Michael Rosenthal

Weekend Review: Rogue ref steals the show

BIGGEST WINNER

Abner Mares: The biggest victory in Mares’ career will forever be known as the “Low Blow Fight,” the unfortunate result of a few dozen punches below Joseph Agbeko’s belt line that referee Russell Mora somehow managed to miss on a strange night Saturday in Las Vegas. The fact is Mares was lucky he wasn’t disqualified, even if some of the low blows occurred as Agbeko pushed Mares’ head down. Many fans and pundits are saying Mares took Agbeko’s IBF bantamweight title primarily because of Mora’s ineptitude, which is a shame because he gave a good performance. The Mexican-American fought with great spirit and landed more and harder blows than his Ghanian foe, which is why he finished a the winner on the scorecards. He should be proud of himself in that regard. He also should do what it takes to keep his punches up. He got away with murder this time. You can bet that won’t be the case if it happens again.

BIGGEST LOSER

Joseph Agbeko: Agbeko was able to overcome a loss to Yonnhy Perez by beating the Colombian in a rematch to regain his title. He was able to overcome a bout with sciatica that scuttled his scheduled fight with Mares in April. He was able to overcome a slow start against Mares to climb back into the fight on Saturday. In the end, though, not even Agbeko could overcome the performance of Mora. Again, he shares some of the blame. Some of the low blows can be attributed to his actions. Only some, though. Most of them were strictly the fault of Mares, who now has the reputation of being a dirty fighter. The low blows – particularly the last one – took a physical and psychological toll on Agbeko. Still, he was able to rally in the later rounds and climb back into the fight. Then, in the penultimate round, one last punch below the belt and Mora’s inexplicable ruling stole any chance he had to win. No one is more deserving of a rematch than he is.

WORST PERFORMANCE

Russell Mora: An important part of a referee’s mission is to maintain a playing field level. He failed miserably in that regard on Saturday. Mora needed to send a message to Mares, as any good referee would’ve done. You warn a fighter several times for any infraction, as Mora did in this case. Then, if he continues to commit the foul, you penalize him by taking points away. And, finally, if it continues, you disqualify him. Mora stopped at the warnings for some reason, which spoiled a fight that should’ve celebrated for its back-and-forth action and intensity. Mora’s worst moment was the low blow in the 11th round that sent Agbeko to his knees, which inexplicably was ruled a knockdown. That decision alone cost Agbeko his title. Had he taken a point from Mares, as he should have, it would’ve been a four-point swing – a 10-8 round for Agbeko instead of a 10-8 round for Mares, which is how all three judges had it. That would’ve made the two 115-111 cards 113-113, resulting in a draw. Sadly, it didn’t happen that way. Mora’s poor performance ruined a great fight and unjustly cost a brave warrior his belt.

MOST CONTRITE

Mora: The villain refused to acknowledge immediately after the fight that he had erred even after watching a replay of the moment of question in the 11th round. Mora finally came around on Sunday, though, telling his boss – Keith Kizer of the Nevada State Athletic Commission – that it was a low blow and Mares should’ve lost a point, Kizer told Yahoo! Sports. Kizer said Mora “is displeased with himself.” That’s a start. Kizer won't recommend to the commission that Mora be suspended but said the ref won't be working main events in the near future. He’ll have to earn that distinction with his performances in subsequent fights. “In a situation like this, the referee needs to get with me and also with some of the senior referees here in Nevada, which I’m encouraging, to learn from this performance and improve in the future,” Kizer told Yahoo! “He’ll need to take his time coming back and build himself back up. I have a very high confidence he’ll be able to do so.” Mora has his work cut out.

MOST OMINOUS

Nonito Donaire: The handlers of Mares and Donaire are already talking about a title-unification fight between the two, which makes sense from a business standpoint. The matchup would be relatively lucrative. It might not particularly competitive, though. No disrespect to Mares or Agbeko, who fought well on Saturday, but neither would stand much of a chance against the Filipino-born American. Donaire can match either in boxing ability but is a physical freak in terms of hand speed and power, which no one can match. I actually believe that Agbeko would stand a better chance against Donaire than Mares because he appeared to be physically stronger fighter on Saturday. Still, they would be wise to seek a rematch to right the wrong that occurred on Saturday and wait to face the likes of Donaire.

