If you were watching Showtime on Saturday night, you were treated to a 12-round, non-stop slug-fest between Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares. It was one of the most action packed fights I've seen in recent years. Two bantamweights throwing miles of punches and going right after each other.
The first four rounds were toe-to-toe action as neither fighter took a step backwards. Although Perez was expected to dominate the early rounds, I actually gave three of the first four to Mares.
Around the fifth round, Perez started to take over. His strength, activity, and length seemed to overpower the smaller Mares. He was on his bicycle for most of the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth rounds. I thought the fight was going to be over after the eighth. Mares looked gassed and overwhelmed.
How wrong I was.
To chants of "Mares, Mares!" from the mostly Mexican crowd at the Stapes Center, Mares came out in the ninth and started throwing bombs. He stood in the center of the ring and went right into Perez's chest.
Then started backing up Perez.
The next four rounds were more like the first four, with neither fighter giving an inch and both throwing a lot of shots. It was an impossible fight to judge. Mares through more punches, but it looked like Perez was getting in the harder blows.
It shouldn't have surprised anyone that these two guys would go right after each other. They had been roommates in the amateurs and fought three times, with Mares winning two of those. Sometimes, familiarity is a recipe for throwing everything and anything to abandon. Fighters become so accustomed to one another they lose any fear or trepidation.
That's what seemed to happen with these two. This was a fight out of the 1950s with two guys who wouldn't back down from one another. It hearkened back to the days of Graziano, LaMotta, and Willy Pep.
The fight was, not surprisingly, a draw. One judge had it 115-113 for Mares and the other two had it even at 114-114. That meant a unanimous draw. A no-decision for both fighters, although Perez gets to receive his IBF Bantamweight Championship belt.
It was a fitting end. Neither fighter deserved to lose this fight.
In fact, they need to set the rematch as soon as possible. This rivalry could easily become as intense as Marquez-Varquez or Ward-Gatti.
I give Mares a tremendous amount of credit. This was his first fight on such a large stage and he handled himself like a true professional. Fighting in front of a Mexican and pro-partisan crowd only added to the pressure on his young shoulders (he's only 24). He's a very, very good fighter who will become a world champion in short order.
As for Perez, he was solid and stood his ground. At 31, he's older, however, he really didn't start as a professional until he was 26. So, he's a young 26 and should have plenty of good years left in his lengthy body.
I'm not sure what either fighter can do better or differently for the next fight. They both know each other, and their respective styles, so well that adjustments just aren't necessary. Any subsequent fights will be wars of attrition, whoever is better conditioned and wants it more should win.
I can't wait to see them fight again.