Joseph Agbeko said he spent much of Sunday doubled over in agony, taking pain-killing medication and walking gingerly. Being smashed in the groin over and over by another guy’s fists can do that to a man.
That’s what happened to Agbeko on Saturday night in Las Vegas, where rival Abner Mares repeatedly nailed him with low blows without being penalized by referee Russell Mora en route to a controversial majority decision that dethroned Agbeko as IBF bantamweight titleholder.
But on Tuesday, while awaiting a flight from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to his home in the Bronx, N.Y., Agbeko received a call on his cellular phone that made him jump for joy.
The message was from Dana Jamison, senior vice president of the company named for Agbeko’s promoter, Don King. She called to say that the IBF had ordered an immediate rematch with Mares and a shot at redemption for Agbeko.
“Dana Jamison, she called me and she told me about the decision from the IBF that we had the rematch and everything,” said Agbeko, who is actual middle name is “King Kong.” “I was so, so, so happy. I am so grateful to the IBF, and I was so grateful to my fans.
“I was jumping for joy. I was so happy that the IBF was fair enough to give me the second chance to prove to the world who the real champion is.”
Replays appear to show that a hard punch by Mares landed squarely on Agbeko’s groin area, dropping the native of Ghana, Africa, to his hands and knees.
Mora nevertheless credited Mares with a knockdown, resulting in a 10-8 round in his favor. Had Mares been penalized, the fight would’ve ended in a draw and Agbeko would’ve kept his belt.
But IBF President Darryl Peoples ruled in favor of Agbeko after having reviewed a replay of the bout and determining “that inappropriate conduct by the referee affected the outcome of the fight.”
RingTV.com spoke to Agbeko in about the fight in this Q&A:
RingTV.com: What were your thoughts after Mares wasn’t penalized for the hard shots to your crotch in the 10th and the 11th rounds, the last one being the knockdown?
So I kept fighting. So when I caught the punch, the low blow in the 11th round, it was a very severe one. I went down thinking that the referee was going to take a point away from Mares.
But he kept counting, and I lost points, 10-8. He wasn’t giving me anything, so I just had to stand up in the ring and fight.
RingTV.com: Did you have a hard time walking for a couple of days?
So now I’m feeling very strong and I’m feeling better and I’m ready to get into the ring with Abner Mares again. Any time, any day.
RingTV.com: What would you say to those who believe that you were purposely pulling Mares’ head down, causing his his punches to stray below the belt?
Even when Mares hit me below the belt in the 11th round, you could see that we were not even close to each other. He just stepped forward, and then he hit me there.
So that wasn’t the cause of the low blow. I just felt like he was intentionally punching me below the belt.
RingTV.com: What kept you going through the pain of the punches you were receiving?
An international network. A lot of people are watching me all over the world. My fans were watching me at the Hard Rock arena. Even if I felt weak, I still had to sacrifice.
RingTV.com: Were you ever tempted to return fire or retaliate with a low blow of your own?
Even when the referee was warning me, and not him, I still have to participate and do the right thing.
RingTV.com: Do you believe that the rematch will actually happen?
So they are a very good sanctioning body, and I believe that the rematch is going to happen. I just can’t wait to get back into the ring to prove to the world that I’m the best.
RingTV.com: What would you say to Mares if you and he were alone, face to face?
But now, he’s going to have to face me with a fair referee and fair judges and everything, and he’s not going to enjoy fighting me this time. The next time, he’s going to see the real King Kong.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org