Brawn prevailed over brains on Saturday night as Abner Mares retained his WBC super bantamweight title by imposing relentless pressure over the talented bantamweight champion Anselmo Moreno at the Staples Center. The entire Showtime card was an exciting evening of action where we witnessed a number of firsts.
The Mexican-born, California resident Mares employed a perfect strategy that took Moreno out of his game of patient, outside boxing and counter punching. In his first attempt for a super bantamweight title, Moreno was strong armed by the aggressive young champion who was determined to make the Panamanian engage in a rough and tough rumble.
Mares literally chased down Moreno throughout the evening, bull rushing his opponent with his head down and smothering him with body shots and overhand rights while on the inside. The physical fight included a push down of Moreno in the first round, a low blow delivered by Mares in the fourth, the first knockdown of Moreno's career in the fifth, another low blow by Mares in the seventh while his opponent's back was turned as he was following through on a punch, and a point deduction against Moreno for holding down Mares' head in the eleventh.
Moreno had his moments when Mares began to slow a bit in the middle-to-late rounds. Although Moreno landed only three total punches less than Mares during the contest (192 of 708 compared to 195 of 840 as recorded by ShoStats), his shots lacked snap and he was pawing with the jab so was unable to keep Mares off of him. Even when Mares was up against the ropes waving Moreno to come in to fight him during the eighth round, the challenger's combinations did not have much effect as Mares stormed back to end the round on the offensive.
The unanimous decision victory went to Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO's) with two scores of 116-110 and the third at 120-106, handing Moreno (33-2-1, 12 KO's) his first loss in ten years. It is unclear if he will continue campaigning as a super bantamweight or return to the 118-pound division where he holds the WBA Super World bantamweight title.
After the fight, Mares declared his desire to fight undisputed super bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire. Given the ongoing feud between the respective promoters, Golden Boy and Top Rank, such a union between these two fighters would be a first in recent years.
Victor Zaleta also stepped up in weight on Saturday, competing for the first time as a bantamweight to face IBF champion Leo Santa Cruz on the undercard. The game Zaleta, a natural super flyweight, courageously tried to answer the onslaught of constant activity from Santa Cruz with a heavy dose of volume punches of his own. Unfortunately for Zaleta, he was outworked, overpowered and overwhelmed by his fellow Mexican, gallantly fighting back from two knockdowns in the fourth and seventh rounds before finally succumbing to a Santa Cruz straight right hand in the ninth round.
The victorious Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KO's) landed 342 of his 839 total punches through the nine rounds,while Zaleta (20-3-1, 10 KO's) connected on 164 of 630. The gutsy challenger gave fans a favorable first impression of what he is capable of doing at his natural weight or against mid-level bantamweights.
In the opening bout of the evening, light middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo made his first ring appearance in a year since being released by an immigration detention center in El Centro, California where he was inexplicably detained for seven months. He quickly disposed of Raul Casarez (19-3, 9 KO's) in the first round with a crushing single left hook that ended the fight at :56. It prompted an emotional reaction from a tearful Angulo (21-2, 18 KO's) who finally has been able to resume his life and career.
All three victorious fighters leave us wanting seconds.
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