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Full card report: Mares is the New WBA Featherweight Champion

Barbara Pinnella

Barbara lives in USA and tries to cover as many fights as she can – which is never enough! She has been writing about boxing since the first series of The Contender, where she interviewed the loser of each match each week, and then the winner of the final bout and has been covering boxing ever since.

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The Galen Center on the USC campus in Los Angeles, California was the site for the main event between Jesus Cuellar (28-2 21 KOs) and Abner Mares (30-1, 15 KOs). This was a title fight for the WBA featherweight title, which was held by Cuellar, and was scheduled to go 12 rounds. There was certainly no wasting of time in the opening round, as both fighters came out swinging and connecting. Cuellar seemed to get a slight edge in the connection department in this early going.

We were already seeing a slugfest and it was only round two. They did not let up for any of the three minutes, but it certainly seemed as if Jesus was on the winning end so far. His punches were crisp and strong, and landing where he wanted them to. Cuellar was throwing a lot of punches in the third, causing Abner to grab and hold. Jesus was landing body shots and blows to the head.

Mares landed some punches in the fourth, a couple of them good ones, much to the delight of the crowd. But Jesus was still throwing a lot as well, as is his style. The fifth was a huge round for Mares. He was much sharper and quicker than he had been, and controlled the fight for the first time. He did not let Cuellar get the jump on him.

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Cuellar went back on the offensive in the sixth. He took back control and landed some really good shots on Abner. The seventh also went Jesus’ way. He was getting his right/left combinations home and still looking strong as we went to the halfway point of the fight.

The back and forth dance continued in the eighth. Cuellar was able to land some heavy left hands while Mares connected with his jab a lot. It was the same in the ninth. The action got hot right at the end of the round, as both men landed some hard blows and Mares threw a punch that hit home after the bell.

Cuellar was able to push Abner to the ropes in the tenth, as he had done in previous rounds. Sometimes Mares could fight well off of them, but more often Jesus got the best of him. Moving into the championship rounds, and how quickly things change. Abner landed a crisp little shot with his right hand that put Cuellar on the canvas.

In the twelfth and final Jesus tried his best to overtake Mares, but it didn’t seem as if that would happen. We went to the scorecards to find out and the scores showed a split decision. One judge saw it 115-112 for Cuellar, while the other two saw it 117-110 and 116-111 for Mares. Abner became the new featherweight champion.

Mares, who had been working with the popular and talented trainer Robert Garcia of late, was obviously thrilled with the way the fight went for him.

“I feel so good; it’s been a long time. I’m champion, baby,” Abner said after the fight. “They said he was a power puncher, they said he was going to knock me out, but I proved that I have some power, too. We had the perfect game plan that we followed, and that was to just box.

“Robert told me that Cuellar was going to tell me to come on and fight, and that I needed to stick to the plan. I never felt his power, thank God. I felt his pressure of trying to get at me, but not his power. When I knocked him down I was throwing those short right hands, but it did surprise me that he went down that quick.

“It was tough to get myself back into the boxing mentality,” Abner continued. “I like to brawl and entertain, but it is time to show boxing fans that I have other talents. I can box, and I showed that tonight.”

His trainer Garcia added, “A lot of boxing people think that I am just that one type of trainer that teaches my fighters just to brawl, but that’s not me. I can teach a fighter to box, and I proved it today. We had a great game plan.”

Cuellar said, “He definitely had the boxing skills going today. I would have preferred a rough fight, but Mares had his skills today. I want a rematch. I gave him the opportunity and now I think it’s fair that he gives it to me.”

The co-main event saw the IBF junior middleweight title on the line when Jermall Charlo (25-0, 19 K0s) faced off against Julian Williams (22-1-1, 14 KOs), who was making his first title defense. This fight was to go a scheduled 12 rounds. There was not a lot of action in the first round as the fighters felt each other out a bit.

A quick, short little left by Charlo put Williams down in the first minute of the second round. Julian got up mad and was able to land a really hard shot on Jermall a bit later in the round, but Charlo stayed on his feet. The third was a more even exchange between the two that saw each landing but no real damage.

The fourth was the best round for Williams. His timing was great and he landed some good punches. He also made Charlo miss a lot, even though the crowd cheered whenever Jermall threw one that was even close.

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In the fifth a hard and very accurate uppercut put Williams down. He got up a bit wobbly, but the fight continued. Smelling blood, Jermall went in for the kill, and just nailed Julian, landing another uppercut and dropping him like a stone and putting him down and out. The fight was stopped at 2:08 of that fifth round.

Charlo kept his title, but lost the respect and any adoration that he might have had from the fans. He behaved like a jerk after his win, not accepting congratulations from Williams when he went over to Jermall’s corner. During the in-ring interview the boos were so loud you could not hear most of what he was trying to say. He was apologizing to the fans and to Julian for his behavior, but at that point nobody cared.

