WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno considers himself to be the favorite in his upcoming bout with unbeaten WBC junior featherweight beltholde Abner Mares, against whom Moreno will make his Showtime-televised 122-pound debut at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Nov. 10.
The 27-year-old Panamanian stands to offer Mares his most difficult task to date in pursuit of his 28th consecutive victory and his 11th stoppage win during that run.
“I feel very good at 122. Right now, I’m actually feeling very strong and very fast, and I’m almost at the weight limit already. So I’m feeling very, very good,” said Moreno (33-1, 12 knockouts), whose ninth-round knockout of David De La Mora, in April, marked the 11th defense of his crown.
“As far as staying at 122, it really depends on the outcome of the fight. I’ll see how I do in the fight, and then, make a determination with my wife and my manager and we’ll go from there.”
Prior to facing Eric Morel in his last bout, Mares went 3-0-1 against top-notch bantamweights in a two-year span through December of last year. During that time, Mares twice defeated ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko, earned a decision over former titleholder Vic Darchinyan and battled to a draw with then-beltholder Yonnhy Perez.
“The fights that I’ve really watched of Abner’s have been just the last couple of fights, so I can’t really say whether or not he’s gotten better or learned anything in those last couple of fights,” said Moreno, who is No. 10 in THE RING’s pound-for-pound ratings.
“I haven’t seen all of those last 60 rounds that have been talked about. But I do know that I’m very, very ready for this fight, because I’ve done my work.”
Yet during a national conference call on Thursday, Mares, 26, acknowledged that he would prefer to be facing IBF and WBO counterpart Nonito Donaire rather than Moreno.
Ranked No. 5 by THE RING, pound-for-pound, Donaire is expected to face four-division titlewinner Jorge Arce in an HBO-televised Dec. 15 event at The Toyota Center in Houston.
Mares contends that Moreno never has faced a rival of his ability, but Moreno disagrees, saying that he views Mares as “just another opponent.”
“My biggest and toughest opponent is always my work in the gym. Whatever Abner says, that’s his opinion,” said Moreno of Mares, who debuted as a 122-pounder by beating Morel by unanimous decision for his current belt in April.
“But my training and preparation is always very tough and very intense. So, for me, as long as my training and preparation is done well, then I go into every fight as if it’s just another opponent. So, I know what I go through in my training camps, and, they’re very, very tough and intense, and those are my toughest opponents, my training camps.”
While Moreno defeated Darchinyan by unanimous decision with relative ease last December, Mares’ clash with Darchinyan in December of 2010 was much more difficult.
Mares had to endure a second-round knockdown as well as bleeding over the left side of his forehead from a first-round clash of heads. Mares’ face was a battered mask of crimson in the end of his fight with Darchynian, who, like Moreno, is a southpaw.
“It comes down to distinctly different styles. The style that he has and the style that I have are very, very different, so I don’t think that you can look at the Darchynian fight,” said Moreno.
“I have a style that is very complicated and Darchynian has a style that is very complicated, and they’re very distinct, so I don’t really take that fight into consideration. But I know that I’m going to be ready, and that I have a style that can complicate anybody.”
Moreno was unfazed by the notion that Mares plans to bring the action to him.
“I think that, with Abner’s style, he’s a classic, Mexican warrior that’s going to come to battle. That’s the style that he has, but my style is to hit and to not get hit,” said Moreno.
“I feel that I’m very, very confident in my conditioning, and that I can use my skill to overcome anything. I’m very hungry for this fight, and that’s what’s going to carry me to victory.”
ALFREDO ANGULO ENDS ONE-YEAR RING ABSENCE, DEBUTS WITH TRAINER VIRGIL HUNTER
Mares-Moreno will also mark the return to the ring of Mexican junior middleweight contender Alfredo Angulo (20-2, 17 KOs), currently residing in Coachella, Calif., against Raul Casarez (19-2, 9 KOs), of Edinburg, Texas.
Angulo’s manager and counsel, Michael Miller, said Angulo “overstayed his U.S. visa” and had been held at the facility located just under 14 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border.
