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Anselmo Moreno's style not helping him win fans

Kevin Iole
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Abner Mares ready for Anselmo Moreno

Abner Mares ready for Anselmo Moreno

Abner Mares ready for Anselmo Moreno

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Abner Mares ready for Anselmo Moreno

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November 22: Top 10

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November 22: Top 10

At one stage in its history, just winning was enough to keep a boxer moving toward the top and in the hunt for significant, big-money bouts.

That is no longer the case, however, as the proliferation of cable channels and the growth of other sports has marginalized boxing the last several decades.

That's why, 50 years ago, a guy like Anselmo Moreno would have been a star of the highest order. He's a highly skilled boxer who not only wins the vast majority of his bouts, but he wins them in one-sided fashion.

But winning in and of itself isn’t enough anymore. It's also how one wins that matters. Style points count.

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Abner Mares spars during an outdoor public workout in L.A. (AP)

And so Moreno, who on Saturday will meet Abner Mares in a Showtime-televised card from Staples Center in Los Angeles for the WBC super bantamweight title, has a difficult challenge ahead of him.

The best way for Moreno to win simply would be for him to use his boxing skills to keep Mares on the end of his jab, neutralize Mares' aggression and turn it into a dull fight. 

But with a bout opposite his on HBO that night, and with the impatience of the audience, that blueprint isn't a recipe for stardom these days.

"Fight fans in this day and age like to see more toe-to-toe action and they want to see some blood," Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said. "The fans are demanding action."

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Moreno was impressive in his last outing, a ninth-round stoppage of David De La Mora in April. But he's hardly what one would consider a blood-and-guts fighter and takes a decidedly more tactical approach to his job.

He's 33-1-1, but he only has 12 knockouts and has never been in anything approaching a Fight of the Year candidate. Judging by his words at a Los Angeles workout on Monday, he's not planning to change what is working.

"My style is what it is," Moreno said. "I'm an elusive fighter, the kind of fighter that hits and doesn't get hit. My style is one that makes you watch at all times. I've fought the same way since I was younger. I learned that lesson when I was fighting in the streets when you need to stay smart all the time and not just brawl."

The professional boxing ring on national television isn't the street, though. In the ring, he’s an entertainer. If he's able to sell the fan base on a hit-but-not-get-hit style, all the better for him.

That is a difficult task though, particularly for someone who doesn't speak English.

Mares has no such issues. He's one of the rising stars in the sport with wins over the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko and Yohnny Perez, among others.

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He's also among the most exciting fighters in the game. He's not a huge puncher by any means, but he's willing to stand in the pocket and trade in the mold of so many of the great super bantamweights of the past.

"I am shocked, to be honest with you, that Abner Mares is not in everybody's pound-for-pound Top 10," Schaefer said. "He's one of the most underrated guys in boxing. Look at what he's done in the last two years alone. He's faced anyone and everyone and won. He beat a guy with the awkward style like Vic Darchinyan and a banger like Joseph Agbeko and everything in between.

"He's the total package, in my opinion. He has the ability to adjust to different styles and, no matter who he's fighting, he's always in exciting fights."

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Anselmo Moreno, of Panama, spars with his trainer Orlando Soto. (AP)

Mares is going to have to find Moreno, a southpaw who will give him angles and movement. He turns 27 at the end of the month, though, and believes he's just coming into his own.

An engaging, affable sort out of the ring, Mares is plain nasty inside of it. Much of his work in camp has been dedicated to finding ways to get Moreno to fight.

"You can expect a more mature, focused and ready Abner than you ever have seen before," he said. "… This will be a very good fight, a very tough one that will bring out the best in me and the best in both of us. This is the kind of fight the fans want, a pretty even fight you could say, between two world champions going at it from the opening bell."

The key is whether they go at it. It's the only way, win or lose, Moreno has a chance to increase his profile.

Mares has already established himself as an all-out fighter, so he'll be fine no matter how the bout plays out.

But a victory that brings out the catcalls from the crowd won't be much of a win at all for Moreno.

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