Mares, Agbeko win bantamweight semifinal bouts
Ghana's Joseph Agbeko was a unanimous winner and Mexico's Abner Mares won a split decision Saturday in the semifinals of the Bantamweight Tournament.
Agbeko (28-2) beat Yonnhy Perez (20-2-1) and Mares (21-0-1) edged Vic Darchinyan (35-3-1) in the event, which featured four of the world's top 118-pound fighters.
Agbeko and Mares will now meet in the championship round next spring.
In the opening fight, Darchinyan dominated early on with his strong left, knocking the Mexican down in the second round. Mares then lost a point in the fourth round for his second low blow after a warning from the referee.
That penalty seemed to ignite Mares - he had Darchinyan up against the ropes in the fifth and knocked him down with a left in the seventh.
''Our plan was to push him back because we know he likes to bully people,'' Mares said. ''He has a tremendous punch. I proved that I could take punches. I kept pushing him back. I heard him moan every time I landed a body shot.''
Darchinyan, who was born in Armenia but now fights out of Australia, lost for the first time in four bouts since losing by unanimous decision to Agbeko in July 2009.
''It's very disgusting,'' Darchinyan said about the decision. ''I think, of course, I won. By three to four rounds, I was in front.''
In the second bout of the night, the 30-year-old Agbeko returned to the ring for the first time since losing a unanimous decision to Perez in October 2009 in Las Vegas.
Agbeko dominated the early and late rounds. Neither fighter had a knockdown.
''This is my meal ticket and I'm glad I got it back.'' Agbeko said. ''I'm presenting it to Ghana as a Christmas bonus.''
Perez, the California-based Colombian, failed to retain his IBF title. He will now fight Darchinyan in a consolation bout on the same card as the Mares-Agbeko title fight.