Showtime Sports hosted a press conference Thursday at The Conga Room , L.A. Live, to formally introduce and discuss “the bantamweight tournament that begins Saturday, Dec. 11, live on Showtime at 9 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast from Irapuato, Mexico.
In attendance was Ken Hershman, Showtime Sports Executive Vice President and General Manager, the four world class boxers who will participate in the two-round, single-elimination tournament to determine the best fighter at 118 pounds – IBF champion Yonnhy Perez (20-0-1, 14 KOs), former world champions Joseph Agbeko (27-2, 22 KOs) and Vic Darchinyan (35-2-1, 27 KOs) and world-ranked rising star Abner Mares (29-0-1) – and their promoters
The semifinal matchups: Perez defends his title against Agbeko and Darchinyan and Mares vie for the WBC Silver Belt The bouts are scheduled for 12 rounds. The winners of each semifinal will clash in the final in 2011 with the losing fighters competing in a consolation fight.
Each of the participants in the bantamweight tournament has previously fought at least one of the other fighters in competitive bouts, all on Showtime.
The bantamweight tournament is promoted by Gary Shaw Productions for Darchinyan and, in association with Thompson Boxing Promotions, for Perez, Golden Boy Promotions for Mares, and Don King Productions for Agbeko.
What the fighters said Thursday:
Abner Mares: “The four-man tournament is great. Tournament boxing is great. It helps not only fighters but boxing because in this tournament you have four of the best fighters facing each other. There’s no ducking any fighters here. You’re fighting the best no matter what. You don’t pick fighters in a tournament and this is what people want and I want that. I am here for the fans.
“I want to take the time to thank Showtime for putting this show together and not forgetting about the little guys because there are a lot of people that don’t even look at the little guys. It’s a great opportunity for all four of us. It’s tremendous for the weight class and I love it.
“It’s a privilege to fight Vic Darchinyan. He’s a well-known fighter, a big name. He’s beaten a lot of good fighters. All around I think he’s a good fighter but I don’t think of myself as a bad fighter. I think I’ve got the perfect style for him. I think it’s going to be a tough fight for both of us.
“I’ve got to take it fight by fight. But this fight is really big. I’ve got to take full advantage of my opportunity.
It will be my first time fighting in Mexico so that is exciting.’’
“I was ready. I said I was ready for that fight [vs. Perez] and I proved it going the 12 rounds. I still haven’t got over it because I have people telling me, ‘you won the fight.’ (But) it is what it is.’’
Yonnhy Perez: “I’m very happy that Showtime is putting this tournament on. In the end it’s going to show who the best bantamweight in the world is. For Showtime to get all these promoters together is great because you don’t have to get fights. It’s set. Whoever wins goes on; whoever loses, there is still a fight. My goal is to win it all. I’m very happy about the tournament because basically everyone included has a title.
“I can’t express how thankful I am to Showtime for putting on this tournament and even putting me on Shobox when I first came up from Colombia. I’m very thankful. After everything is done I hope I continue to have their support and I’ll always be ready to fight and will always give a great fight for Showtime.
“I’m concentrating on my fight. I don’t consider myself the favorite. I know I’m the world champion but I go into every fight thinking I’m the underdog. I’m going to prepare for this fight and come out victorious.’’
Vic Darchinyan: I want to thank Gary Shaw, Ken Hershman and everyone at Showtime for putting on this show. Now, the whole world can see at bantamweight who’s the best. I am very happy for this tournament. I’m physically prepared all the time.
“I’m happy I’m fighting in Mexico. My style is a Mexican style, guys are coming to fight, coming for a show, so that’s what I’m going to do. Mexicans love my style. I am not against them, I am not against anyone. I’m just against my opponent. It just happens Mexicans have been my opponents, which is good. Mexicans are good fighters.
“The two other guys (Francisco Montiel, Nonito Donaire) that didn’t want to be in the tournament know they cannot be at the same level. Some of them think they are good, but if you’re good, get in the tournament. If you’re one of the best at bantamweight, come and fight. Mares is a good fighter.
“I’m going to be prepared for anything. No fear. I moved up to challenge other champions. The super tournament connects all the dots. I don’t want to defend my titles and fight No. 10, No. 15. If I fight, I collect all belts. The point is not who you can beat, it’s what champions you can beat. I want to prove myself and I want to prove to everyone I’m the best. Why worry?
Joseph Agbeko: “This is going to be a very nice tournament. The opportunity to meet the best bantamweights in the world is going to give me a very good platform. This tournament is the return of “King Kong.’’ It’s giving me the opportunity to get back in the ring. My trainer and I are coming together to make me the best bantamweight.
“Perez is a great fighter. He’s got a brave heart. I’m going to come very well prepared. I’m not thinking about Vic, I’m not thinking about Mares, I’m thinking about Perez. The winner will meet me.
“I think it’s going to be a very nice opportunity for me to fight in Mexico. They’ve produced a lot of great fighters and it’s going to be an honor to fight in Mexico .
“I’m very motivated to get back the belt because Ghana has no champion right now. They all have supported me and want me to win the title.’’