NEW YORK (Dec. 1, 2011) – Boxing’s “little guys” tend to produce some of the most exciting fights and this Saturday, Dec. 3, doesn’t look to be an exception when Abner Mares defends his International Boxing Federation (IBF) and World Boxing Council (WBC) Silver Bantamweight Championship titles against former two-time IBF 118-pound world champion Joseph King Kong Agbeko in the main event on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING live on SHOWTIME® (9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast) at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif.
So, who will be victorious in the much-discussed, highly anticipated rematch mandated by the IBF?
Will it be the younger, quicker Mares (22-0-1, 13 KOs) who won a disputed 12-round majority decision over Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) in a smashing yet controversial slugfest last Aug. 13 on SHOWTIME?
Or will it be Agbeko, a gritty, determined veteran who came on strongly in the second half of the controversial first bout despite getting smacked several times with apparent low blows that were never called?
Those who participated in a SHOWTIME Media Prediction Poll gave a clear edge to Mares, who was tabbed to triumph on 33 of the 46 predictions.
Two picked Mares to win by knockout; however, almost all the others expect to see another competitive and thrilling match. Major sports books and wagering websites agree with the media as Mares (-165) is a slight favorite.
How the media see the eagerly awaited 12-round matchup:
Bob Velin, USA Today, (Mares): “I see Mares being the stronger and quicker fighter, who will be going to the head this time instead of the body to avoid the low blows. While Agbeko will block more of Mares' punches, Mares will take a punch to give two. I believe Mares will outwork the Ghanaian and win by unanimous decision. Mares has been training for a year to fight Agbeko and he's ready to move on with the bantamweight title and up to 122 pounds.’’
Lance Pugmire, Los Angeles Times, (Mares): “I thought Mares clearly exhibited stronger skills in the first bout. With a strong hometown advantage, the younger fighter should be able to reaffirm what happened in August…. Mares wins by decision, 116-112.’’
Tim Smith, New York Daily News, (Agbeko): “If Agbeko's protective cup is strong enough…he should be able to bang out a unanimous decision against a game Mares. It’s a good fight either way.’’
Robert Morales, Los Angeles Daily News/LANG Newspapers, (Mares): “I expect this to be a hotly contested bout, but I also expect Mares to win a unanimous decision. His youth and overall ability will serve him well in this one. He wasn't able to enjoy his first major world title because of the low-blow controversy, and he's aching to enjoy his first defense without any lingering questions.’’
Kevin Iole, Yahoo, (Mares): “I think Mares will have learned from the first fight. He will continue to go to the body but will eliminate the fouls. The fouls impacted Mares’ game as much as Agbeko’s in their first fight. If Mares can avoid getting into that kind of trouble again he will control the fight and win a unanimous decision.’’
Eric Raskin, Grantland.com/ESPN.com/TheSweetScience.com/Ring Theory Podcast, (Agbeko): “I expect another close fight, but am a firm believer that Agbeko was outmaneuvering Mares the first time and deserved to win on points. I’m going with Agbeko by unanimous decision this time around.’’
Mark Whicker, Orange County Register, (Mares): “Mares wins a decision, as long as he stays north of the Rio Grande.’’
Marcus Henry, New York Newsday, (Mares): “The low blows notwithstanding, Mares is still the better fighter. But whether he will try to take it to Agbeko early depends on his mind set. If Mares is weary of losing a point for a low blow, he'll probably tread lightly early on, which should give Agbeko an advantage in the first few rounds. The question is, will Agbeko take advantage of it? If Agbeko gets overzealous and careless in his attack, Mares will use that against him. Mares takes a decision, 115-113.’’
Tim Starks, The Queensberry Rules, http://queensberry-rules.com, (Agbeko): “Overlooked in all the controversy over Mares' below-the-belt barnstorming is that Agbeko pretty well figured out Mares late in the fight, and unlike in the past when that happened to him, Mares couldn't counteract it. This fight boils down to whether Agbeko can take that winning stratagem and make it work for him from the start (at his advanced age, it's a fair question whether he can) and whether Mares can work up some new solution to what Agbeko showed him in the second half of the first fight (at his young age, it's a tantalizing possibility). Give me Agbeko by close decision this time in a taut thriller.’’
Steve Kim, MaxBoxing.com, (Mares): “In another closely contested fight, I think Mares will utilize a bit more movement to defeat Agbeko in a 12 round decision that will be hotly debated. And yes, I think Mares will still dig to the body in an effort to slow down King Kong.”
David Avila, Riverside Press-Enterprise, (Mares): “Mares is younger, has a good plan of attack and is undefeated. He’ll win a unanimous decision.’’
Lyle Fitzsimmons, SportsNetwork.com, (Mares): “Mares’ frenetic body work, legal or otherwise, will once again be the deciding factor in a competitive fight, with a clearer result. Mares wins a unanimous decision.’’
