Just steps away from where all the action will take place one month from now at The Joint at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Joseph King Kong Agbeko and Abner Mares took part in a spirited press conference Thursday at Muse Hall.
The press conference was well attended by a group of Las Vegas ’ finest boxing media who heard from both fighters and their camps and promoters, including the legendary Don King, who waved flags for both Ghana and Mexico while heaping praise on Agbeko.
IBF bantamweight champion Agbeko takes on undefeated rising star and WBC Silver 118-pound titleholder Mares in The Bantamweight Tournament Final: Winner Takes All on Saturday, Aug. 13, live on Showtime at 10 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West Coast.
“With the type of fight this will be, it's proper for this fight to be at a place called Hard Rock,” King said.
Here are what the fighters and their promoters had to say on Thursday:
Joseph King Kong Agbeko:
“I had my first fight in Vegas at Hard Rock and won by KO. I'm happy to be back. I want to thank Abner Mares and his team for their patience. It's going to be a great fight.
“I thank Showtime for this tournament. It will make me the best 118-pounder in the world when I win on Aug. 13. My prediction is that the announcer will say "And Still IBF bantamweight champion of the world...
“I love fighting boxers over fighters because boxers use their brain. This will be a good fight. I know that we have both fought Vic (Darchinyan) and Yonnhy (Perez). He survived that but he will not survive me.
“I expect nothing but tough fights at this point in my career. It helps me prepare better. Against Vic (Darchinyan), I fought a war. I'll do whatever I need to do.
“In December, I had to change my plan because of the cut (on my head). Depending on how the fight goes over the first few rounds, I'll adjust. I plan to box more this time but you never know. It would mean everything to get the IBF world title. Knowing you're the world champ, that's everything.
“It was frustrating at the time the first fight was called off. I was at the peak of my training and I can't lie, I'm human and I was very frustrated. It destroyed me a little bit, but then I regrouped and the more mature Abner prevailed. It's Joseph's health and that's serious. I'm glad he's better. I saw him at the press conference before the fight in April and he was weak and limping. I felt bad and realized that could have been me.
“I took three weeks off after the fight was called off and took my family vacation but I went right back to the gym when I got home and now I feel just as ready as last time, ready to be a world champ.
“Never in my short life did I think that I'd be sharing the stage with Don King. This is incredible. I want to be Mexico 's 20th world champion. I made my dream come true when I went to the Olympics in 2004 and now I will make my dream come true of becoming a world champion.
“Thanks to Showtime for showcasing me. Many people know who I am because my last two fights were on Showtime.”
Don King, Agbeko’s Promoter:
“It's always a pleasure to be in Las Vegas . Thanks to Ken Hershman who chose to endure and conquer. This is more than a fight. It will be dedicated to W.E.B. DuBois. He died in '93 in Ghana and now the mantle has fallen on Joseph Agbeko.
DuBois said in the 20th century color line is the biggest problem in America and now, King Kong will come down and beat on his chest and the elephants will come running. Mares will be Poncho Villa and Agbeko will win for his Ghanaian people. This is a fight for unity, solidarity and togetherness.
“I like Mares but it's going to be a day for Joseph. You've got to be there on the scene. If you can't, check it out on the screen. This fight is a statement. We're part of history, and sorry Abner, to be a part of history, one must be sacrificed.
“Not only did Agbeko defeat something I can't pronounce (Sciatica) but he will defeat Abner Mares this August 13 and we'll be going on to better things. This is a great tournament. Showtime has been a vanguard for fighting for what is right.”
David Itskowitch, Golden Boy Promotions COO and Mares’ Promoter:
“I'm excited about this event, the Final of The Bantamweight Tournament. The first round was a great one and Saturday, Aug. 13, live on Showtime at The Joint, we'll have a great ending. Tickets are very reasonable, starting at $25. You can get tickets at the Hard Rock box office and Ticketmaster.com.
“When Abner wins this fight on Aug. 13, he will be the first fighter to have his pro debut all the way through winning a world championship with Golden Boy. It's been quite a journey. I'm proud to know him. He is a family man and an example for all athletes. He got here by winning a great knock-down, drag-out fight against Vic Darchinyan and the Final should be just as exciting.
“The Joint is a great place to see a fight. It's a fun spot. There’s not a bad seat in the house.
“This fight would not be happening without Showtime. I want to thank Ken Hershman. We hit a bump in the road with this tournament but Ken stuck with it. He has a lot of experience in persevering like he has in the Super Six. Thanks to Gordon Hall, David Dinkins (Jr.), Chris DeBlasio and the entire team that kept everything together.”
The world championship fight is promoted by Don King Productions and Golden Boy Promotions and is sponsored by Corona.
Tickets, priced at $200, $100, $75, $50 and $25, along with a limited number of VIP suite seats priced at $150, are on sale now and may be purchased at the Hard Rock Hotel Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, online at www.Ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.