Abner Mares deserves a heap of credit for doing what hitherto seemed like an impossibility: making an Eric Morel fight interesting. Vying for some vacant junior featherweight trinket set at a bizarre catchweight of 120 pounds, Mares and Morel put on a lively show over 12 rounds on Saturday night at the Don Haskins Convention Center in El Paso, Texas. It was a near-shutout win for Mares, but Morel, who slipped to 46-3 (23), showed moxie in mixing it up with his younger, stronger opponent. He landed his share of uppercuts and right hands throughout and even pressed the fight late, but, at 36, Morel simply did not have the firepower to trouble Mares. Scores were 120-107 and 119-109 twice.
Now 24-0-1 (13), Mares showed the ability to work effectively with either hand, along with his usual willingness to dig to the body. Power, however, seems to be a real question mark at this point. Mares blasted Morel repeatedly with flush rights and left hooks all night long, but the Puerto Rican veteran, who won his sole alphabet gewgaw at flyweight nearly 12 years ago, wobbled only occasionally.
It was a nice win for Mares and, given the fact that Morel has been a dedicated stinkout artist for years, a surprisingly good scrap. Still, like daft Commodus vaulting the barriers to “battle” gladiators in the pit, Mares had every conceivable edge going into this fight. Since returning to the ring in 2008 after a three-year stretch in prison, Morel has fought limited competition. Only faded Gerry Penalosa stands out on his resume, and some thought Penalosa deserved the nod when they faced off in 2010. Add a 10-year gap in age and the fact that Morel turned pro at 112 pounds, and you have the perfect showcase fight for Mares.
A showcase will be the last thing possible if Anselmo Moreno is next in line for Mares. This is a fight that qualifies as the rarest of rarities in boxing: a genuine pick ‘em affair.
On the Mares-Morel undercard, the pesky Moreno dominated rudimentary David De La Mora, scoring two knockdowns en route to a 9th-round TKO punctuated now and again by boos from the crowd. Outclassed from the opening bell, De La Mora, 24-2 (17), seemed dispirited as early as the second round, and a mercy stoppage would have been appropriate any time after the sixth. A right hook to the head floored De La Mora in the second, and a hard, arcing left to the gut nearly jackknifed him in the sixth. He dropped to his knees in distress but beat the count and was allowed to be uncompetitive for three more rounds. This bout was a mismatch from the moment Stephen Espinoza pulled out his Golden Boy Promotions rubber stamp.
With elusive southpaw moves and a persistent body attack, Moreno, who improves to 33-1-1 (12), poses a serious style threat to anyone from bantamweight to junior featherweight. Previously Moreno had been short changed on TCS when considering a potential matchup against Nonito Donaire, but the cute moves he makes consistently can probably nullify any high-powered offense. Too bad Top Rank will never let us find out.
Southpaw crusher Adonis Stevenson obliterated Noe Gonzalez in less than two rounds in the Friday Night Fights main event aired from the Bell Centre in Montreal. Gonzalez opened up circling to his left—wisely keeping his distance from the southpaw jackhammer Stevenson wields—and made it through an uneventful first round. A little over a minute into the second, however, Stevenson drove Gonzalez back with a roundhouse left and pounced. A blistering flurry—one that included some knifing body shots—sent Gonzalez reeling into a corner where Stevenson continued the assault. A straight left buckled Gonzalez and a followup combination made him curtsey on the ropes. When that happened, Referee Michael Griffin stepped in to prevent further damage. Griffin made the right call. Not only was Gonzalez backed against the ropes against a lethal puncher, but he also had a visible look of agony on his face as Stevenson went to work. In addition, Gonzalez, now 28-2 (20), appeared to be somewhere between Equestria and Glubbdubdrib as he trudged back to his corner.
Stevenson, 18-1 (15), brings his jab back too low and appears to be fairly one-dimensional in the ring, but his left hand will function as aversion therapy for most super middleweights. A stoppage loss in 2010 to veteran spoiler Darnell Boone also sends out warning signals, but anyone who can punch as hard as Stevenson does is always a threat and always a treat to watch.
Minnesota clubfighter Caleb Truax could not overcome his lack of ambition against Jermain Taylor, scoring a hard knockdown late, but failing to work with the consistency of a professional on his way to dropping a dreary 10-round unanimous decision to the faded former middleweight champion at the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino in Biloxi, Mississippi, on Friday night.
