By Lou Catalano: Talk about adding insult to injury. Not only did Joseph Agbeko lose his IBF bantamweight title Saturday night in Las Vegas, but he most likely lost part of his reproductive system as well. Agbeko overcame a slow start, a first round knockdown, and about two dozen low blows to somehow climb his way back into the fight against Abner Mares. He had seemingly turned the tide by the 11th round, with Mares fading and Agbeko poised to take the round and possibly the lead on the cards. Then Mares tagged him on the cup with a left hand, directly in front of referee Russell Mora. Agbeko dropped to the canvas in obvious distress. Imagine how much more distressed he became when Russell started to count to 10.
The tournament went to Abner Mares by majority decision, with two judges scoring the fight 115-111, and the third calling it a draw, 113-113. It would not be hard to pick any one of the low shots landed before the 11th round and call for a point deduction. Score the 11th round without the knockdown and take another point away from Mares, and you’ve got a draw. In short, Agbeko got hosed.
Russell Mora was not having a good night up until that fight-deciding round. He started out by missing several low blows. He then at least started acknowledging that they were happening, but simply warned Mares. And warned him. And warned him again. Still, no points were deducted. The blown call in the 11th round was bad enough. Combine it with the rest of the night, and it made for an absolutely horrific job by the referee. At best, it was shockingly incompetent; at worst, it was malicious.
Mora’s hideous job not only ruined Agbeko, but greatly diminished the otherwise superb performance of Abner Mares. He attacked “King Kong” from the opening bell, peppering him with straight right hands and excellent body shots. He seemed to baffle his opponent early on, and he was clearly landing the more effective shots. His problem was that too many of those effective shots were connecting with Agbeko’s thighs and manhood. Somewhere, Andrew Golota was smiling. Somewhere really, really scary.
Mares’ other problem is that the low blow issue is now becoming a pattern. In his split-decision win over Vic Darchinyan late last year, he landed several shots below the belt, enough to have Darchinyan’s camp file a formal protest. He’ll need to be much more careful from now on, because after the blow-up from Saturday night’s fight, he’ll be a marked man by every opposing camp and most likely every referee. He’s a very good fighter with a very crowd pleasing style, but curtailing his penchant for drilling genitalia would be a sound move.
Mora’s vomit-inducing job Saturday should once again bring up the issue of full-time instant replay in boxing. Showtime’s Jim Gray interviewed Mora after the fight and showed him his hack-job on camera. Why not have the replay cued up in between rounds to fix the call? It shouldn’t take much time to overturn a call and inform the judges of the reversal. Anything would be better than allowing a dreadful, lazy, utterly lousy call to ruin the outcome of a fight.
For Mora, at the very least, he should be shelved for awhile. Even if he did just have a bad night, the Las Vegas commission should make it clear that it won’t tolerate a performance as poor as that one. The only way he could have been worse is if he had actually slipped a punch in to Agbeko’s groin himself and then warned Agbeko not to push his head down. The New Jersey commission just suspended three judges for ineptitude; Las Vegas should follow suit and shut Mora down.
Boxing has enough headaches without having to worry about a ref puking on his shoes and ruining a championship fight. The fighters deserve better, and certainly, so do the fans.
August 16, 2011