Weekend Review: Khan, Mares and Agbeko hit it big
Joseph Agbeko (right) had no trouble finding his target in his rematch with Yonnhy Perez on Saturday in Tacoma, Wash. Photo / Tom Casino-Showtime
Amir Khan The oh-so-talented Briton has demonstrated uncommon ability throughout his short career. On Saturday, against Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas, he demonstrated that he’s a true fighter. Khan’s very career was in the balance after he was hurt badly by a thunderous overhand right about a minute into the 10th round. A lot of people watching – me included – doubted that he could survive the crisis against a monster like Maidana, who tried desperately to finish the job. The fact Khan remained on his feet for the remainder of that round and the final two said a lot about him. I still wonder whether his chin might be his undoing one day but we all know now that he has tremendous heart. That and his remarkable speed and skills could take him a long, long way.
Marcos Maidana: The warrior from Argentina proved again that he’ll give any 140-pounder in the world hell, win or lose. That’s what he put Khan through on Saturday night. He was hurt badly by a body shot in the first round but got up and kept coming. He ate 273 hard punches, according to CompuBox statistics, and kept coming. He appeared to grow tired in about the ninth round but kept coming. He hurt Khan in the 10th round and, tired or not, unleashed a frightening barrage of wild punches in a futile attempt to end the fight. His fighting spirit and unusual resilience is inspiring. He lost a unanimous decision to a better boxer but undoubtedly increased his fan base. Maidana will be back.
Abner Mares: The affable Los Angeles-area fighter had to fight with blood gushing into his left eye from the first round on, the result of a head butt. He went down in the second. He lost a point for low blows in the fourth. He apparently was surprised by the tactics of his opponent, Vic Darchinyan, who chose to box instead of brawl. Still, Mares took it to Darchinyan from beginning to end to earn a split-decision victory over a highly respected former titleholder. Those who have followed his career weren’t surprised. Mares has it all – skills, power and, as he proved again on Saturday, toughness. He also has a date with Joseph Agbeko in the final of Showtime’s bantamweight tournament, another opportunity to demonstrate that he’s one of best little men on the planet.
Joseph Agbeko: Yonnhy Perez defeated Joseph Agbeko fairly convincingly when they fought in October, leading many to assume he would do it again on Saturday. Instead, Agbeko made the proper adjustments and turned the tables on the tough Colombian. The Ghanaian engaged Perez in the first fight, trying to beat him inside. This time, his game plan was to stick and move and stay on the outside. It worked to perfection, Agbeko winning a one-sided decision. Perez admitted afterward that he was surprised by Agbeko’s tactics. Kudos to Agbeko, who regained the title he lost to Perez. Who wins, Mares or Agbeko? Tough call but I’ll go with Mares, who I think is the more-complete fighter.
Yonnhy Perez: It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Agbeko would make adjustments after losing to Perez in their first meeting. Perez should’ve been prepared for anything. Evidently, he wasn’t. Agbeko, the much quicker of the two, used his superior speed and athleticism to thoroughly outbox Perez – beating him to the punch the entire fight – to win easily. As a result, Agbeko regained his 118-pound title and Perez suffered the first defeat of his career. Perez has the opportunity to bounce back against a top-tier opponent in the bantamweight tournament consolation match, Darchinyan. However, the Armenian might have the skills to emulate Agbeko. That could mean trouble for Perez.
Vic Darchinyan: The former flyweight and junior bantamweight titleholder, now 0-2 in big bantamweight fights, is very frustrated. He came up with a good game plan against Mares, took an early lead and was certain he did enough the rest of the way to win a decision and move into the tournament final. Alas, he came up on the wrong end of a split decision that showed how judges can see the same fight differently. Glen Hamada scored it 115-111 for Darchinyan, Tom McDonough the same for Mares. Alan Krebs had it 114-112 for Mares. Gary Shaw, Darchinyan’s promoter, reportedly has called for McDonough to be banned and said he will try to get the decision overturned. That’s unlikely. Darchinyan should instead focus on Perez in the consolation match. A victory would make him the player at bantamweight he wants to be.
Victor Ortiz: The 140-pound contender shouldn’t be ashamed about fighting to a draw against Lamont Peterson on the Khan-Maidana undercard. Peterson proved again that he’s a fine boxer. And Ortiz had his moment, putting Peterson down twice in the third round. However, after that, he often looked lost. He simply couldn’t hit Peterson, an excellent defensive fighter, with any consistency and took many sharp punches himself. Ortiz landed only 95 of 457 punches (21 percent), according to CompuBox statistics. He landed only 2 of 121 jabs, which seems like a typo but isn’t. This isn’t to say that Ortiz should be written off as a legitimate title contender. It is to say that he needs to get to work on fixing the problems that became apparent on Saturday.
Klitschko vs. Haye: The fact that Wladimir Klitschko pulled out of his ridiculous mismatch with Dereck Chisora because of an abdominal injury could be a boon to the heavyweight division. Klitschko has opened talks with David Haye for a long-awaited showdown in the spring. The Ukrainian reportedly has 30 days to decide whether he wants to fight his UK rival or reschedule a fight with Chisora. Haye told reporters that he expects the fight to take place in Las Vegas, although that certainly hasn’t been settled. Haye was scheduled to fight Klitschko once before but pulled out. He also had an oral agreement to face Vitali Klitschko, according to Klitschko, but changed his mind again. We have our fingers crossed.
Hall of Fame honorees: Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu were elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility on Tuesday. They certainly deserved it. Tyson isn’t among the very best heavyweights who ever lived – he never beat another great heavyweight – but he was an outstanding fighter and one of the most-gripping attractions of all time. Chavez, an incredible fighting machine, was the greatest fighter produced in boxing-rich Mexico. And Tszyu, a complete fighter, was a four-time titleholder who wore one belt or another for 10 years in an 11-year period. I also believe Sylvester Stallone, another electee, is deserving. Rocky Balboa embodied the spirit of the sport and brought it to our consciousness as effectively as any great fighter.
Mike Tyson, who was elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame on Tuesday: “When I was younger I thought I was going to destroy myself,” Tyson told me. “I’m very grateful I made it to this place in my life.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]