Bantamweight Tournament Press Conference Sets Stage for Great Final Matchup

February 9, 2011

Los Angeles, California -- With four of the planet's top bantamweights and their loquacious promoters attending today's "Winner Takes All" Bantamweight Tournament press conference, colorful quotes and tough-guy posturing were sure to be found.

The two semifinal bout winners -- Joseph King Kong Agbeko and Abner Mares -- will square off for all the marbles in the final in what is expected to be a tremendous battle with 2 belts on the line.

Agbeko (28-2, 22 KO's), of Accra, Ghana, is fresh off a unanimous 12-round decision victory over Yonnhy Perez, and will be defending his IBF title.  Mares (21-0-1, 13 KO's), is coming off his own thrilling comeback split decision victory over Vic "Raging Bull" Darchinyan, and will be fighting to keep his WBC Silver belt.

Meanwhile, Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27 KO's) and Perez (20-1-1, 14 KO's) will clash in an interesting co-feature bout, pitting Darchinyan's power against Perez's all-around skills.

The bouts will take place on Saturday, April 23, 2011, at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, and will be televised by SHOWTIME.

Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $75, $50, and $25, are available online at, and via Ticketmaster charge-by-phone lines at (800) 745-3000.  Tickets are also available at STAPLES Center Box Office.

Of course, the 900-pound elephant in the room is the upcoming Nonito Donaire-Fernando Montiel bantamweight bout being held in Las Vegas on February 19, 2011.

Donaire and Montiel had several impressive showings in 2010, but both declined to join this tournament.  Their upcoming bout certainly seemed to be on the minds of the tournament's fighters, several of whom expressed interest at the prospect of a big payday against the Montiel-Donaire winner.

Here are excerpts from some of our one-on-one interviews:

One-on-One Interview With Promoter Oscar De La Hoya

Q: What do you see as the key to this fight for Abner going up against King Kong?
A:  I think the key is for him to put on a lot of pressure, a lot of smart pressure.  It's not necessarily going in there and just fighting hard and throwing combinations and trying to overpower him.  He has to be smart, he has to box, but at the same time put pressure. Don't let him breathe.  Mares has a great team behind him, he's going to do a great job putting a plan together, and we're going to get a great fight.

Q: Mares in that last fight, as a young fighter, overcame a lot of early turmoil with that point deduction, knockdown, and cut.  What impressed you about his demeanor and mental approach in that fight?
A: It really showed me that he's the overall package. He has the will, he has that determination, he has that desire.  He can dig deep down inside to fight hard and to win fights, and he's going to have to do that once again against Agbeko.  He's a tough nut to crack. We feel it's going to be a great fight.

Q: In the last fight, it seemed like Mares mainly had to watch out for Darchinyan's left, that's all he was throwing in the late rounds.  Now he's going against a guy in Agbeko that throws punches from all angles, very active, very busy. What does he have to do defensively to avoid that or to counter that in your opinion?
A: It could be that his best defense is going to be his offense. He does have a bit more firing power, so he kind of has to lay down the law right from the beginning maybe, and show him who's boss.  But he has to be very smart.  You're right, Agbeko throws a lot of punches in bunches. So, it's one of those fights where you're going to get some great action.

Q: There is the Montiel-Donaire fight coming up in a couple of weeks.  Do you see a matchup down the line with the winner of that fight and the winner of Mares-Agbeko?
A: Absolutely, it's possible. I really do see a round robin with all of these guys participating in this tournament. We have to get the Montiels in the mix.  You are going to get a great fighter in this tournament. The last man standing.  Who knows, you may get Abner Mares in a rematch with Darchinyan or Yonnhy. The great thing about this tournament is that you can squeeze out many fights from this.

One-on-One with Joseph King Kong Agbeko

Q: What advantages do you have over Abner Mares going into this fight?
A:  My advantages are, I am going to work harder and I am the better fighter.

Q: Were you ever hurt in that fight with Yonnhy Perez?
A:  No he didn't hurt me.  He was a very tough guy, pushing me. A tough fight, but I was never hurt.

Q:  Assuming you win against Mares, would you want to fight the winner of Donaire-Montiel?
A:  That's the main deal. I want to fight the winner of Donaire-Montiel.

One-on-One with Abner Mares

Q: What did you learn from those tough early rounds against Darchinyan where you had the cut and the point deduction?
A: I learned to always have a determined mind and never think of losing. I never had a loser's mentality.  I was thinking, "Ok it happened. Let's get through it and let's win this fight." More determination for my next fight.

Q: Were you ever hurt by Darchinyan's power in that fight?
A:  Honestly, yeah.  The knockdown was more of a flash knockdown. But there were other punches during the fight where he hit me and they were strong punches.

Q: How do you plan to defend against Agbeko?
A: Just training hard. Be ready for anything. You don't know what type of fight he will bring fight night.  He might fight like he did against Yonnhy, boxing beautifully. Or brawling, like the first fight they fought, going toe-to-toe. We are definitely getting ready for either fight.

Q:  What's the key for you winning this fight?
A:  I need to work a little more on my head movement, either going forward or going backwards. I ate a  lot of left hands by Vic Darchinyan.  And work a little bit more on weights and my punch.

Q: If you win, do you want the Donaire-Montiel winner?
A:  I wouldn't mind. I'm a fighter.  This is what I do. I wouldn't mind fighting either of them.  But, definitely after this fight all of us deserve a vacation because we have fought nothing but tough back-to-back fights.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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