Damian Calhoun, Orange County Register, (Mares): “If the second fight between these two is anything like the first, the fans are in for a treat. Mares will be out to prove that he's not a dirty fighter. Agbeko will be out for revenge and that makes for what should be an entertaining clash. In the end, I expect Mares to keep his punches up, affording him to pull out a close victory.’’
Leighton Ginn, Desert-Sun, (Agbeko): “Agbeko is the better fighter above the belt. If the rules are enforced, Agbeko wins a decision.’’
Kieran Mulvaney, ESPN.com/Reuters, (Mares): “Take out the controversy, and the first fight was a closely fought, high-class contest. But it may have been Agbeko's last, best chance. This time the more versatile Mares does enough, including working the legal parts of Agbeko's body, to take a unanimous decision that will be close again, but nonetheless clear.’’
Doug Fischer, RingTV.com, (Mares): “I think the young titleholder has a better handle on fighting the dangerous veteran and will do just enough to narrowly outpoint Agbeko on all three scorecards and win unanimously.’’
Don Stewart, ESPN The Magazine, (Mares): “I picked Agbeko to win the first fight, but this time it's about which guy will be better than the first fight. Mares has had three tough fights in a row and is accustomed to this level now, while Agbeko has likely peaked. I can see Mares unanimously winning by 116-112.”
Michael Woods, ESPN.com, TheSweetScience.com, (Mares): “He's (Mares) the faster, fresher younger guy. Expect Mares’ work rate to outdo Agbeko's. He doesn't need to go low to get it done. He'll take a unanimous decision this time out by staying stay above the belt and not blitzing Agbeko (below the belt).’’
Norm Frauenheim, 15rounds.com, (Mares): “Mares is smarter, more versatile than Agbeko. The focus on low blows might make Mares cautious in the early going, but he'll figure it out and score with a mix of skill in the later rounds and win a unanimous decision.’’
Anson Wainwright, MaxBoxing.com, (Mares): “I think Mares will win another close decision, though without the controversy of the first fight.’’
Rick Folstad, TheSweetScience.com, (Agbeko): “Despite the low blows Agbeko took for most of the first fight, he was still in it to the very end. If there are no stray punches this time and if he survives the early rounds, he'll win by decision.’’
Scott Christ, Bad Left Hook, (Mares): “I like Mares by unanimous decision in a very competitive fight. He's a younger and fresher fighter, and though Agbeko still looked very good in their first meeting, I believe Abner will be the man who can better adapt from the struggles of that encounter, where all in all it came out pretty close to even. It's a fantastic matchup and a credit to both that they're settling the score in the ring.’’
Robert Johnson, Santa Barbara News-Press, (Mares): “Mares will win with a fifth-round knockout. He’s shown that he can hurt Agbeko and their last fight may not have been so close had Mares not been cut.’’
Jake Donovan, BoxingScene.com, (Mares): “A pick ‘em fight if there ever was one. Both have shown ability to bounce back from adversity -- Agbeko coming stronger in past rematches, Mares overcoming cuts and punishment to remain unbeaten. With all things being equal, I lean ever so slightly toward youth once again being served. In a fight that's foul-free -- and hopefully also free of controversy -- I see Mares reversing the pace of the first fight, coming on strong down the stretch and getting a unanimous decision win that Agbeko disputes as a robbery but most others see as close but clear for the Mexican.’’
Salvador Rodriguez, Record, Mexico, (Mares): “The Mexican fighter has learned enough to defeat Agbeko, and this time it is going to be on a clear unanimous decision.’’
Robert Ecksel, Boxing.com, (Agbeko): “After the dreadful first fight, the rematch between Mares and Agbeko is payback. Mares looks like he's got the right stuff to win it, but Agbeko is tough (the first fight proved that). Let's see if Mares can keep his punches up….. If it's clean, Agbeko wins by decision.’’
Robert Hough, Fightnews.com (Mares): “Can't overstate how much I respect Agbeko's skill, determination and professionalism, but Mares, who will be five years younger when they fight, strikes me as being a little too quick for the admirable man from Ghana. Mares wins a fairly close unanimous decision.’’
Francis W. Walker, Black Athlete, (Mares): “I believe Mares will box his way to a 12-round decision. Mares has the speed and combination punching to outwork Agbeko. Agbeko's jab proved very strong and surprised Mares in the first fight, but Mares will be better prepared for it. Hopefully there will be no low blows or point deductions to take away from what will be a splendid night at the fights.’’
Jake Emen, ProBoxing-Fans.com, (Mares): “After all the controversy, the lost factor of their first encounter is that Agbeko looked completely out of his element for nearly two thirds of the fight. Mares is younger and fresher, and having that belt around his waist should only make him better. He'll keep it cleaner this time around and rely on his superior speed and technical skills to win a unanimous decision.’’
