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Mares Builds More Momentum

Abner Mares
All Photos © K9 Photos

Article By Steve Kim


For WBC featherweight champion Abner Mares - who defends his title against Jhonny Gonzalez this Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California (Showtime, 10:30 p.m., ET/7:30 p.m., PT) - 2013 has been an eventful year. It actually began with a very public back-and-forthing on Twitter between Mares and Nonito Donaire over a fight that was shelved because of the ongoing “Cold War” between Golden Boy and Top Rank.


While a contract on behalf of Mares to Donaire and Top Rank was sent over to Golden Boy, it was seemingly nothing more than public posturing. That fight was never going to happen, realistically.
 
Donaire eventually signed on to face the gifted Guillermo Rigondeaux in New York on April 13th. Mares was certainly an interested observer, and one who believed the “Filipino Flash” made the wrong decision…for both of them.
 
“Yeah, definitely; I was thinking like, ‘Well, Nonito, c’mon man, it could’ve been a better fight between you and me and better paid.’ But he chose this fight and it got him a loss. But at the end of the day, it happens.”
 
Over 12 rounds, Rigondeaux riddled Donaire and won via decision.
 
Mares says, “It wasn’t surprised; it was a really entertaining fight. I knew off Rigondeaux’s experience what he was capable of doing. I fought him in the amateurs. I knew his style, so what was going through my mind is just thinking that Nonito probably took him lightly and thought that the fight was going to be easier.”
 
When asked just how disappointing the whole saga was with Donaire, Mares states, “I was thinking that it might happen because there was negotiations going on. My team, my promoter, made the first move, which was to make a contract. They offered him X amount of money and it was just on him and his team to make the second move. It takes two to dance and we started and they didn’t finish.”
 
The reality is Top Rank and Golden Boy get along as well as the Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East. And as they engaged, it seemed to try and win the public relations battle but not actually make Mares-Donaire a reality. Once again, the fans and fighters lost.
 
“It was really disappointing because that was a big fight. A fight I’ve been looking for for a long time and I’m still looking forward to that fight but again, it takes two. I’m moving on. I know he’s moving on. I know he’s moving on. But it was really disappointing because it’s the fight that fight fans want to see,” said Mares, who eventually captured the WBC belt by stopping Daniel Ponce de Leon on May 4th in nine rounds on the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero pay-per-view undercard.
 
It means Mares is now a three-division champion with a distinguished list of victories on his ledger. He is clearly one of the most accomplished boxers in the sport.
 
“I think I’ve managed to really make a name for myself as one of the top fighters and one of top fighters that’s not scared and is willing to fight anyone out there,” said Mares, who has a record of 26-0-1 (14) and is just entering his physical prime at age 27. “So I think people are recognizing at this point at this time in my career that I’m here to fight anyone and I’m comfortable and I’m really, really happy that people are recognizing already my game and what I’m here for. So I’m going to continue that streak. I’m going to continue that path, which is to fight the best and fight nothing but big fighters.”
 
He’s certainly come a long way from when he moonlighted as a security guard at Bell Gardens High School as his career was in jeopardy due to a detached retina in 2008. Fast forward to 2013 and he’s a fighter who’s made a few million dollars (as a smaller boxer, mind you) over the last few years.
 
“It was in November [of 2008]. I remember because Christmas was coming. I remember missing out on New Years because I had to work,” he recalled laughing.”Yeah, man, it was a tough time I went through but thank God I got a second chance. I’m taking advantage of it and everyday I’m working hard.”
 
As his career resumed, he signed on with the respected manager Frank Espinoza, who has handled him since 2009.” I knew when we signed [Abner] that he was a very talented young fighter but things had gotten sidetracked for a little bit. But I knew that if we lined up the right fights that he would show the world just how talented he is. All I can do is my job, which is to make the fights and the best deal possible and it’s the fighter’s job to get it done inside the ring. You can’t do it alone.”
 
Mares says, “Things happen for a reason. I believe in faith. I believe in God. I believe in second chances and I just believe that it was my time. Life is based on timing and it was just my time and that’s it. I’m moving on forward and taking advantage of my youth and try to retire young from this sport.”
 
But this story is still a long way from over. It resumes this weekend against a former champion, who still packs a punch and has a sense of urgency.
 
“He has a lot left,” Mares said of Gonzalez, “and you can’t count these old fighters out. Well, he’s not old; he’s old inside the ring. He’s got close to 60 fights but he’s a young guy, 31 years old. He’s been in there with every style. So I expect an A-class Jhonny but I’m bringing my A-game.”
 
Abner Mares working out - Photo © K9 Photos
TIP TOP
 
Yeah, it’s an often heard cliché that fighters are in the best shape of their lives but as you see Mares just eight days before this fight at the Elite MMA Academy in Santa Fe Springs, well, he does seem to be in that state.
 
“Yeah, he definitely is,” agreed Luis Garcia, who oversees Mares’ strength and conditioning. “I think this camp, you always try to step it up and get better and I always like to talk about how right after every victory that we’ve had, that Abner, even in the locker room, you ask, ‘Can we do more?’” And the answer is, ‘Yes, we can do more; we can get better,’ and he’s owned up to it and just really adopted every principle I’ve taught him and taking it a step further and just worked that much harder.”
 
