Posts Tagged ‘bantamweight’

Shinsuke_Yamanaka

KOKUGIKAN, Tokyo, Japan — Shinsuke Yamanaka worked through slow start to score three late knockdowns in a ninth-round TKO win over Alberto Guevara for the fifth defense of his WBC bantamweight title.

The southpaw Yamanaka struggled to find the range with his primary weapon, the left hand, in the first four rounds due to Guevara’s aggression and mauling inside work. Yamanaka began to take over in the fifth when his fast left cross started to make Guevara consistently backpedal. From there, Yamanaka was able to land hard 1-2s down the middle and slowly break down his challenger.

The eighth round saw Guevara dropped twice by straight lefts and struggle to remain upright for most of the round. A few other tumbles to the canvas were ruled slips as Guevara seemed to be rattled by every hard blow the champion threw in his direction.

The ending ninth saw Guevara dropped again by another right-jab, left cross combination. While coherent, Guevera’s fighting spirit had left him and he took the full ten count.

Yamanaka improves to 20-0-2 (15 KOs) and remains in position to unify the bantamweight division against fellow titlists Anselmo Moreno (WBA) and Tomoki Kameda (WBO).

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Shinsuke_Yamanaka

TOKYO, Japan — Shinsuke Yamanaka notched the four successful defense of his WBC bantamweight title with another display of crushing power in knocking out Jose Nieves at the 2:40 mark of round one.

Through the first two minutes, Nieves sought to stay off the ropes and keep away from the power of Yamanaka’s southpaw left hand. Yamanaka countered this tactic by cutting off the ring and forcing Nieves to move to his right. This provided the opening for the bout-ending straight left, the only flush power shot Yamanaka landed.

Yamanaka improves to 19-0 (14 KOs) while Nieves falls to 22-3-3 (11 KOs).

With two of the champions in Anselmo Moreno (WBA) and Tomoki Kameda (WBO) getting big wins in the last two weeks, the only question now is what unification fight happens first. Based on location, Yamanaka-Kameda is likely the one.

LOS ANGELES, CA — Showtime Sports delivered an excellent fight card last night capped off by a rough and tumble barnburner of a main event between Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno at the Staples Center. Once again, Mares passed a stiff test and afterward did what we yearn for all top fighters do — he challenged the best fighter in his divsion to a unification match.

ABNER MARES UD12 ANSELMO MORENO: Mares vowed to make Moreno “uncomfortable” and pressure him, but I don’t think anyone envisioned the “bull in a china shop” offense Mares displayed for the majority of the fight. Mares was an animal; he cared nothing about accuracy, but made sure all his punches were landing somewhere on Moreno, who struggled to gain any type of distance to work his counters. Mares would bang the body with 4-5 punches at a time. And even though Moreno had good defense in picking off a lot of shots, the sheer volume from Mares ensured many were getting through and wearing him down.

Whenever Mares would take a breather, Moreno accuracy would shine. At mid and long range, Moreno would snap back Mares’ head with his southpaw staight left and right jabs. The problem for Moreno is that Mares, clearly the bigger man, could take this punches and would explode with flurries to push Moreno back on his heels. Mares began finding the range with the overhand and straight right and hurt Moreno for the first knockdown of his career in the fifth. At that point, Moreno was only saved by the bell and appeared to be on the way out of there.

Moreno took another pasting in the sixth, but hung tough and started landing big hooks with both hands in the seventh. Moreno’s best opportunity to score a KO came in the eighth when he stunned Mares with a heavy left hook. Mares went to the ropes for the first time and Moreno, although still cautious of a trap, teed off with a series of power shots to take the round despite a late Mares flurry.

Moreno finished strong in the championship rounds but lost a key point in the 11th for holding down Mares’s head. It was a bullshit call, especially considering the roughhouse tactics exhibited by Mares the entire fight (low blows, forearms, leading with his head). Moreno had won that round on my card but had to settle for 9-9 round with the deduction.

