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Mares held to a draw, but grows up in battle with Perez

22
May

Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares trade jolting shots during their entertaining bantamweight title bout Saturday in Los Angeles. Both bantamweights thought they won the fight, which ended in a majority draw. One thing that cannot be disputed is that Mares matured as a fighter over the course of the brisk and grueling 12-round bout. Photo / Naoki Fukuda.

LOS ANGELES — The fans did not get a winner after the bantamweight showdown between titleholder Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares but they got an excellent 12-round battle and witnessed the emergence of a real fighter.

Hardcore fans already knew Perez was a real fighter. The 31-year-old Colombian, who kept his bantamweight belt via majority draw (113-115, 114-114, 114-114) in the main supporting bout to the Israel Vazquez-Rafael IV headliner on Saturday, had proven his mettle with 12-round barnburners with contenders Silence Mabuza and Joseph Agbeko.

The jury was still out on Mares, an undefeated but unproven Southern California talent who represented Mexico in the 2004 Olympics.



Not any more. Not after Mares out-boxed, and at times out-slugged, a relentless monster like Perez for 12 rounds.

The 9,236 fans inside Staples Center and those watching on Showtime witnessed Mares mature into a bona fide fighter, even though only one of the official judges scored the fight for the 24-year-old contender.

Marty Denkin scored the bout 115-113 for Mares but the veteran California official was overruled by New Jersey’s Eugenia Williams and California’s Gwen Adair, who both scored the bout a 114-114 draw.

Mares (20-0-1, 13 knockouts) thought he did enough to win the bout.

“I showed I’m a high-caliber fighter tonight,” he said. “I fight for the crowd and my fans and they saw me win this fight, but the judges didn’t. I’m sad. I thought I won the fight and I know I’m not the only one who thinks that.”

The majority of the ringside press scored the bout for Mares, who moved behind his jab in some rounds and bulled forward behind sweeping rights and left hooks to the body in others. In some rounds he boxed and brawled with Perez, who stalked forward for much of the bout.

Perez (20-0-1, 14 KOs) was out-landed by Mares, who often punched in combination, but he set a torrid pace and found a home for heavy single shots in every round. The proud Colombian, who trains out of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., believes his non-stop pressure and busy inside fighting should have earned him a victory.

“I won this fight,” Perez said. “It was not a draw. (Mares) is a good fighter but he never hurt me.”

That might be true, but Mares appeared to outbox Perez in the majority of rounds, beginning with the first two rounds of the bout.

Perez stepped up his pressure in the third and fourth, forcing Mares to stand and fight on the inside, which is the Colombian’s bread and butter.

Mares held his own during the back-and-forth infighting of rounds four and five but he looked uncomfortable as Perez forced him to work harder than he’s ever had to in a professional contest.

At this point in the fight ringside observers began to wonder whether the highly anticipated 118-pound matchup would turn out to be one of those boy-versus-man contests that often occur in boxing; a fight in which a touted up-and-comer is exposed by a battle-tested veteran.

That was not the case with Mares, who used non-stop lateral movement and a sharp jab to contain Perez in the sixth round, the most one-sided round of the fight to that point.

Perez, professional that he is, adjusted to Mares’ movement in the seventh and eighth rounds by closing the ground quicker behind a stiff jab and well-timed right hands. Perez’s consistent attack carried these rounds, which forced Mares to make adjustments of his own.

Ringsiders wondered if the young fighter could make the necessary changes in his game to stem Perez’s momentum and regain control of the fight. Mares showed that he could in the final four rounds of the bout. He showed good head and upper-body movement while staying in the pocket and out-landing Perez in the ninth round.

He was the aggressor in the action-packed 10th round, though Perez battled off the ropes like a demon and gave as good as he got.

Mares went tit-for-tat with Perez in the championship rounds, but he appeared to have the better moments with his three- and four-punch combinations to the body and head. Somehow, Mares found the reserve to finish the 12th round stronger than Perez, who is known for his incredible stamina.
That brought about chats of “Mares” from the pro-Mexican crowd.

“I thought I was going to knock him out in the 12th round,” Mares said.

Despite the disputed decision, the action in the final three rounds of the bout was as good as boxing gets and begs for a rematch.

Both fighters said they are willing to go at it again. If they do, nobody will call it a boy-versus-man matchup.

Perez-Mares II will be a highly anticipated showdown between two proven warriors.

***

Lightweight prospect Carlos Molina highlighted the non-televised undercard along with fellow young up-and-comers Ronny Rios and Rodrigo Garcia.

Molina (12-0, 6 knockouts), of Norwalk, Calif., pounded out a unanimous decision over Mexican journeyman Humberto Tapia (15-13-1, 8 KOs) of Tijuana in an eight-round junior welterweight bout.

Rios (11-0, 5 KOs), a featherweight prospect from Santa Ana, Calif., scored a unanimous decision over always-tough Guadalupe De Leon (8-11, 4 KOs) of Welasco, Tex., in a six-round junior lightweight bout.

Garcia (7-0, 5 KOs), a junior middleweight prospect from Santa Ana, Calif., who bears a physical and stylistic resemblance to a young Oscar De La Hoya, shut out game Taronze Washington (14-13, 7 KOs) of Dallas, Tex., in an entertaining six-round bout.

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