BIGGEST UPSET

Lopez over Kennedy: Junior featherweight contender Teon Kennedy was the hot-shot boxer from Philadelphia, the star of the Top Rank Live card Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J. Alejando Lopez was supposed to be just a competent opponent from Mexico, another step in Kennedy’s rise to fame. OOPS! Lopez stunned Kennedy and all those watching by schooling his favored opponent with a superb boxing exhibition, one for which Kennedy simply had no answer. Lopez (22-2, 7 KOs) used his feet to avoid any serious danger, pecking away at Kennedy (17-1-1, 7 KOs) from the outside to win a unanimous decision. The judges scored it 117-111, 117-111 and 115-113. Lopez thus emerges as someone to watch while Kennedy must watch the video of the fight and try to figure out what went wrong.

BIGGEST WINNER II

Kermit Cintron: The former welterweight titleholder saved his career by defeating Antwone Smith by a one-sided unanimous decision Friday in St. Charles, Mo. And he proved that he can let his hands go, throwing 1,143 punches in the 10-round fight. The result is that he has more big-money fights against the elite fighters in or near his weight class in his near future. Will he succeed in those fights? Not if he fights like he did on Friday. Cintron threw a lot of punches, which he didn’t do in his perplexing loss to Carlos Molina last month. Still, he didn’t fight with passion. I think of his fight against Sergio Martinez and that strange seventh round, in which Martinez put him down with what Cintron thought erronesoualy was a head butt. That woke Cintron up. He rallied from that point to make it a close fight. He woke up. He could learn from that experience. Kermit. WAKE UP!

BEST KNOCKOUT

Dannie Williams: The right hand that instantly ended journeyman Antonio Cervantes’ night on the Cintron-Smith undercard was a thing of beauty. Williams feinted a left hand, Cervantes came in with a weak jab of his own and then BAM! A straight right to the chin knocked Cervantes on his back, his head hitting the canvas to punctuate the moment. Referee Steve Smoger waved his arms almost immediately to end the fight. Cervantes appeared to be unconscious for a few minutes but was able to get to his fight. Williams, a one-time amateur standout from St. Louis, has won seven straight since losing a unanimous decision to junior lightweight contender Eloy Perez in 2009 – five by KOs inside four rounds. Williams looks like he has the goods – ability, speed, power. Now he has to face a fighter on the level of Perez again to prove he can hang with the best.

BIGGEST LOSS

Scott Ledoux: The former heavyweight contender, who died at 62 Friday of Lou Gehrig’s Disease, wasn’t a great fighter. He had his moments, draws against a young Leon Spinks and Ken Norton probably being his most-notable accomplishments. Mostly, though, he was an “opponent” for much better heavyweights. He lost to George Foreman, Ron Lyle, Mike Weaver, Larry Holmes and other more-talented big men in his nine-year career. The strapping, bushy-haired Minnesotan was the perennial underdog we admired, though, the kind who is fearless and confident even though everyone else gave him little chance to succeed. Ledoux was stopped by Holmes in the seventh round because, The New York Times reported, the ring doctor said he could lose vision in his damaged eye.   “What’s an eye when you’ve given your heart?” he said. That’s a fighter. Ledoux will be missed.

BEST QUOTE

Don King, who watched the Agbeko-Mares fight on TV: “What I saw [Saturday] night was either total incompetence or corruption. Choose whichever you’d like. I’ve been around a long time and I’ve never witnessed anything like that. It’s so outrageous. The last one, Mares hit him directly in the [groin] and he was down, writhing in pain on his knees, and the referee called it a knockdown. It was so outrageous and makes you question everything you hold holy.”

 

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at ringtveditor@yahoo.com

 

Around the web