Michael Swann, Freelance, (Agbeko): “I like Agbeko to win a close but unanimous decision, at least if there's any justice in the world. In their previous skirmish, Mares drew five warnings for low blows, yet was credited with a knockdown with an obvious south-of-the-border shot in round 11, and took a majority decision. This time the breaks even out and a highly motivated Agbeko evens the score.’’
Ralph Gonzalez, TheSweetScience.com, (Mares): “Mares has tremendous pressure to prove that he’s a legitimate world champion after his controversial win. Agbeko feels his title was taken away unjustly. This will be another highly competitive, exciting clash with Mares getting the decision by another close margin. I wouldn’t be surprised if another SHOWTIME trilogy developed.’’
Ramon Aranda, 3MoreRounds.com, (Mares): “Despite the low blows, Mares showed us he could outbox Agbeko, using his speed and combinations. Though Agbeko came on late, while Mares slowed down, Mares should come better prepared to maintain his conditioning into the later rounds, and his title. Abner wins by majority decision.’’
Marc Lichtenfeld, Ring Announcer, (Agbeko): “In the last bout, Mares' constant low blows and the referee’s continuous warnings to Agbeko changed the whole flow of the fight. Without those disruptions this time, Agbeko grinds out a close but deserved decision. ‘
Rich Mancuso, Boxinginsider.com, (Mares): “It will be another good fight and (will) go the distance. Both will slug it out and will not disappoint boxing fans as a good end-of-the-year championship fight. Mares takes a decision.’’
John J. Raspanti, Doghouseboxing.com, (Mares): In what should be another super fight, Mares wins by a late stoppage or unanimous decision.’’
Luis Sandoval, BoxingScene.com, (Mares): “I think we’re in for another close, hotly contested bout. Both fighters will have their moments but I think Mares closes the show a lot stronger this time around and minus the controversy. Agbeko will try to pour it on late but I think Mares will respond with an onslaught of his own in an exciting fight he will win by split decision.’’
Howard Reed, The Square Ring, (Agbeko): “Predicting the outcome of a fight is always dangerous business especially where Mares is involved. Mares and Agbeko met this summer with Mares escaping with a majority nod. The tide turned in the 11th when Agbeko went down from a low blow, giving Mares a 10-8 round. Toss that out and it was a draw. This one will swing to King Kong. Agbeko lost to Yonnhy Perez big (117-110 twice and 116-111) but reversed it in the rematch. Slam-bang fight with Agbeko getting a unanimous decision.’’
David Duenez, Leave-it-in-the-ring.com, (Mares): “The first time around I thought Mares’ work rate and ring smarts overwhelmed Agbeko, and that Mares fought the perfect fight (outside of the low blows). This time around Agbeko needs to start early and pick up where he left off in the second half of their first fight. For Mares, how much will the low-blow controversy play on his mind? In a much more technical fight, Mares wins by unanimous decision.’’
Bert Navales, KnockOutDigest.com, (Agbeko): “Agbeko wins a decision in the rematch. He has more experience in this kind of fight. In the first fight, Agbeko was able to solve Mares’ pressure in the second half of the fight even with Mares’ multiple low blows.’’
Albert Alvarez, DiamondBoxing.com, (Mares): “No low blows about it -- Mares vs. Agbeko is going to be a spectacular fight from start to finish. Agbeko will come out very aggressively and would be wise to rough Mares up and turn it into a dog fight. But Mares will be able to catch and shoot shots, take it inside and touch Agbeko downstairs, minus the low blows this time. In a tough, hard-fought fight that will be tough to score with a lot of close rounds, Mares wins a shootout by split decision.’’
Jim Wyatt, SportofBoxing.com, (Agbeko): “Out of sense of fairness, I would hope everyone will be rooting for Agbeko in the rematch. He is a man of honor….This time, Agbeko wins a unanimous decision.’’
William Trillo, www.Pound4Pound.com, (Agbeko): “On paper this looks like it should be Abner's fight. With youth on his side as well as an undefeated record, he should be the big favorite. That said, Agbeko has proven with his win over Yohnny Perez that he can be a terror the second time around. Agbeko wins a close split decision that will set up a super trilogy.’’
John Navarro, Knockout TV, (Mares): “Agbeko has the heart of a lion, but Mares’ ability to punish the body will be the difference as he wins by knockout inside six rounds.’’
Dave Wilcox, www.mp8.ph.com, Manny Pacquaio's official website, (Agbeko): “I feel Agbeko will make the necessary adjustments and force the action. His strength and aggression will take him to a split decision victory in the rematch against the talented Mares.’’
Carlos Avilas, Fox Deportes, (Mares): “Mares is on his way up and this fight with Agbeko is a great opportunity to show all his talents. Abner by decision.’’
Martin Wade, Braggingrightscorner.com, (Mares): “I predict Mares will be more familiar with Agbeko’s awkward intensity and win by majority decision in a much more cautious effort.’’
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?