In the end, the fifth round knockdown and Mares’ dominance over the first half of the fight was enough to get him 116-110 scores on two cards (believable), and a ridiculous 120-106 score on the other card. I had it closer to the Showtime team’s scores of 114-112.

Mares made it clear in his post-fight interview that he wanted Nonito Donaire next and implored him and Top Rank to not let politics prevent an excellent fight. I have no doubt Mares is sincere; just a look at his track record over the last few years shows he wants to fight only the best. Donaire, unless he finally gets “excited” to face stablemate Guillermo Rigondeaux, has only this fight to take if he wants to remain credible at super bantamweight. Sadly, I have little faith that Golden Boy and Top Rank can put aisde their differencs to make it happen. If they do, I’d favor Donaire since I think he’s the guy, if anyone does have it at super bantamweight, that has enough power and accuracy to hurt Mares repeatedly.

LEO SANTA CRUZ TKO9 VICTOR ZALETA: What a bruising fight. Santa Cruz reminds me a little of Antonio Margarito the way he walks down fighters and works the body. What bodes better for Santa Cruz’s career is that his defense is a little better with his tight guard. That left hook he throws to the body is very effective. Zaleta gave it his all but Santa Cruz was just too big and powerful. The idea of Santa Cruz and Mares fighting, which the Showtime team was hyping, is salivating should Donaire not come to the table for Mares. Believe it or not, Mares actually weighs more than Santa Cruz at the moment. How Mares would adjust his strategy to a bigger and stronger fighter is intriguing.

image Sendai, Miyagi, JAPAN — Shinsuke Yamanaka made a successful defense of his WBC bantamweight title last night with a crushing knockout of Tomas Rojas. The southpaw Yamanaka was leading on all scorecards in the seventh (59-55 twice, 58-56) when he stunned Rojas with a left cross and followed up with another left that put Rojas face-first on the canvas. The win is Yamanaka’s second defense of the title and first since scoring his biggest win, a 12 round unanimous decision win over Vic Darchinyan, in April.

Showtime Boxing takes an intimate look at the humble beginnings and rise of IBF bantamweight champion Abner Mares. Golden Boy’s first homegrown champ will make his super bantamweight debut this Saturday (April 21) when he faces Eric Morel for the WBC title.

Mares: 117 lbs.

Agbeko: 117 lbs.

PREDICTION: Their first bout was a good scrap that turned into a travesty courtesy of a horrid referee. Agbeko is the older fighter and you never know when it will catch up with him. Mares has a high-paced style and it clearly had Agbeko out of sorts early on. This is a toss-up, but I’m going with Agbeko by close decision mainly because I think the late rounds of the fight fight showed him how to box Mares, and the Ghanaian fighter has shown he can make great adjustments for return bouts (Yhonny Perez rematch).

Moreno: 118 lbs.

Darchinyan: 117 lbs.

PREDICTION: Moreno is a good, discplined whose advantages in height and reach will give Darchinyan some problems. Hoever, Darchinyan looked great balancing his brawling and boxing abilities in April against Yhonny Perez. Darchinyan handspeed and footspeed are better than Moreno even at 35, so he’ll be able to close the gap and force exchanges where Darchinyan’s power will be the difference. Moreno tastes the canvas at least once and loses a unanimous decision.

Top 5 bantamweight Vic Darchinyan expects to begin 2012 as a two-sport athlete when he ventures into the world of MMA. Darchinyan has a big matchup tomorrow night (December 3) when he faces Anselmo Moreno on the undercard of Mares-Agbeko II. While Gary Shaw says Darchinyan will retire should he win, the Raging Bull’s last statement in the clip makes it seem like he’ll do both sports simultaneously. That makes more sense, as it seems unlikely Darchinyan would leave boxing money on the table if he wins the title. Chime in MMA fans. Can Darchinyan be successful inside the cage?

