With this new tournament format they have been trying out, Showtime has given boxing fans something we have desperately wanted for years: the best of a good division fighting the best.
Abner Mares, Yohnny Perez, Joseph Agbeko and Vic Darchinyan slugged it out in war after war to see who would contend in last night's final. Agbeko and Mares ended up in the showdown. All throughout the week, I could feel my excitement growing for this legitimate championship fight, this true boxing event.
It seemed to me that there was no way I could leave the fight disappointed. After all, I enjoy watching both fighters, their styles often produce exciting mix-ups and most importantly, they seemed to be very evenly matched. I was wrong. Oh so very wrong.
The night started well. Mares came out with guns blazing in the first round. Agbeko got his feet tangled up and fell to the canvas, which was improperly ruled a knockdown. It looked like a trip to me initially, but when Agbeko rose, he seemed hurt and Mares poured it on, so I ignored it. Usually, an improperly called knockdown is a big story in a close fight. We had not even seen the beginning of what Russell Mora could do.
Mares likes to throw his punches low, daring the referee to stop him. This time, the referee did absolutely nothing. Every couple of flurries, Mora would break them, warn Agbeko for holding behind the head and say "keep 'em up, Abner." Then he would let them continue to fight, watching on as Mares continued to hit Agbeko below the belt.
This ugly mess came to a head in the 11th round. After already having delivered a flagrant and unpenalized low blow where it hurts the most, Mares ripped Agbeko with a left uppercut clean on the groin. The entire crowd—and Agbeko—reeled in agony. Finally, I thought to myself, he has to take away a point now.
Little did I know who I was dealing with. Mora squatted down in front of Agbeko and began to count. It almost took me a second to realize what he was doing. He was calling a knockdown.
The fight was scored a majority decision for Mares, but it begs the question what would have happened with a competent referee. Two blown knockdowns and a point deduction that wasn't matter in the scoring of a fight. Big time. Mora was so poor that he made the judges look bad.
There is only one honorable course of action for Abner Mares: give Joseph Agbeko the rematch. As a matter of fact, I think that Showtime should use every ounce of strength they have and force Mares to rematch Agbeko, this time in a neutral site, away from Mares' home state of California.
There is no reason NOT to give Agbeko the rematch. Mares did not prove anything last night. Could he have won the fight on clean terms? Maybe, but I still could not tell you. And besides, it is not like he is going to unify the division any time soon.
Both of these guys are bumps on the rails of the Nonito Donaire Express. They get hit too much to withstand a surgeon-like power puncher like Donaire. So why fight him right away? What would be better for his reputation, doing the honorable thing and extending his hand or being viciously, brutally knocked out? Because that is where Mares is headed right now.
As for Russell Mora himself, his performance was so uniquely horrendous that it is hard to even say he did a bad job. He could not be that incompetent. I refuse to even entertain the possibility. He was in perfect position to see most of the low blows, including the knockdown and just ignored them. He warned Mares tie and time again but nothing ever came of it.
Since this is boxing, I will not give him the benefit of the doubt and just say that he did a poor job. No. He did exactly what he was supposed to do. That was crooked, ladies and gentlemen. That stunk to high heaven of Golden Boy paying off the ref, only I cannot imagine that they thought he would be so obvious about it.
Last night was sad, really. The very best boxing had to offer, a championship fight between two legitimate contenders, was tainted and ruined by the seedy underbelly of the sport. Now is when I am glad that I have a column here, because I need your help. Showtime did an admirable job calling Mora to task, at first during the fight and then with notoriously callous interviewer Jim Gray immediately after.
But they need to know that we DEMAND to see these two fight again, preferably with the Tournament Championship still on the line. Tweet at them (@SHO_Network), use their website suggestion box (sho.com), call them (212-708-1600), write them a letter (Showtime Networks Inc., 1633 Broadway, New York, NY, 10019). However is best for you to contact them, do it.
During the broadcast, when Al Bernstein was still trying to decide how hard he wanted to go after Mora, outraged tweets started flooding into the station. As it became clear that the viewers were incensed by Mares' and Mora's conduct, the broadcast team started to heat up. They listen to what you have to say. It works, people.