|Audio Attachment:Listen to Joseph Agbeko in an interview after the rematch.|
Abner Mares kept his punches up and beat Joseph Agbeko on Saturday night, retaining his IBF bantamweight belt by unanimous decision.
Mares (23-0-1, 13 KOs) won 118-110 on all three judges’ scorecards in a rematch of his majority-decision victory over Agbeko (28-4) in August.
The boxers’ first bout in Las Vegas was among the most controversial in recent memory. Mares landed several blatantly low blows on Agbeko, but the referee inexplicably didn’t notice them or penalize Mares, who acknowledged his mistakes.
The rematch featured almost no questionable blows, and Mares landed more total punches and power shots despite fighting the final 10 rounds with a deep cut near his right eye from a punch.
“I’m happy that my fans finally saw my true boxing skills,” said Mares, the crowd favorite who grew up in nearby Hawaiian Gardens. “I beat him the first time, and I beat him again. I knew I was winning the whole fight. ”
Mares was usually a bit sharper and crisper than Agbeko, whose entourage still raised him on its shoulders after the final bell. Agbeko’s small but vocal Ghanaian cheering section disliked the verdict.
“A lot of media guys told me at the press conference that this is California, and that I will have to knock him out to win,” Agbeko said. “I told them no. If I win, I deserve to win. Right now, I don’t have anything to protest. I don’t feel like a loser. I think this decision is unfair. You shouldn’t have to knock out your opponent to win in California. I thought I fought better tonight than the last fight. ”
Both fighters traded exciting shots from the first round, and Mares didn’t flinch when his cut opened in the second round. “It bothered me a few times, because he was only going for my eye,” Mares said.
Agbeko was understandably sensitive to low blows, complaining to referee Lou Moret after borderline punches in the third and sixth rounds.
The fighters’ defensive skills and strong conditioning led to a few uneventful rounds, but Mares came alive in the final minute of the 11th. The champion landed several strong punches that staggered Agbeko, who made it to the bell while the crowd roared for the hometown favorite.
“Last time, I was a little stocky,” Mares said. “This time I didn’t have as much muscle, so I was faster. ”
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