After the fight, Jermall had this to say;

“I did what I was supposed to do, I’m very happy with my performance, I listened to my trainer, and I trained hard for this fight, I stayed in the gym the whole time. No matter what, people have to respect my accomplishments. He just wasn’t on my level. I told everyone what I was going to do since the fight was announced. I knew I was going to win; he was badly hurt after the knockdown. “I just want to tell Julian Williams, I’m sorry. Leading up to this fight Julian talked, and I held it in. I did what I had to do to become the champion of the world and I deserve my respect. He disrespected me all the way up to the fight.”

Williams made no excuses for his loss.

“I just got caught with a good shot. That happens, it’s boxing. I maybe got up too fast; I didn’t really have my legs under me. But he caught me with a shot and I’ve got to live with that. I have no excuses. I want to come back as soon as possible.”

Sergey Lipinets (11-0, 9 KOs) went up against Leonardo Zappavigna (35-3, 25 KOs) in a 12 round fight in the junior welterweight division. It was obvious by their knockout ratio that both men have power and they were each trying to show it off early. No harm, no foul, but both wanted to prove to their respective opponents that they were strong.

Heavy leather landed for each fighter in the second. It appears as if both are going for that knockout. It remained to be seen if that would happen. But the action did not slow down in the third, as they seemed to be getting stronger with each passing round. That did not change in the fourth, and blood flowed from both fighters as the bout became even more physical.

Just when it looked as if Lipinets might be out of the fight, a right/left combination put Zappavigna on the canvas. He almost went down again but managed to stay on his feet and fight back throughout the rest of the round.

Lipinets was really sharp with his combinations and had been able to pin Leonardo against the ropes and just pound him. Still, we moved into the seventh round. The back and forth battle between the two fighters raged on.

Those combinations continued to work for Sergey, and early into the eighth round he was able to put Leonardo on the canvas for the second time in the fight. This time though, Zappavigna was unable to get up and continue. The fight was stopped at 1:23 of that eighth round.

With this victory, Lipinets became the mandatory challenger for the IBF junior welterweight world title.

“Yes, this was my toughest fight, it’s bloody and rugged but no problem for me,” Lipinets said. “This was an eliminator and now I want my next fight to be for the world championship. Julius Indogo has the IBF title and now I’m the mandatory. “I’m very happy with my performance. We’ve worked on adjusting during fights and that worked very well for me tonight. I was hoping for the knockout but my trainer said to keep working and the stoppage will come.”

His opponent Leonardo said, “I left it all in the ring. I fought my heart out and I came here to give it my best. Even though I’m disappointed with the loss, I am at peace with the result because I know I couldn’t have done anything else.”

In a lightweight fight that was scheduled to go four rounds, Adan Mares (14-1-4, 3 KOs) faced off against Evincii Dixon (7-15-1, 2 KOs). Mares showed some very good combination punches in the opening round, and did sharp body work as well. Dixon landed some, but was not nearly as effective as Adan.

Dixon was finding his range better in the second round, but Mares was still the faster and more accurate fighter. The third was the best round by far for Evincii. He landed strong power punches the whole time and didn’t let Adan come in on him like he had in the previous rounds.

We saw a super final round by both fighters, as Mares got back to his successful combinations and body punches, while Dixon landed a huge overhand right as well as other power punches. We went to the scorecards. All three judges saw the fight the same, 38-38, a draw. Boos went up, but it was not really hard to see how it was scored that way.

Undefeated Erickson Lubin (17-0, 12 KOs) extended his win streak when he fought Juan Cabrera (23-2, 16 KOs) in a middleweight bout that was scheduled to go 10 rounds. Lubin was in complete control, and he dispatched Cabrera by knocking him down twice in the second round. Juan failed to make it up after that second knockdown. The time of the stoppage was 2:09.

Huge Centeno Jr. (25-1, 13 KOs) took on Ronald Montes (17-5, 15 KOs) in a middleweight bout that was scheduled to go 10 rounds. Centeno was utilizing his jab effectively in the first few rounds, as well as his combinations. But we did not see much of this fight, as it was called to a halt early by the corner of Montes after the third round.

Junior lightweights took to the ring when Marlo Barrios 17-0, 9 KOs) faced off against Claudio Tapia (24-19-4, 9 KOs). This fight was a short one. Tapia was knocked to the canvas twice in round two, and when he went down again for a third time the referee stopped the fight. Time of the stoppage was 2:36 of that second round.

To start off the afternoon, Josesito Lopez (34-7, 19 KOs) came back off a long layoff to face Todd Manuel (12-12-1, 1 KO) in a welterweight bout that was scheduled to go six rounds. The fight did go the distance, but it was all Lopez here. He dominated, and when the scorecards were read they were 60-54 twice and 59-55. This was a good way for Josesito to make his return.

This was a good fight card at a very nice venue. We saw a change of a title belt going to Mares, while Charlo was able to keep his belt. Kudos to both Sergey Lipinets and Leonardo Zappavigna for their super performances, and jeers have to go to Jermall for his conduct in the ring after the fight.

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