As a warm-up to build interest for a showdown toward matching the two best bantamweights in the world, Abner Mares and Anselmo Moreno, Showtime’s doubleheader Saturday isn’t completely irredeemable. Mares’ opponent, Eric Morel, fights a little like Eric Moreno, only worse; Moreno’s opponent, David De La Mora, fights a little like Mares, only worse. Mares-Moreno doesn’t really need anymore build-up, and probably wouldn’t benefit from much of it anyhow because the smaller weight class boxers are only going to get so “big” a fight under any circumstances — but, it’s not irredeemable, if that’s the idea of this doubleheader.
Problem is, nobody has apparently told Mares that he should be wanting to fight Moreno, because when Mares talks about what he wants to do next, you don’t see Moreno high on the list, if at all. Mares doesn’t even talk about being a bantamweight anymore, and, indeed, his bout against Morel is one division higher, at junior featherweight. So what’s the point of any of this?
If anything, it’s just to showcase a couple of the best fighters in the world overall, as Mares and Moreno are. Maybe Showtime’s just demonstrating allegiance to a fighter in Mares who has given them several blood-and-guts wars against elite opposition and figures he’s earned a step down in competition. Maybe Showtime is so ga-ga for Golden Boy Promotions fighters under its new leadership that it’ll let GBP get away with putting two of its guys in a main event that no one else requested. But as fans, about all we get out of this is the chance to see Mares and Moreno put their talents on display against respectable competition, albeit competition that has only the mildest chances of pulling any upsets. If that doesn’t get your pulse racing, well, it’s hard to blame you.
ABNER MARES-ERIC MOREL
It’s not as if Mares couldn’t use a breather; the only question is whether it is essential for Showtime to broadcast this particular breather. His schedule has been one of the most brutal in grueling over the last couple years — Yonnhy Perez, followed by Vic Darchinyan, followed by two consecutive fights against Joseph Agbeko. None of those fights were easy. Mares took some lumps in them.
Morel doesn’t figure to give him too many lumps. He’s never been a big puncher, like some of the men on the above list. Oh, he’s got a real nice jab — it’s almost surprising to see a good jab around boxing of late — and he’s quick of fist and foot. In his prime, he was a very nice little boxer, real well-rounded if not a bit too safety-first. But Morel is 36 now. I don’t think he deserved the decision he got against fellow oldster Gerry Penalosa two years ago. Tracking down his fights since then has been difficult, but reports are that he’s looked somewhat pedestrian, something he was prone to doing in his prime but isn’t a hopeful sign at his current age.
And Morel doesn’t figure to carry even his modest power up to 122 pounds, as a fighter who made his bones at 118 and 112. Morel is a top-five bantam, but he’s unproven at 122 outside of the stray over-the-limit bantamweight bout. Or maybe Morel has more power than commonly thought. Penalosa spent most of the fight delaying his bumrush, and when he finally turned up the heat, it worked, as Morel’s legs slowed down. Denkaosan Kaovichit was curiously tentative against Morel, too, in what was arguably Morel’s biggest career win.
I’m not inclined to think it will dissuade Mares, though, who’s taken the best punches he’s seen from bigger punchers than Morel and wasn’t talked out of his stalking boxer/puncher pursuit. Mares’ main problem might be a lack of superb defense, so it’s not as if he hasn’t taken shots. Most of the rest of his game is very commendable: Good chin, good heart, good speed, good power, good offensive arsenal, good versatility to lead or counter and punch with either hand. He might not be excellent at everything, but he’s above average at worst in every category outside of defense. And even then you get the sense he could improve there with a little effort.
Assuming the 36-year-old Morel hasn’t found great new life in his legs or great new power in his fists, it’s hard to see how Morel can either hurt Mares or avoid him. It’s been a good long while since Morel has tasted the canvas, but Mares has the stuff to put him there and keep him there. It just might take until late in the fight, after Mares wears him down. Let’s call a 10th round stoppage win for Mares.
ANSELMO MORENO-DAVID DE LA MORA
Moreno had quite the introdution to the U.S. audience in his last fight, an absolute clinic against Darchinyan. Moreno had been a touch on the “boring” side in the past, a bit oriented toward safety and as such prone to closer-than-necessary decision, but Darchinyan was the perfect foil to make Moreno look fantastic — as aggressive as Darchinyan is, he waded, time and again, into Moreno’s hard counterpunches, and speed-wise, Moreno was a lamborghini to Darchinyan’s Mustang.
De La Mora hasn’t been introduced to the U.S. audience yet, but he has the looks of a decent-to-good boxer, from footage I’ve watched. He’s a brawler, kind of, because he definitely wants to mix it up. He’s a pressure fighter, kind of, because he wants to dig to the body and throw a lot of punches. But he does seem to do a lot of waiting on his opponents, and in his “coming out” performance against Koki Kameda, a bout many thought he won, he later blamed himself for not throwing enough punches. (That might’ve had something to do with Kameda countering him and dropping him in the 3rd when De La Mora became ultra-aggressive after hurting his man.)
When he lets his hands go, he really lets them go — he throws in combination, rarely leading with his jab. He practically goes wild, sometimes with his legs ajumble, his punches wide, his chin dangling upward. He’s not very accurate, though, and it sometimes feels like, despite some pretty good hand speed and being quick on his feet, his reflexes are just a touch dull. He has a high knockout rate, and he briefly hurt Kameda, at least, but I’m not sold on his power. That’s because, outside of the Kameda loss, he has faced only the occasional marginal trial horse by way of quality opposition.
De La Mora looks to me like a fighter who could trouble some top 10 bantamweights, like, well, Kameda, or perhaps Morel. For Moreno, he looks made to order. De La Mora will be aggressive enough to make Moreno look good but not good enough himself to contend with the kind of speed and ultra-refined technique Moreno will be giving back. The only risk for Moreno is if he pops De La Mora well enough to convince De La Mora to fight more cautiously, and then the rounds could get dicey where the winner would be decided by who lands one nice flurry, and De La Mora’s at least theoretically capable of landing one nice flurry per round. More likely, Moreno takes advantage of De La Mora’s “made to order” qualities and takes a very wide decision, maybe stopping him late.