U.S. boxing fans were first introduced to WBA Super World bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno last December when he thoroughly tamed "Raging Bull" Vic Darchinyan. He followed that victory up with a performance that was nothing short of pure boxing mastery when he forced an uninspired David De La Mora to quit before the start of the ninth round in his last fight this past April. The Panamanian general will now make his third consecutive appearance on Showtime when he moves up in weight to challenge WBC super bantamweight champion Abner Mares on Saturday night at the Staples Center in the latest test of brains vs. brawn.
This fight pits the highly intelligent, efficient and composed Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KO's) against the strong, effective and aggressive Mares (24-0-1, 13 KO's). Moreno, who hasn't lost a fight in 10 years, is a marksman who patiently sizes up his opponent and picks his shots to deliver quality blows that accumulate over the course of the fight while avoiding getting hit by his opponent through excellent defensive skills.
Mares is a machine gun who prefers to put his head down and go to work, throwing in combination from all angles and doubling up on shots to the body before shooting back upstairs. However, the young Mexican champion is not a reckless brawler. Mares is particularly dangerous because he possesses a rare combination of toughness and skill first developed during a successful amateur career where he amassed a record of 112-8 (84 KO's). He can rough-up an opponent on the inside with a compilation of power punches to the head and body but can also box from the outside, moving well and throwing accurate combinations.
The brawn in this equation can work against Mares if he does not keep his focus and composure against the crafty and elusive Moreno.
“I think this could be a more mentally exhausting fight than a physically exhausting one for me," Mares said at a press conference. "I know I have to be mentally sharp. With Moreno’s style, if you miss, you cannot become frustrated. You have to keep working and that is one of the biggest keys for me.”
Frustration may have played a role when he captured the IBF bantamweight belt from Joseph Agbeko in August 2011. Mares repeatedly threw low blows after getting caught by his opponent's jab and right hand as the fight progressed. He has since seemed to have rectified this issue in the two fights since that time, throwing effective body punches which are a big part of his fight plan. However, it is with Moreno's mind that Mares will need to effectively contend.
“My style is what it is. I’m an elusive fighter, the kind of fighter that hits and doesn’t get hit. My style is one that makes you watch at all times," said Moreno.
“I’ve fought the same way since I was younger. I learned that lesson when I was fighting in the streets when you need to stay smart all the time and not just brawl.”
Although this philosophy has paid off in the past with similar style match-ups, it has not been without its share of controversy.
Sugar Ray Leonard befuddled Roberto Duran with his superior hand speed and movement in their November 1980 rematch, leading "Los Manos De Piedra" to quit in the eighth round. However, Leonard's strategy did not result in such a clear cut victory against Marvelous Marvin Hagler in April 1987. It has been debated over the years as to whether Leonard did in fact do enough to take the middleweight title from Hagler in a split decision victory or if he exposed the champion as being ineffective against a moving target.
The slick and slippery Pernell Whitaker outboxed Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez in their welterweight superfight in September 1993. However, he fell victim to Texas judging, settling on a draw which allowed Chavez to maintain his undefeated record at the time.
Paulie Malignaggi was victimized by poor judging against Juan Diaz in August 2009. In what was a close fight, Malignaggi out boxed Diaz and beat the 'Baby Bull' to the punch in several exchanges. He threw more combinations and effectively used his jab to control the action, yet Malignaggi lost by a highly questionable unanimous decision in Diaz's hometown of Houston, Texas.
During his ascent into pound-for-pound greatness, Floyd Mayweather Jr. narrowly preserved his unblemished record with a hotly contested unanimous decision victory over Jose Luis Castillo to capture the WBC lightweight title in April 2002 by jabbing and moving. The bigger Castillo was still able to lean on Mayweather and attack the body but did not get credit for the work.
A case can certainly be made that Juan Manuel Marquez won at least one of the three fights he had with Manny Pacquiao due to his skillful counter punching and boxing abilities. Yet, his record currently stands at 0-2-1 against the Filipino superstar.
The list goes on. Brains may not always prevail and when they do, at times, the victory may be influenced by external factors. Moreno has the ring smarts and skills to challenge Mares, but he does not have the name recognition anywhere near that of a Leonard or Mayweather to help carry him in the event of a close fight, especially one in front of Mares' adopted hometown fans in Los Angeles.
Therefore, Moreno will need to be smart about how he uses his brain against a brawnier Mares. He may need to do a little less thinking and more punching to claim a second-division world championship.
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