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Abner Mares beats Joseph Agbeko for world title

Challenger from Hawaiian Gardens is the new International Boxing Federation bantamweight champion by majority decision.

August 13, 2011|By Lance Pugmire
  • Abner Mares, right, defeated Joseph Agbeko for the International Boxing Federation bantamweight title at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino by majority decision, winning by scores of 115-111 on two judges' scorecards, with judge C.J. Ross scoring the bout 113-113.
Abner Mares, right, defeated Joseph Agbeko for the International Boxing… (Steve Marcus / Reuters )

Reporting from Las Vegas — Abner Mares' hard road to a world championship reached its destination Saturday, with a huge 11th-round push to the finish line by referee Russell Mora.

Mares defeated champion Joseph Agbeko by majority decision in a thrilling clash for the International Boxing Federation bantamweight title at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Judges Oren Shellenberger and Adalaide Byrd each scored the bout 115-111 for Mares, and C.J. Ross had it 113-113.

The scoring was spoiled by Mora's decisions, with the worst gaffe being his 11th-round decision to award Mares (22-0-1) a knockdown when it was obvious the already warned challenger from Hawaiian Gardens threw a hard left uppercut that definitely qualified as a low blow.

Instead of deducting a point from Mares and avoiding pain to a sensitive area, Agbeko lost the round by a 10-8 score.

"I had two opponents in the ring: Abner Mares and the referee," Agbeko (28-3) said.

Had Mora not given Mares credit for the knockdowns, and deducted points from him in the 10th and 11th rounds, Shellenberger and Byrd would've scored the fight a draw.

Mora stunned the crowd by not previously taking away a point from Mares after other blows below the belt, and even his first-round ruling that Agbeko was knocked down by a Mares left looked amiss when replays showed Mares had stepped on Agbeko's foot right before the shot.

Agbeko lost his footing and stumbled through the ropes.

"The first knockdown was clean," Mares said.

The 25-year-old became the first prospect from Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions to travel with the company from his pro debut to a world title.

Mares' aggressiveness defined the bout, with his early crispness and ability to pound Agbeko's body defining the fight.

The issue was that too many of the body blows were at Agbeko's belt.

"He was holding me down and when I was down, I was going for the body shots," Mares said. "I went low and landed. I like to win by going to the body. I'm not aiming for low blows."

Mora warned Mares not to throw low, but there were occasions, especially in the 10th round, when it appeared Mares deserved to lose a point.

"Many of the punches were on the belt," Mora said. "I did the best I could tonight."

It wasn't enough, as Mora was grilled on the Showtime telecast and one fan even charged toward the ring after the turn of events in the 11th round.

"Revoke the referee's license," one Agbeko fan barked.

Agbeko, who gave Mares difficulty with his jabs and counter-punching, asked for a rematch.

Mares, who suffered a small cut over the left eye in an accidental head butt, said he's "open to anything."

Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez nevertheless praised his fighter's accomplishment, asking to respect Mares' effort.

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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