By Barbara Pinnella
Photos by Marlene Marquez
Staples Center provided a stacked fight card with a total of 10 fights for the evening, and the night proved to be an exciting one. Golden Boy Promotions put on “Unbeaten Meets Unstoppable”, with the Mares / Moreno match-up, Leo Santa Cruz defending his IBF Bantamweight belt, and the anticipated return of Alfredo Angulo. These three fights were on SHOWTIME and this is their recap. The other fights will have a separate article.
Abner Mares (24-0-1, 13 KOs) stood across the ring from the unorthodox Anselmo Moreno (33-1-1, 12 KOs). This fight was for the WBC super bantamweight title, which Mares was defending, and was for a scheduled 12 rounds. There was a very loud and Mares-partisan crowd at Staples Center.
The first round was an ugly one, with both men being thrown to the floor once and a lot of lunging going on. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. already had his hands full trying to control the two fighters.
Rounds two and three saw a lot of chasing by Mares and running by Moreno. Anselmo would toss out some of his awkward shots at Mares, but for the most part Abner was able to put punches with that chasing, and connect.
In the fourth the action stayed about the same, with Mares running the ring, but Moreno’s style made Abner fight wild as well. Mares connected with a huge right hand that should have made some impression, but it didn’t seem to. Abner was definitely the one landing the more serious punches. Right before the bell two lefts and a right hand combination by Mares put Moreno on the canvas.
Moreno was lucky to get out of the sixth round. Right hand after well-placed right hand by Abner hit their target, but Anselmo was still there. In the seventh Mares got called for hitting Moreno with a kidney punch, but he was already throwing the punch when Anselmo turned around. He got a warning but not point deduction from the referee.
The eighth had a bit of a turnaround, as Moreno was starting to find his target. At one point Mares was on the ropes and taunting Anselmo to come on, so he did. Moreno was able to connect with several of his punches and had one of his best rounds so far.
Both men were active in the ninth, but is didn’t really seem as if either fighter had a big impact on the other. In the last couple of rounds it had been Moreno who had been doing the stalking. He was also landing punches more effectively. But then Mares would come back. Right at the bell Anselmo landed and had Abner off balance, but just when he went in for the kill the bell rang.
A minute into the eleventh round the referee took a point away from Moreno for holding Mares’ head down. Even the pro-Abner crowd booed that decision. Both men were pushing each other around more now, and while they would still throw punches, they looked tired. In the last few seconds a body shot to Mares appeared to hurt him, but he was able to make it to the bell.
The twelfth and final had both men doing it all; running, holding, throwing, connecting, it was a smorgasbord of boxing. In the end it was left in the hands of the judges. They saw it 116-110 twice and 120-106. Mares remained undefeated and retains the WBC super bantamweight title.
Later, both men had things to say. Abner started off by saying that he was expecting the fight to be tough. “I did what I had to do. This guy can really take a punch and he’s got a great heart. I told you guys that I leave everything in the ring, and I’m ready to move on.
“I thought it was going to be a tough fight, Anselmo went in there and tried to box, then he tried to move a lot, you know, that’s his style. Thank God we stuck to our plan. We pressured him, we made him feel uncomfortable, and we just worked that body.”
Mares admitted that the fight was much harder technically than physically. “He took me off my game plan a couple of times; I got frustrated like I knew I would. But I’ve got a great corner that kept me poised and told me to stay calm and not lose my head, and luckily I did it. I felt his punches but I didn’t feel the power.
“There were times where I did give him that distance and he was catching me with that left hand, and that was my fault for being that far away from him. I heard my corner yelling and yelling and I got closer and I did my fight, but he’s a super champion and he gave me hell.”
The big question was still the fight that Abner wants – Nonito Donaire. “Oscar says he’s willing to go to Bob Arum’s office, and I’ll go myself too. Hopefully we come to an agreement. It’s for the best of boxing, for the sake of boxing, and the boxing fans, and sooner or later it has to be done.”
Before Anselmo spoke, a statement. “Chemito Moreno gave 100% I think that the Commissioner of California should put an age limit for the judges. Because that judge who gave 120-106 is a disgrace for boxing. We lost the fight, Chemito recognized that he lost the fight, it was a great fight. But that judge, he was not in the arena. I cannot believe it was corruption or anything except he’s getting old.
“Chemito Moreno lost the fight to a great, great champion. We understand that. But I believe that judge is a problem in boxing, and make this night not so beautiful like it was. Thank you very much. Now, Chemito Moreno.”