Angulo was last in the ring in November, when he lost by an exciting, sixth-round knockout to James Kirkland. Angulo was stopped for the first time in his career, ending his streak of five straight knockout victories since losing by unanimous decision to Kermit Cintron in May of 2009.
“I’m really excited to get back into the ring, and to fight at the Staples Center. This is for the fans of mine who follow ‘The Dog,'” said Angulo, referring to his nickname, which is, “Perro,” in Spanish.
“I’m ready for Nov. 10. Everything is good. I’ve been training since I left the detention center with Daryl Hudson, my conditioning coach. We’ve been working for two and a half months.”
Angulo was under the guidance of legendary trainer Nacho Beristain against Kirkland, but will be trained by Virgil Hunter for Cazarez, a 25-year-old winner of his past 10 fights with five stoppages during that run.
“There’s been no changes to my style. It’s the same style. The only things that Virgil Hunter has done is added to my style,” said Angulo of Hunter, the reigning Trainer of The Year as chosen by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
“He’s enhanced it. He’s picked up on things that I’ve already known about, so he’s picked up on some of the things that I wasn’t doing, and he’s incorporated that through repetition and training. It’s the same style, but I’m ready for the fight. When you get to see me at the weigh-in, you’ll know that I’m ready.”
LEO SANTA CRUZ AIMS FOR STARDOM
Last month, Santa Cruz scored a sixth-round TKO that retired Morel, stopping the veteran for the first time in his career.
“I’ve been hearing a lot about my last fight, how it was a great performance. That gives me more motivation to return to the gym and to train harder,” said Santa Cruz, 24, who has knocked out 10 of his past 11 opponents.
“It feels good hearing that from people, and it gives me more strength to train harder in the gym. I want to do even better so that I can hear even more of that.”
Santa Cruz entered the bout with Morel after having scored June’s unanimous decision over South African lefthander Vusi Malinga, which earned him the vacant belt.
“I didn’t have as much time to train for the Malinga fight as I did for Morel. For the Malinga fight, with my strength and conditioning coach, we did like two months of preparation. For the Malinga fight, I only had like six weeks,” said Santa Cruz, who employed a relentless body attack against Morel that conjured memories of retired former junior middleweight titleholder Mike “The Body Snatcher” McCallum.
“I’m going to keep working on those body shots, because they’ve become a natural for me. As I practice them more, they’re going to become even more effective for me. In the gym, I’m always told to throw that body punch in sparring, and that’s because, little by little, you can break them down.”
Santa Cruz hopes to deliver a superstar-caliber performance against Zaleta.
“I dream of a lot of those big fights, because those are the fights that I want. I want taio become a true champion, I want to face the best, fight them and beat them,” said Santa Cruz.
“I would like to fight Mares, and Nonito Donaire, and Anselmo Moreno, like, the big fights so that I can become a true champion and train harder and become a star.”
MARES-MORENO UNDERCARD TO FEATURE NATHAN CLEVERLY, ANTONIO OROZCO
Light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs), of Wales, will defend his WBO belt against an opponent to be determined, and junior welterweight Antonio Orozco (15-0, 11 KOs), of San Diego, who will face Danny Escobar (8-1, 5 KOs), of Riverside, Calif., on the Mares-Moreno undercard, according to Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez.
“We do have an opponent currently for Orozco, and his opponent is Danny Escobar, of Riverside, Calif. For Nathan Cleverly, we’re close,” said Gomez, adding that Orozco will open the Showtime Extreme portion of the card.
“I’ve been working very closely with Dean Powell, who is the matchmaker for Frank Warren, we’ve zeroed in on a couple of guys. There was an opponent that fell out, so that will come out shortly.”
Cleverly’s will be in his second-ever appearance on American soil, with his United States debut having been an eight-round unanimous decision over Antonio Baker at The Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas in April of 2008.
The card may also include a televised clash featuring Chris Pearson (5-0, 4 KOs), of Trotwood, Ohio, who has fought both as a junior middleweight and middleweight, against an opponent to be determined.
“Chris Pearson is going to be in a swing bout,” said Gomez, “so there’s a chance that he could get some air time on Showtime Extreme, and we’re close on finalizing an opponent as well.”
Photos by Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]