Best I Faced: Anselmo Moreno
The technical skills and defensive wizardry of Anselmo Moreno helped him claim the WBA bantamweight title and reign for a division record six-years and three months. During that time the talented Panamanian often fought on the road en route to 12 successful defenses.
Moreno was born and raised in El Martillo, located in the San Miguelito district of Panama City, on June 28, 1985.
“My parents split ways when I was born,” Moreno told The Ring through Hector Villareal. “On both sides, counting me, we are 15 [children] – nine boys and six girls. My mother was very busy at home and my father has always been a fisherman in the Darien province, where he is from.
“I was very happy in El Martillo, playing soccer, basketball, and fighting other kids every day was my way of having fun. I had a humble, but a very entertaining, childhood.”
Although Moreno didn’t have any interest in boxing, the sport still found him at the tender age of seven.
“[Boxing] was not entertaining to me, but I loved to work out and step in the ring to fight,” said the former world titleholder. “I enjoyed other sports or games. Once I had an exhibition fight where fans threw money into the ring after the fight. I knew that it was going to be my way of living.”
Moreno, who started out fighting “abrebocas” fights (children competing in three-round fights on professional cards), won several national titles as an amateur, engaging in as many as 160 contests with less than a dozen loses.
The lack of a strong amateur structure in Panama meant “Chemito” turned professional at 16, as a flyweight, with a four-round decision over Hussein Sanchez in March 2002.
Moreno lost his unbeaten record in his eighth fight against Ricardo Molina (SD 4) in October 2002. However, he got back in the win column with four wins before gaining revenge over Molina (TKO 9) and outpointing him over 10 rounds to claim the national 115-pound title.
After moving up to bantamweight, Moreno gained the requisite championship experience with wins over former IBF junior bantamweight titleholder Felix Machado (UD 10); future WBC 115-pound beltholder Tomas Rojas (UD 10) and three-time world title challenger Ricardo Vargas (TKO 1) in a WBA 118-pound eliminator.
Moreno traveled to Germany and upset Volodymyr Sidorenko to claim the WBA bantamweight title in May 2008.
“Beautiful memories,” said Moreno, who won a 12-round unanimous decision. “Sidorenko twice drew with my teammate Ricardo Cordoba, so beating him in his country meant a lot.
“I knew that win was going to change my economy, but I got unexpected recognition in my country, which made me understand that I had opened doors with that win.”
It was the start of a lengthy title reign in which he turned back Sidorenko in a rematch (SD 12), outpointed former junior featherweight titlist Mahyar Monshipour (SD 12), twice defeated junior featherweight beltholder Nehomar Cermeno (SD 12/ SD 12), stopped former flyweight kingpin Lorenzo Parra (RTD 8), and posted an impressive win over former two-weight world titleholder Vic Darchinyan (UD 12).
“It is something that not so many people can say,” Moreno said of his championship tenure. “You feel like a king and you want to keep being the king. That’s why I got motivation to defend the belt so many times.”
In November 2012, in the middle of his title run, he was offered the opportunity to step up to junior featherweight to face WBC titleholder Abner Mares at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I had made a lot of defenses on bantamweight,” Moreno recalled. “I sacrificed my body too much to keep being the bantamweight champion.
“The Mares fight was on a Golden Boy card, televised in Panama on primetime. It was a good fight, and facing a well-known champion was great.”
However, it proved too big a hurdle and Moreno dropped a wide 12-round unanimous decision.
Moreno returned to bantamweight and made two more defenses before being unseated by the then-unbeaten Juan Carlos Payano in September 2014.
“Payano was good but he is not one of the best I faced,” Moreno explained. “It was not easy for me to make 118 pounds.
“He got cut on an accidental headbutt, and his corner played a good strategy of throwing all he had until the fight went to the sixth round and they got a technical decision.”
Moreno failed to secure a Payano rematch and moved on with his career. He dropped a split decision to long-reigning WBC 118-pound titleholder Shinsuke Yamanaka and was stopped in the seventh round of a rematch.
“I think I clearly won the first fight,” Moreno said.
“For the rematch, I knew I had to knockout him out. That’s why the second fight was so different on the strategy, especially when I got dropped. I gave it my all and dropped him [in Round 4.] I was conscious that it was a very, very important fight for me and Yamanaka.”
Moreno moved back up to junior featherweight but was outgunned by Julio Ceja (KO 3). He took two years off before returning as a featherweight in 2019. Since then, he has won four consecutive fights.
“I’m 36 now,” Moreno acknowledged. “My goal is to become a world champion once again and make as many defenses [as I can] in less than two years. If I get a title chance and lose, I would retire immediately, but I feel like I can win a belt and defend it.”
Moreno will return on Saturday in the main event of a WBA ‘KO to Drugs Festival’ in Panama, against Cesar Ramirez. The show is being promoted by his wife.
Moreno is married to Rouss Laguna, who is his manager and promoter. The couple have two children and one each from previous relationships.
He graciously took time to speak to The Ring about the best he faced in 10 key categories.
Tomas Rojas: We all remember that fight as a boring one. I am an expert at avoiding being punched at short distance, but this time I had to attack. Rojas was keeping a longer distance because of his long arms and speedy jab.
Nehomar Cermeno: It was not easy to hit Cermeño. He was undefeated and an interim champion. At that time, it was not often I found an opponent on my defensive level.
Cermeno: Once again, Cermeno. I barely won the first fight. The second fight was one-sided, but both were very technical fights on a fast rhythm.
Ricardo Molina: My first loss was against my teammate Ricardo “Tito” Molina. He was one of the few fighters who walked the ring better than me, on that night. Abner Mares had good footwork.
Felix Machado: Machado had just been a world champion a year before. I won clearly, but I learned a lot. I learned that a top quality, experienced opponent can think and react faster than you no matter how much of a veteran he is. I realized that I was still several fights away from a world championship.
Yogli Herrera: I hit Herrera five-to-one and he resisted everything.
Rolly Lunas: I caught Lunas on the chin more than a dozen times and he was never dropped.
Shinsuke Yamanaka: Definitively Yamanaka. By that time, I had faced many good bantamweights and Yamanaka was the biggest puncher. I felt that Yamanaka’s punches had not even landed when I saw myself on the canvas. Mares was a good puncher.
BEST BOXING SKILLS
Cermeno: I faced many opponents who had been champions: Monshipour, Sidorenko, Mares and Cermeño. I would say Cermeno.
Abner Mares: I had no excuses for losing against Abner Mares. I consider him probably the best I faced on that moment. Mares was able to trap me on the ropes; he had a good punch, speed and a good defense. He was the first person to beat me in 10 years.
Hector Villareal helped co-ordinate and translate this feature. The Ring appreciated his assistance.