Moreno, while very disappointed, remained classy. “I’m very sad. I know that I fought a great champion. I knew the fight would not be an easy one. I really tried to train properly, but the work that I did was not enough. I learned we need to work even harder for the next one and I accept the defeat. The champion did a great job. Always he was on top of me, on top of me. He is a great champion and we need to recognize that.
“But the fight should have been closer. I’m unhappy that one of the judges didn’t even give me one round. But Abner’s very strong and I got caught by his shot. I was careless and I went down. But it was a good fight for the people, so I’m happy for that.
“It’s not over yet. I’m still a champion at 118. I’ll be back.”
The afore-mentioned defending champion Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KOs) was coming off his stunning knockout victory over Eric Morel back in September. His opponent on this night was Victor Zaleta (20-3-1, 10 KOs). This fight was for a scheduled 12 rounds in the bantamweight division.
As expected, a fast-paced first round from both men. Zaleta was putting the pressure on Leo early. Santa Cruz had his opponent on the ropes in the second and was firing off uppercuts and body shots that for the time being Zaleta was able to handle.
Victor was trying to keep up in the third, but those trademark body punches of Santa Cruz continued. The two exchanged punches for most of the round, however. Towards the end of the fourth round it was a left to the body that had been preceded by several combinations that put victor down. He got back up but the bell rang shortly thereafter.
In the fifth round the physicality continued. Both men could dish it out, but Leo was so accurate with his punches to both body and head that he was just overpowering Zaleta. But Victor kept taking those punches.
In the seventh round Santa Cruz hit Zaleta with a solid left hand to the body, followed up by a left to the head. He did throw a couple more punches but Zaleta was already on his way down. He was up for the eight count to continue on.
But two rounds later in the ninth Leo stunned Victor with a left and finished him off with a perfectly timed right hand. Zaleta was down and out at 1:42. But make no mistake, Zaleta came to fight and gave it everything he had. He was one tough fighter in defeat.
Even though Santa Cruz would love to fight Mares, he said, “I’ll let the fans and the promoters decide who they want me to fight. I’m ready for anybody, but I’ll leave it to my manager and to Golden Boy and my trainer.
“My opponent was really tough,” Leo continued. “He did surprise me; I thought he was going to be a little bit easier. He came out strong. I hit with good body shots, and every time came back stronger. But we kept going and little by little we took him down.
“Probably I’ll defend my title one more time and then move up to 122 and fight for another title at 122. I’ll go back to the gym as soon as I can and be ready whenever they want me.
“It was really exciting to fight here at the Staples Center in my home town,” he said. “In front of a lot of fans gave me more motivation and strength to please the fans, and hopefully I succeeded.”
Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo (21-2, 18 KOs) made his long-awaited return to the ring in a junior middleweight fight against Raul “El Tigre” Casarez (19-3, 9 KOs). This fight was for a scheduled 12 rounds. It has been a year since Angulo fought. In that one, against James Kirkland (29-1), Alfredo was stopped in the sixth in what some say was a fight of the year candidate; certainly round one being round of the year.
In addition to his longer hair, he no longer wears his trademark dog collar. But that’s where the differences stopped, and it certainly did not take long for Angulo for return to the winners’ circle, as a roundhouse left hook put his opponent on the floor. He was never able to recover. The fight was over at 56 seconds of the very first round.
“I thank everyone for their support,” he later said. “When I came to the ring I wanted to cry with all the support and the chants of “Perro!” but after the fight I couldn’t hold it in. I felt like crying, and I did it. Thank you so much!
“I want to dedicate this fight to all the detainees at the detention center that I was at, all the immigrants that work hard to support their families, and all the Americans as well who work really hard to support their families.”
When asked if he expected the fight to be so quick, he said, “No, I think we work for five or six rounds, so it’s very fast. I was surprised. The Tiger is a really good fighter. I train hard but I don’t look for the knockout. If the knockout comes it’s natural, but I was ready to go the entire fight.”
As far as fighting Kirkland again, he quickly responded, “It doesn’t matter, I don’t care. I’ll fight anybody tomorrow, I don’t care. Right now I have a really good team, Virgil Hunter and Darryl Hudson, my conditioning coach, my promoter, everything is good right now.”
This was a good tripleheader for SHOWTIME fight night. All three fights delivered, and the night could certainly be considered a success for all concerned.