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Anselmo Moreno Repeats, Decisions Cermeño Close

Maybe the most underrated fighter in the sport showed off why again on Saturday night at the Roberto Duran Arena in Panama City, Panama.   25-year old WBA Bantamweight titlist Anselmo Moreno (30-1-1, 10 KO) of San Miguelito, Panama, notched his seventh title defense with a split decision victory over 30-year old Nehomar Cermeno (19-2, 11 KO), Panamanian born and fighting out of Barcelona, Venezuela.  The fight was the second in a row between the two fighters, a split decision win for Moreno in March leading the WBA to mandate an immediate return. 

Both men came in a quarter pound below the division limit at 117 ¾. Both fighters started with the intensity of a thirteenth round.  For them, it was. Cermeno was firing his orthodox left jab hard, Moreno returning his southpaw right and winging a long right behind it.  A short right hook and left hand from Moreno brought a roar from his countrymen and he added a striking left near the halfway mark. Cermeno chased but found his shots blocked or finding air.  Moreno closed the first with a short uppercut off the ropes.

Moreno remained both accurate and elusive in the second, Cermeno all but diving in with lead looping lefts to try and trap the taller man.  Cermeno landed a hard right in the last minute but Moreno followed with a short hook inside to stem any hope of a shift in control.  The third was closer, Cermeno able to work himself inside where the trading of singular, stiff body shots kept both men on their toes.

Mixing in a share of low blows which drew a warning from referee Hubert Earle, Cermeno blasted Moreno with some measured lefts in the fourth, a bull-matador dynamic clear.  The bull kept the advantage in round five, Cermeno’s pressure flattening the feet of Moreno by the end of the round.

Both men had their moments in the sixth.  Moreno glued his left hand to his face and blocked the right well in the late stages of the round while snaking in quick shots in close.  Cermeno’s right landed near the ropes and he had success with the left at mid-ring. 

Standing his ground for most of the seventh, Moreno boxed beautifully.  He made Cermeno miss repeatedly while rolling and countering with sharp lefts and the occasional lead right.  Cermeno simply worked harder, attempting late to swarm the defenses but struggling to connect.  Moreno was even more dominant in the eighth, Cermeno able to land only a single notable right in the waning seconds after finding the buttery titlist to slick for most of the round and eating a number of clean, slapping counters. Cermeno lost some steam in the ninth as Moreno got on his bicycle a bit, comfortable to work the perimeter of the ring for long stretches.  In a close tenth round, it was Cermeno doing his best work early and Moreno closing strong.  A brief respite to fix loose tape on Moreno’s glove accentuated the shift in the round as he mustered some snappy shots in the closing seconds with the deep breath provided.

His left eye swelling, Cermeno came out with purpose in the eleventh, ignoring the chants of “Chemito!” for Moreno from the crowd.  Moreno ignored a low blow at the end of the first minute, poised as he jabbed and worked in a pair of left uppercuts in the second minute of the round.  Down the stretch, time was presumably becoming every bit as much Cermeno’s enemy as the shoulders of Moreno that kept sending his right hand into the air behind him.

A Cermeno left hook in the opening minute of the final round caught Moreno clean and, emptying his reserves, Cermeno added another left near the ropes.  Moreno was not content to simply sit on what appeared a lead, planting and looping his left uppercut home a couple times.  Cermeno responded with a thudding right, a minute remaining on the night.  He wanted the knockout.  It was not to be and, for a split second, the crowd thought it was Cermeno who was floored but Earle correctly ruled a slip.  The final ten seconds saw Cermeno posing, looking for an opening, and Moreno slipping away one last time.

It would be the same on the final scorecards, Moreno a winner at tallies of 116-112 and 115-113.  Cermeno got the third nod at 115-113.  BoxingScene scored the bout 116-112 for Moreno.  Cermeno, a 2000 Venezuelan Olympian, earned his title shot with a pair of 2009 victories over former unified Jr. Bantamweight titlist Cristian Mijares and goes back to the drawing board.  U.S. fans who appreciate the finer points of the sweet science can hope that Moreno’s road warrior reputation lead a fighter who has posted wins in France, Germany, and Venezuela in recent years to a chance at a fight which could draw U.S. attention. 

There are shades of Pernell Whitaker and fellow Panamanian slickster Hilario Zapata in the game of Moreno.  With the Bantamweight class at a peak of talent, including other outstanding titlists like Fernando Montiel and Yonnhy Perez, Moreno has shown in his title reign to date the elite stuff to demand his place with anyone at 118 lbs.