On the night of February 19, Nonito Donaire landed a left hook that was supposed to make him a star. The victim was then WBC bantamweight champion Fernando Montiel, widely considered one of the division’s best and a Pound 4 Pound fighter. Donaire used him for target practice and short-circuited the Mexican titlist’s faculties with one lethal left hook. The sensational second round TKO was supposed to be the turning point of the 28-year-old Donaire’s career where he went from best kept secret to mainstream boxing star. Instead, it was a turning point to lawsuits after a poorly timed attempt to switch promoters from Top Rank to Golden Boy lead to Donaire spending the hottest months of his career in legal arbitration. With those issues now resolved, Nonito Donaire’s final bantamweight fight tomorrow night (October 22) finds him trying to re-establish the momentum and excitement that made him the talk of Pound 4 Pound rankings just eight months ago.

Standing in Donaire’s way is a formidable opponent in veteran Omar Narvaez. The challenge is not so much the danger of Donaire losing, but if can he look good and make a statement against a fighter known for his defensive acumen. Donaire concedes the point, but makes note of his recent track record of displaying devastating power in early, brutal dispatches of high-class fighters in Montiel and Volodymyr Sydorenko.

“We know we have the advantage in height, speed and the power,” said Donaire. “One thing he has is the advantage in experience. We want to think he can’t handle the power. Omar is shorter and its going to be tougher than Montiel. Montiel is an offensive guy and that’s why we were able to take him out. Those guys tend to lack defense. With Omar he’s very experienced and short. He tends to be very defensive sometimes as well. But if I get him in the right moment we know I can take him out as well. Finding that moment will be harder.”

Before getting back to business in the ring, Donaire had to resolve outside the ring business that had become increasingly hostile. Donaire’s attempt to jump ship to Golden Boy put him right in the middle of a personal feud between CEOs Bob Arum and Oscar De La Hoya. Arum criticism of Donaire’s move became highly personal when in a video interview he referred to Donaire’s outspoken wife Rachel as a “tart.” When a judge ruled that Donaire still had a binding contract with Top Rank, the next step was attempting to mend the ill will from words that could now not be taken back. While Donaire is quiet on details of his mediation meetings with Top Rank, he does state they both came to an “understanding” that will allow them to do further business.

The first step is becoming more active. The main reason Golden Boy was able to woo Donaire away was their promise of bigger fights, something Donaire lacked for years as he toiled away on Top Rank “Pinoy Power” pay-per-views. Ironically, Donaire’s aborted jump may have been the move needed to push Top Rank into landing him more marquee fights. Already on the horizon for 2012 are potential matchups at 122 pounds against Jorge Arce and Toshiaki Nishioka.

“Our relationship has been closer than before. It’s been an upgrade,” Donaire says of Top Rank’s work since the reconciliation. “After Montiel I knew there would be bigger fights ahead of me. If I look good in this fight against Omar Narvaez I know there are fights ahead against Jorge Arce and the other guys at 122. Then I could move up to 126. We’re hoping to have at least three fights next year. We should be able to make it happen by starting again in February of 2012. And then May and June for the second fight. By hopefully staying healthy I can get in three fights.”

The “staying healthy” mantra is the main reason Saturday night’s fight will be Donaire’s last appearance as a bantamweight. Unlike most fighters, Donaire is frank in admitting his problems early in camp with making the bantamweight limit of 118 pounds. Things turned for the better once the Filipino champion got under 125 pounds.

“We’ve had issues in the last few weeks where breaking past 125 pounds was difficult,” he stated. “But once we shed that weight its been easier than I expected. I thought I was going to die and all this stuff. Everything has been great with my work ethic and the mentality I have. When I say I’m going to make the weight, I’m going to make it. I’ve never failed to do so and I’m not going to start now.”

Although the top fighters at 122 will likely preoccupy Donaire’s 2012 fight schedule, Top Rank has already begun subtle mentions of Donaire possibly being an opponent for featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa. To have what many critics see as a competitive superfight two divisions above your current weight class speaks to the high regard Nonito Donaire’s boxing skills are held. Nonetheless, the far off nature of a Gamboa showdown shows in his lack of enthusiasm in talking about the matchup. He becomes much more exicted when discussing his potential super bantamweight matchups.