Taylor, 30-4-1 (18), controlled what action there was with one-twos and a menacing series of herky-jerky moves. At 33, Taylor looks as amateurish as ever, even against bespoke competition. He still holds his right hand over his heart like a child reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, forcing him to draw it back almost every time he throws it. And, after over a decade as a pro, Taylor still drops his left from time to time and still taps his forehead with his left hand repeatedly—one of the strangest tics in boxing.
While Taylor pumped out jab after jab, Truax was content to cover up and avoid the possibility of actually winning. But he stirred in the ninth, whipping a hard counter right that capsized Taylor with more than two minutes remaining in the round. After taking the mandatory eight, Taylor, who held incessantly over the last few rounds, was fortunate that Truax had neither the skill nor the aspiration to close the show.
Truax, 18-1-1 (10), now has the unique distinction of being the only fighter to score a knockdown against Taylor and lose. Even Taylor seemed to realize that. Despite being the former undisputed middleweight champion of the world, Taylor was feverishly proud of having survived being blasted to the canvas by a novice who had gone the distance with Antwun Echols. In the post-fight interview, Taylor spouted rubber-room gibberish generated by his shock at having survived a knockdown. His word salad spiel to Steve Farhood included the following: “I been knocked out lots of times, so who gives a damn? I don’t care. That’s what’s dangerous about me. I don’t care about it! You know what I’m saying? They gotta get me outta there!” Actually, what makes him dangerous is the fact that he is licensed to fight.
As for Truax, he belongs on premium cable the way a scratchitti artist belongs in the Louvre, but Showtime no longer seems interested in the concept of competitive—or meaningful—fights. Take away Salido-Lopez II and the upcoming Ortiz-Berto rematch, and you have programming that barely rivals that of Galavision. Continuing to showcase Taylor, who remains a hazard to himself every time he steps into the ring, is questionable on so many levels simultaneously, you would need a professional ethicist to figure it all out.
After nearly a year in limbo, Erislandy Lara, 16-1-1 (11) returned to the ring on the Taylor-Truax bill, anesthetizing Ronald Hearns in less than two minutes in another Stephen Espinoza Special. Hearns, whose chin gives way even when he applies a splash of Aqua Shave, is not fit to compete at this level, but competition seems to be an afterthought on Showtime these days. Then again, maybe beating Robert Kliewer, Delray Raines, Marteze Logan, and Shadrack Kipruto is enough to get you a slot on Showtime now. Two of those fighters, by the way, ought to be medically suspended.
As for the fight, well at least it was over with quickly. First, the opening bell rang. Then Lara dropped Hearns with a straight left, bounced him off the ropes and clipped him with another left for a count, and flattened him—like a can of Bucanero—for the final time with a swift combination. Referee Keith Hughes did Hearns, 26-3 (20, no favors by allowing “The Chosen One“(as apt a nickname as any for this bout, at least) to continue after the second knockdown. When the fight was stopped, Lara celebrated like a man who had reached the peak of Cerro Torre, when, in fact, he had only managed to ascend a mound of pebbles in a rock garden.
Former unified super flyweight champion and possible future Nonito Donaire victim Cristian Mijares won his ninth fight in a row by belting out Colombian fall guy Eddy Julio, 13-4-1 (11), in four rounds at the Unidad Deportiva Centenario in Morelia, Mexico. It was a sparring session for three rounds and then Mijares opened up with a series of lefts that dumped Julio on his back, where he remained, listening to the count. Julio, whose footwork could not be any worse if you tied his shoelaces together, was aggressive but painfully limited. This means he was perfectly suited for his role as ritual sacrifice.
Mijares, now 30, is one of numberless former “P-4-P” residents now homeless. In fact, there are more recent P-4-P exiles adrift in boxing these days than there are guns in Texas. This nonsense, of course, is courtesy of The Omniscients, who first discovered boxing in 2008 and have since gone on to solve every facet of the sport with, presumably, the help of the Oracle of Delphi. Although Mijares stands little chance against Donaire, he remains as competent a prizefighter now as he was years ago, when beating Jorge Arce fast-tracked him into the supercilious world of ratings panels and Superior Bloggers. With the win, Mijares improves to 45-6-2 (21).