Frank Espinoza, the manager of newly-crowned IBF bantamweight titleholder Abner Mares, told RingTV.com that the IBF’s decision to order an immediate rematch with Joseph Agbeko was “the right thing” for everyone concerned.
Mares took the IBF bantamweight title from Agbeko by a majority decision on Aug. 13 but repeated low blows by Mares and referee Russell Mora’s inaction overshadowed what was otherwise a compelling fight.
Three days later, the IBF ordered a return bout. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Mares’ promoter, said the working date is Dec. 3 either in Mexico or California.
The 25-year-old Mares (22-1, 13 knockouts) has had three consecutive difficult fights. He battled to a draw with Yonnhy Perez in a failed attempt to earn the IBF belt; defeated ex-beltholder Vic Darchinyan by a split decision, after which Darchinyan also complained of low blows; and the fight with Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs).
Espinoza discussed a number of aspects of the Mares-Agbeko controversy.
Frank Espinoza’s thoughts on the IBF’s decision:
“I think that I’ve already made it clear that we respect the IBF’s ruling, and we understand it. It’s the right call for Abner. It will help him to clear up any doubts about the result of the fight that took place last Saturday.
“So we feel that a rematch is the right thing for Abner. It’s also the right thing for Joseph Agbeko, who did fight a great fight.
“Most of all, it’s the right thing for boxing, too. I think we’re looking forward to doing the rematch. We’re open to it, absolutely.”
On whether low blows by Mares could be a serious issue mentally, considering the mutual complaints by Darchinyan and Agbeko:
“I certainly haven’t talked to him about that. It’s only been a few days. I’m letting him relax and enjoy this victory. If you’re asking if he will never throw body punches with the same [conviction,] well, that’s not going to happen.
“He’s a fighter who goes to the body and who will continue to do what he has to do as far as going to the body, going back up to the head.
“Abner is a boxer, a mover and a puncher, so that’s [body shots] part of the game plan for him. It [low blows] hadn’t been a factor before these last two fights.
“It had ever occurred before in his career, and he has more than 21 fights. It hasn’t been an issue. It could have been just a bad day or whatever you want to call it.
“Abner’s job is to go fight the fight, and if there’s a flagrant foul, then that’s the referee’s job to call it. That’s not our job. Abner is a fighter and fighters fight.
“Abner just continues to do what he has to do to win his fights. If the punches are flagrant, then that’s the referee’s call, not ours.”
On his belief that Agbeko was pulling Mares’ head down during the fight:
“Regarding the low blows, there are times where they occur sometimes as a result of a guy pulling the other guy’s head down. Now we’ve never, until now, gone back and said that.
“But after watching the tape, you know, there were obviously several warnings to Agbeko also about pulling the head down. I’ve looked over some of the tapes, and I’ve put them on pause.
“What I saw was that Agbeko, many times, would be pushing Abner’s head down. That can also make your left hook go low. That can result from the pulling down of the head if you’ve already started the left hook.
“So that can also make your punch go south also. So there are some other things that you have to consider too, because it wasn’t necessarily that Abner was intentionally going low.
“There were several times if you look at the fight that Agbeko was pulling his head down or pushing it low. Nevertheless, in slow motion, I did see a lot of blows that were at belt line, which are legal blows.
“But the low blows were also because Agbeko was pulling his head down. So I think that there would have been less of those if Agbeko wouldn’t have been pulling his head down.”
On his belief that Agbeko was fouling Mares behind his head:
“You know, there were several times when Agbeko was hitting Mares behind the head. That’s a rabbit punch. The low blows can hurt you, but punches behind the head can kill you.
“And that was dangerous for my fighter. You know, my fighter comes on strong at the end, and it seemed like getting hit behind the head was slowing Abner down. So I think that they were both being warned.”
On his belief that Agbeko head-butted Mares:
“We were concerned before the fight that Agbeko comes in with his head, having cut three fighters in the past with head-butts. Agbeko cut Abner and Yonnhy Perez and he also cut Darchinyan.
“So this was a situation that occurred again on Saturday with Abner. So there’s a lot of controversy, and I know that most of the issue has focused on Mora, because he was the third guy in the ring.
“But there were also concerns on our end with the pushing down of the head and the head-butts. So you have to look at the whole fight and review it and you will see what I’m saying.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]