It’s taken awhile but Garcia now has full buy-in from Mares.
 
“It’s always going to be a process. I mean, I’ve always said you have to make small changes every single camp and you can’t just throw the book at everybody from one day to the next and expect their bodies to react well and their minds to react well. So yeah, it’s been a process of selling him different things and as he’s become a better athlete, overall, his body is able to withstand that much more. So really, the sky’s the limit to what we can do as strength-and-conditioning coaches.”
 
Mares has filled out well as a featherweight and he’s having no problems cutting weight.
 
“It did come at a perfect time. I had been telling him for awhile that staying at 118, even 122, his body could fill out naturally without even having to focus on bulking up like everyone says and just make him a better overall athlete,” explained Garcia. “There’s a lot of times they try to stay too small in size and by doing that, they limit themselves of their nutrients. Their bodies naturally need to recover and go through the load that we need to go through on a daily basis to be in the kind of shape we need to be in.”
 
PRELUDE?
 
So what are the chances of seeing Mares facing Leo Santa Cruz, in a pretty sizable promotion in Los Angeles, in the near future?
 
According to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, “I think that’s definitely a possibility. I think both guys, obviously, have very difficult tasks ahead of them a week from now and so I don’t want to jump to conclusions there. But assuming everything goes well, that’s a fight the fans want to see, the network wants to pay and these guys get properly compensated. I’m certainly on board because unlike other people, I don’t believe in marinating.”
 
(See? I told you Golden Boy and Top Rank aren’t playing nice with each other.)
 
“I think each guy, maybe have one or two title defenses, then towards the end of next year, fight each other. That’s sorta like my plan,” continued Schaefer, adding, “but if the time is right, the money is right and both guys want it, the network and fans want it and it’s the next fight, I don’t have a problem with it either. We just need to see how this whole thing shakes out. But look, there are other talented fighters. I’d like to see an Abner Mares against a Gary Russell, for example. That’s something as well. And then you have [Guillermo] Rigondeaux, who’s making a lot of noise with his being very unhappy with his promoter [Top Rank] and his network and it’s unfortunate that he signed with the wrong promoter.
 
“He was guided by his people to sign with the wrong promoter. Now, they realize it and who knows? Once he’s a free agent, that would be something we could look at as well.”
 
Now, it has to be pointed out, after another Golden Boy-promoted Cuban, Erislandy Lara, defeated Alfredo Angulo back in June, Schaefer wasn’t all that complimentary of he nor his style. But yeah, if Rigondeaux-Top Rank were a marriage, you get the feeling that they would be filing divorce papers right about now or at least sleeping in different rooms.
 
HBO
 
It was an entertaining tripleheader on HBO on Saturday night that saw Sergey Kovalev bludgeon Nathan Cleverly for the WBO light heavyweight title, Kiko Martinez dominate Jonathan Romero) and take the IBF junior featherweight belt) and in the evening’s main event, Darren Barker won a hard-fought, well-contested battle against Danny Geale for the IBF middleweight crown.
 
All in all, it was a good night of action where you saw three titles change hands. And all of them where the “house” fighter was defeated, highly unusual in this day and age.
 
It was a particularly bad night for one Gary Shaw, who represents both Geale and Romero (and from what I’m told, picked these two opponents for them). Earlier this summer, Chad Dawson was knocked out in one by Adonis Stevenson.
 
Shaw will always find ways to promote cards at Indian casinos across the world but the real money is TV packaging at the HBO and Showtime levels.
 
FNF
 
Wasn’t that a great night of entertainment provided by ESPN2 on “Friday Night Fights” from U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago? No, we didn’t see any great fighters, but we saw some really compelling fights and it was a card that had an engaged audience (because the participants were from the local area). You also had two promoters in Frank Mugnolo and Dominic Pesoli, who actually are willing to do their jobs.
 
These two aren’t TV packagers.
 
There’s no doubt about it; Chicago is underrated as a fight city and perhaps underused, nowadays. Here’s hoping that they get more major televised cards in the near future.
 
FINAL FLURRIES
 
 
So it looks like Curtis Stevens will face Gennady Golovkin after all, according to Chris Mannix: http://mma-boxing.si.com/2013/08/17/middleweight-champ-gennady-golovkin-to-defend-title-against-curtis-stevens/... I’m told that the deal is not “done” completely but will be soon...HBO could be doing a tripleheader that night...Juan Diaz looked much better against Adailton DeJesus this past weekend than he did in April against Pipino Cuevas Jr...I’ll say this; Jose Ramirez certainly is an aggressive fighter...Can’t wait to go to the StubHub Center this weekend. That place is magic...Fox Sports Live is, uh, well, interesting; I’ll say that much...Don’t forget that “Golden Boy Live” debut tonight on FoxSports 1...It’s less than two weeks till college football season starts. I’m like Bart Scott...
 

I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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