“I think my main target is both Nishioka and Arce,” Donaire explained. “Beating Jhonny Gonzalez and Rafael Marquez a couple of weeks ago has moved Nishioka up to the top of that list. They are the two guys I have my eyes on in the 122 pound category. In terms of difficulty, I think Nishioka being a southpaw would be a much more difficult fight than Arce. But Arce is ready for war and I think that would be a fun fight. In terms of skill and being tricky Nishioka is the tougher fight.”

Does this mean he’s lost interest in preparing for Omar Narvaez?

Donaire laughs, “The focus is on beating Narvaez. I never think too far ahead.”

Donaire vs. Narvaez will be for Donaire’s WBO and WBC bantamweight titles. The championship match will be broadcast live on HBO October 22 at 10:30 p.m. ET. 

“This is the worst officiated fight I’ve seen in years…” – Al Bernstein

LAS VEGAS, NV — A surging Joseph Agbeko had his hopes of a late comeback to retain his title dashed when referee Russell Mora incorrectly ruled a low blow a knockdown, giving Abner Mares a world title and Showtime’s first ever bantamweight tournament.

Early on, Abner Mares’ physical strength and punching accuracy had the champion on his heels and confused. Mares took the first round big behind hard left hooks (some straying low) to the body. Agbeko’s balance issues hurt him as a missed left hook resulted in slip that was ruled a knockdown. Mares finished the round strong with several flush straight rights and continued his momentum in the second and third with consistent pressure.

Agbeko attempts to punch with Mares and brawl were ill-advised; the challenger’s left hooks repeatedly landed first, and in close Mares’ thudding body shots forced Agbeko to give ground. However, these shots also mixed in regular low blows, causing referee Russell Mora to be on multiple warnings by the end of the third.

Agbeko finally round his range in the fourth. The under-seiged champion kept Mares at bay with his superior jab and had his best moment when he momentarily stunned Mares with the best punch of a night; a flush, reverberating straight right. Mares responded with inside work in the fifth, but also received more low blow warnings sans point deductions.

A clash of heads in the sixth resulted in a bad cut above Mares’ left eye, and the injury seemed to help slow him down enough to aid Agbeko’s comeback. The Ghanaian champion lowered his left hook output and began scoring well with right hands in the seventh and eighth stanzas. By the ninth, it was Agbeko who was now doing the better inside fighting with digging hooks whenever Mares made it past the jab.

The fight was on the table in the championship rounds. Agbeko continued his surge in the 10th behind his straight rights. Inside, he added uppercuts on the rushing Mares to great effect. Amazingly, several more of Mares’ hooks strayed low, but again resulted in no deductions from Russell Mora.

Mora’s bad officiating reached its zenith in the 11th. Agbeko started the round with a solid 1-2 followed by another scoring right hand. Mares got inside and Agbeko stood his ground, forcing both men into an exchange. One of Mares’ shots, a left hook, landed flush on Agbeko’s groin right in front of Russell Mora. As Agbeko crumpled to the canvas in pain, Mora ushered Mares away and began a 10 count to the outrage of the fans. Agebeko beat the count, and his corner had to be restrained by ringside security as they berated a sheepish Mora for his fight-changing call.

Sensing the fight was his, Abner Mares back pedaled and stayed away from any toe-to-toe fighting in the 12th. Agbeko, having suffered rounds of low blow punishment, still pushed the fight and refused to retaliate despite now being unable to land the knockout blow needed to win.

The scorecards reflected how Mora’s bad call directly altered the fight’s outcome. One judge had the contest a draw, 113-113. The two others scored it 115-111, giving Abner Mares his first ever title win.

