight Saturday marred by puzzling officiating by the referee that left fans at The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, those watching on SHOWTIME® and the telecast team themselves totally perplexed, Abner Mares won The Bantamweight Tournament Final: Winner Takes All and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) bantamweight title with a majority 12-round decision over defending IBF titlist Joseph King Kong Agbeko.
The unbeaten Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs), of Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., scored two knockdowns – one in the first and one in the 11th that was one hotly disputed – en route to outpointing the New York-based Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) of Ghana by the scores of 115-111 twice and 113-113.
But talk afterward centered less on the terrific performances of the talented, proud prizefighters and more on the referee, Russell Mora, whose failure to deduct a point from the winner despite at least five warnings for low blows and several other shots that seemed south of the border left many in disbelief.
During the telecast, SHOWTIME ringside analyst Antonio Tarver said, “Mora robbed all of us of a great fight.’’
There were 1,394 punches thrown in a give-and-take slugfest. Mares connected on 318 of 732, Agbeko on 318 of 732.
“I thought the first knockdown was clear,’’ said Mares, who made history by becoming the first homegrown Golden Boy Promotions boxer to capture a world title. “On the second I hit him on the belt and the ref chose to give him a count. I agree with the ref’s choice.
“I like to work the body but I was making the fight and all he did was counter-punch.
“I’m open to fight anybody (next). I love this tournament and would love to be in another one like this.’’
Said Agbeko, who demanded an immediate rematch, “I felt as though I was fighting two opponents in the ring tonight, Abner Mares and the referee. The referee ruled incorrectly on the knockdowns and he allowed Mares to hit me low repeatedly. Then, in the 11th, he called what everyone could see was another obvious low blow a knockdown.
“I don’t why these things happened to me. I felt the ref was against me from the start. All I wanted was a fair fight.
“I like Abner. He’s a good fighter. But I’m sure he didn’t want to win a fight this way.’’
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