Abner Mares [25-0-1 13 KO] kept his undefeated record intact as he powered to a unanimous decision in an engrossing and action filled fight with Anselmo Moreno [33-2-1 12 KO] on Saturday night, handing the Panamanian star his first defeat in a decade at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
While two scores of 116-110 were close to reflecting the fight in a fair manner, one scorecard of 120-108 bore little semblance to reality in a fight that could have gone either way as the aggressive non stop manner of Mares was pitted against Moreno’s acclaimed elusive slick style.
Both fighters also knew a victory would catapult them into further pound for pound reckoning.
Many of boxing’s cognoscenti had picked Moreno’s brain over Mares' brawn before the fight.
But the early rounds were all Mares, who landed the more telling blows, eventually knocking down Moreno in the fifth round, the first knockdown of Moreno’s career.
By the time the eighth round arrived Moreno had given up trying to outbox Mares and stood toe to toe with the reigning WBC champion, each fighter goading the other to give their best shot, much to the delight of the over six thousand fans in attendance.
"My pressure was definitely the difference," said Mares after the fight. "I felt good, I felt strong. He gave me hell. I took some great punches, but I kept him backing up.”
Moreno though, who is still a belt holder at 118 pounds, was magnanimous in defeat despite the one scorecard handed in by judge Dr. Jen Kin not crediting him a single round.
"I'm unhappy that the one judge didn't give me at least one round, but Abner fought a great fight. He's a great champion. He was very strong, and I got caught by his shots. I was careless when I went down, but it was a great fight for the people. I'm happy for that."
A fight now looms with current 122 pound Filipino star Nonito Donaire. While Mares’ promotional company Golden Boy has a history of ill-feeling with Donaire’s promoters, Top Rank, Mares thinks this could be overcome to give fans the fight they want.
"I want Donaire next," Mares said. "I want to keep fighting the best out there. On our side, we're willing. (Golden Boy president) Oscar De La Hoya said he'll walk to Las Vegas and knock on (Top Rank CEO) Bob Arum's door to get the fight made."
Elsewhere, highly touted junior middleweights Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara fought to a lackluster technical draw on the main event of an HBO card. The fight was stopped because of a cut sustained by Martirosyan as a result of an accidental head butt.
Much of the pre-fight hype centered on the obvious bad blood between the fighters, something that should have resulted in a fight with fireworks. Instead, fans were treated to a fight with little in the way of action as Lara, a highly decorated Cuban amateur and 2005 world amateur champion, picked his spots and successfully neutralized Martirosyan’s attempts at a more physical encounter.
Come the ninth round though a head-butt meant Martirosyan was covered in blood and the fight had to go to the scorecards, which the judges declared a draw courtesy of an 86-85 for Martirosyan, 87-84 for Lara and an 86-86 even. While the ending may have been as anticlimactic as the whole fight, fans could expect a rematch after the new year.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.