Agbeko had to be restrained from going after Mora even before the scorecards were read. Mora agreed to an on camera interview with Jim Gray. After seeing the replay he refused to admit he had made a bad call, saying he needed to see more “angles.” He also directly contradicted his in-fight actions, now claiming the low blows he gave repeated warnings for were “on the belt line.”

Mares’ previous tournament win also had low blow controversy after Vic Darchinyan complained he was constantly hit low and created a video to show the missed calls. Mares suffered one point deduction in that bout.

After seeing the low blow knockdown on replay, Mares said it was the referee’s call and asked that his moment as a new champion not be spoiled by controversy. When pressed about his low blow history, Mares justified it by claiming his opponents made them happen by grappling and pushing his head down.

“The referee stole my title!” exclaimed Agbeko in his post-fight interview. “You can’t be the bantamweight champion with the referee fighting for you. Boxers from Africa, they always try to cheat them.”

At press time, Joseph Agbeko plans on filing a formal protest with the IBF on Monday (August 14).

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I couldn’t believe what I was watching last night. It’s a shame that an otherwise excellent tournament had to be sullied by an inept referee. His performance has opened up a lot of questions about bias or even an outright payoff. At best Russell Mora has shown himself incapable of handling a big fight atmosphere. At worst he shown clear fighter bias or that he takes payoffs. Either way this needs to be the last boxing match that Russell Mora officiates.

IBF bantamweight champion Joseph Agbeko and Abner Mares completed their final workouts yesterday before their Showtime tournament finals matchup this Saturday (August 13). I’m favoring Agbeko, but I found it a little alarming that he’s claiming to only have watched a few rounds of Mares’ 2010 draw with Yhonny Perez. On Mares’ end, take note at the subliminal shot he sends at Nonito Donaire, saying the fighters who truly wanted to be considered the best participated in this tournament.

JOSEPH AGBEKO

I feel good, actually, great and I’m very happy to be back and fighting. I was never afraid that I would not fight again. I was surprised a thing like this could happen to me, but I knew in my heart that my career was not going to end this way. I mostly felt very bad that our first fight could not come off as scheduled.

I have trained for nine weeks and my camp was excellent. At no point did I feel weak and now it is all behind my and I am focusing on Mares.

There is no way I am going to lose this fight. I don’t watch a lot of tape on my future opponents and I have only seen a few rounds of Mares’ fight against Yhonny Perez, but I know he is a very good, fast, aggressive fighter with a big future in this sport.

I have prepared for everything he brings. He may be the one running in this fight.

I have dedicated this fight to my youngest child, Keira, who turns five six days after the fight. My motivation comes from both my kids.

I am the only champion in boxing now from Ghana and I plan to continue to carry the torch from Azumah Nelson. Whether you are watching in the arena or on Showtime, it is going to be a great, great fight on Saturday. The winner deserves to be recognized as the No. 1 bantamweight in the world.

ABNER MARES

Naturally, it was difficult for me when our fight was cancelled, but eventually I got over it. I took a few weeks off and then was back in the gym. My camp was different this time around. We changed it up, first when I was in Mexico and then when I was in Santa Fe Springs (Calif.), just so I wouldn’t get stale.

Actually, this camp went by fast and now my training’s done. I’m in great shape and very excited about fighting on Saturday. I’m totally focused and ready to explode.

I look at this as my hardest fight, but winning the IBF belt and the SHOWTIME tourney on one night is something that can really set my career in motion. There are lots of opportunities for the winner after Saturday.

I definitely believe the winner of this tournament should be called the top bantamweight in the world. To be the best, you have to fight the best and that’s what we have done. Other guys were invited to participate, but declined. That’s their business, but I’m sure I’ll be fighting one of them at some point.

A chance to become the first homegrown Golden Boy world champion is very exciting to me. I definitely would like to be the first, but I don’t feel any nervous pressure.

I’m really grateful for everyone involved in making this fight happen and for this tournament. Everyone knows that boxing’s little guys make the best fights. Fans are in for a real treat on Saturday.