There's a certain kind of boxing card, one that's hard for promoters to master, where the favorites are matched competitively enough to create some action and give the "house" fighters some trouble but never place them in serious danger of losing. That's what we got from the doubleheader on Showtime Saturday, when Abner Mares earned an exciting but one-sided victory against Eric Morel and Anselmo Moreno halted David De La Mora in a brilliant boxing display.
Too bad it might be nothing more than an extended tease. If you drew up a list of the best possible fights in boxing, they'd include some combination of Mares, Moreno and Nonito Donaire. Mares hasn't mentioned Moreno prominently in his list of preferred opponents, although after the fight when asked he said he'd be down for it, while Donaire is promoted by Top Rank, the firm that's in a mortal blood feud with the promoter of Mares and Moreno, Golden Boy Promotions.
ANSELMO MORENO-DAVID DE LA MORA
It looked pretty early like De La Mora would quit in this one, because he spent the first couple rounds literally running away from Moreno, who was tagging him with flush left crosses and frustrating the ever-lovin' shit out of him with his defense. De La Mora did eventually fold, but he found some starch in the middle rounds to allow us to witness more of Moreno's brilliance.
Moreno's mastery is such that it looks as though he's one nice wins away from the pound-for-pound top 10, and those wins are very doable because of his exceptional skill. I'm not saying he WOULD beat Mares or Donaire. But he COULD, and he might even be the favorite or even money against them.
De La Mora had the looks to me beforehand of a potential top 10 bantamweight, just one who had no hope against someone of the speed and ability of Moreno. That's how it went, too. Moreno dropped De La Mora with a right hook to the head in the 2nd, only for the pressure-fighting but suddenly-cornered De La Mora to fight back in the 3rd. But De La Mora never did more than land a couple nice blows, the whole fight, and by the 6th, he was on the deck again thanks to a body shot from the Panamanian. In between the 8th and 9th, De La Mora and/or his corner called it quits.
Moreno was too cautious for much of his career, something that hurt his chances of both winning fights cleanly and making anyone want to watch him. He's blowing good to excellent fighters out of the water these days now that he's in America, even if he's benefiting from taking on face-first competition, and I question the taste of anyone who doesn't like watching Moreno practice his aggressive form of beautiful boxing. He's the epitome of the sweet science of bruising.
If only we had any assurance he'd get Mares or Donaire next.
ABNER MARES-ERIC MOREL
Mares practices an even more pronounced version of "aggressive, beautiful boxing," with an emphasis on the aggressive. He mixed up his punches wonderfully against Morel, even if his main weapon was an overhand right. And he was a bit sharper on defense than usual, if not enough to keep his nose from bleeding heavily midway through the fight to its end.
Morel, at 36, was about 10 years too old to be particularly competitive with Mares, and I didn't score a single round for the Puerto Rican in what ended up as a unanimous decision Mares victory. There were a few that might've gone to Morel on some scorecards, though, who suffered his own cut to the side of his left eyebrow. Morel wasn't as quick on his feet as he used to be, but he connected on plenty of flush power shots, particularly the uppercut, to keep Mares from fully blowing him out of the water. There were more than enough sustained exchanges to make this one good entertainment all the way through, even if the outcome was never in doubt.
Morel has always had a good chin, so maybe that kept him from being knocked out. Or maybe it was that Mares has moved up in weight, to junior bantam, and doesn't carry as much power there. Time will tell, as Mares made clear he wants to set up shot at 122, where he said afterward that he feels exceptionally comfortable.
Maybe Morel can't contend with the remaining upper crust at bantam, assuming you count Mares and Moreno as that, but he can still compete with what remains should either of them depart permanently. There's nothing to like about Morel's criminal past, but there was plenty to like about the grit and skill he showed in the ring Saturday night, even if he abandoned his trademark jab (something Mares' countering had something to do with, FWIW).
Mares is talking about people at 122 like Jorge Arce or Donaire or what have you, but some of the best folk at 122 belong to Top Rank, not Mares' GBP. Asked specifically if he would fight Moreno, he answered in the affirmative. If those other fights fall through and Mares ends up facing Moreno, not only will this poorly-conceived card have validated itself on its substantial entertainment value, but it will have served as a worth advertisement for even more appetizing fare.