Mark E. Ortega

Agbeko a free agent, eyes top junior featherweights

Former two-time bantamweight titleholder Joseph Agbeko informed RingTV.com on Sunday that he has split from promoter Don King and is in search of a big fight in the junior featherweight division.

“Don recently granted me my release after we had a couple talks and now I’m free,” Agbeko told RingTV.com on the phone.

Agbeko was previously a staple on Showtime, beginning with his dominant title claiming victory over Luis Perez in 2007. As with nearly every Don King fighter, inactivity plagued his career, but he still was able to remain a top name in the division with wins over Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez before two losses to Abner Mares.

Agbeko took part in the bantamweight tournament that Showtime put together a few years ago. Agbeko avenged a defeat to Perez by clearly outboxing him and then lost to Mares in a controversial tournament final. Mares clearly won the rematch in December 2011.

Agbeko said he will campaign at 122 pounds and is after the biggest names the division has to offer.

“I will fight at 122 pounds now,” Agbeko said. “I feel much stronger at the weight and it was getting to hard to make 118.”

Agbeko was impressed by the performance of Leo Santa Cruz in Saturday night’s co-feature against Victor Terrazas and would love to give the 25-year old two division champion a real test.

“I’ve watched a few of his fights and last night was the most impressive of them. He’s a tough kid who comes to beat the body but I think I have the style that would make him look bad.”

Agbeko also said that he was supposed to be the guy who fought Jhonatan Romero last weekend on HBO in Atlantic City instead of Kiko Martinez, who scored a shock upset to claim the IBF belt.

“I was supposed to fight Romero in that fight but a few things behind the scenes made it not possible,” said Agbeko. “Kiko is very strong and I would love to fight him if given the opportunity.”

The other name floating out there at 122 pounds is that of Guillermo Rigondeaux, who handed Nonito Donaire a defeat in April’s anticipated bout. Despite the big win, Rigondeaux is in no man’s land given that HBO doesn’t seem interested in showcasing his talent on a future show. Agbeko shared his thoughts.

“We fight for the fans and you need to put on a good show,” said Agbeko.

“I think he’s kind of boring and fights like it is a sparring session. I believe in challenges and I want to fight the best. I would love to fight him, and if he fights me he is definitely going to have to work because I will be coming forward.”

As far as Saturday night’s extremely surprising result with Mares being stopped by veteran Jhonny Gonzalez, few were as shocked as former rival Agbeko.

“Mares is a very good boxer who has worked very hard to get where he is,” said Agbeko.

“It was very painful to see him go down even though I wasn’t the one fighting. I think he might have been a bit overconfident and too relaxed. I know he will bounce back when he gets back in there.”

For Agbeko, though he twice failed to beat Mares, he likes to think things would be different if given another chance.

“Our first fight was very controversial and for the second one I just wasn’t myself or in the best condition,” said Agbeko. “I still believe I am better than him and I’d love to get another shot.”

Agbeko may not be Rigondeaux in terms of current cache in boxing, but he’s always been in exciting and compelling fights. Now that he’s free from his promoter and former manager Vinny Scolpino, it shouldn’t be too long before Agbeko gets a call for a big opportunity.

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