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Mares Continues His March

(Photo © Steve Kim)
(Photo © Steve Kim)

In what is a gem of a little prizefight at the Staples Center on Saturday night (Showtime 10 p.m., ET), WBC super bantamweight titlist Abner Mares takes on former bantamweight beltholder Anselmo Moreno in a match-up between two of the most skilled and highly decorated fighters in the lower weight classes. While Top Rank has held off on making a bout between Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux for now, Golden Boy had no qualms about making this fight.
Moreno is the kind of slick boxer most try and stay away from yet one thing Mares has consistently done is take on the best in his division. Yeah, it’s the “Filipino Flash” who’s got the name brand appeal but look at their résumés at 118 - it was Mares who had a better run as a bantamweight (winning the Showtime four-man tournament, besting the likes of Vic Darchinyan and Joseph Agbeko in the process).

And after capturing the vacant WBC 122-pound title by outpointing the faded Eric Morel in April, Moreno gets right back into the thick of things by facing “Chemito.” When this fight was brought to the table, Mares didn’t hesitate “because I knew I’m going to get better. I’m just going to become a better fighter facing these types of opponents. I can’t just pick my opponents and get the most comfortable fighters for my style,” he explained of his eagerness to take on all challengers. “I can’t; I’m obligated to face the best. I’m champion. It’s my duty as a champion to fight the best and, again, fans have been asking for this fight and it’s only right we give them this fight.”
His manager, Frank Espinoza, explained, “Listen, Abner only wants to fight the best and he didn’t hesitate to take this fight. I felt very confident as well in his ability. He’s very confident. We’re looking forward to fighting Moreno.”
Throughout this camp, where they have sparred a countless amount of rounds versus various left-handers, Mares has worked tirelessly to perfect the craft of fighting them. This means keeping his front foot on the outside of his opponent, shading over to his left and cutting off the ring.
The key is to be mindful of these tactics but to not overthink. It’s a fine line.
“I think it becomes an instinct after you practice it for so long and so much. We started really soon, this camp. We started sparring really soon being that it’s a difficult style. It’s different. Anselmo Moreno’s got a unique style; it’s a really awkward style and definitely the sparring partners, as you saw today, are really similar to Moreno’s style. Definitely it becomes an instinct and also it’s a thinking game in there.”
Moreno is very reminiscent of Pernell Whitaker. “I definitely agree with that,” said Mares, a couple of weeks ago after his days work at the MMA Elite Academy in Santa Fe Springs. “I agree with that to some extent but obviously every fighter’s their own fighter and, again, he’s a good fighter and I’m ready to fight this guy.”
The crafty Panamanian is an elusive target, one who seemingly disappears right in front of you. But what you might lack in accuracy in hitting him, you make up for it with sheer volume. If you can’t land on his face or body, just keep touching him on the arms, shoulders and elbows, anything. Just keep chipping away and apply steady pressure. Mares agrees, telling Maxboxing, “That’s definitely the key, the plan, but again, you never know. It might be a totally different fight once we get in that ring. Again, that is the plan, to pressure this guy, not give him the time to think because this guy is a thinking guy, a thinking boxer. I just gotta make it my fight.”
And no matter what, don’t get frustrated with the inability to corral Moreno early.
“No doubt, that’s the key, right there, not to get frustrated,” said Mares, who knows he has 36 minutes to work with. “I’ve noticed that most of his opponents fall into the frustration where they get frustrated and they just start throwing punches without no sense. Definitely, that’s the key. Don’t get frustrated; wait. It’s 12 rounds of boxing and my time and my moment will come in those rounds.”
Regardless, Moreno is one of the most difficult equations to solve in boxing. Will Mares be the first guy to decipher him?

“Mares has a lot of experience in his career of boxing. In the amateurs, he fought so many lefties the last two years; he fought Darchinyan. So he has experience. For this preparation, he’s looking good with the sparring partners,” said his trainer, Clemente Medina, who says of their foe, “He’s a pretty good fighter but I think Mares is a much better fighter. He’s got a lot of heart and the fights in California, his hometown.”
There’s no doubt this is a difficult assignment. But for Mares, it’s part of the reason why he feels he’s going to win it. Tough fights are par for the course. When he was asked if his experience with Darchinyan would be a factor in this fight, he answered, “Not only the Darchinyan fight but also every other fight. Just for the fact obviously, they’re not southpaws; they’re right-handed, the other guys that I faced. But I mean, overall, just every single fight that I’ve had got me the experience that I have right now.”
If there is a fight boxing fans would like to see in the super bantamweight class, it would be Mares versus Donaire. Of course, the problem is Mares is promoted by Golden Boy and Donaire is with Top Rank, making this discussion a non-starter for now. And it frustrates Mares to no end.
“I can’t lie; this is my sport. I love it. But at the same time, it’s a business. It’s a business; I provide for my family with this job and, again, the fight I’ve been waiting for has not yet come because of the politics between Golden Boy and Top Rank and it’s not right,” he said. “It’s not right for us as fighters. We fall victim to their thing and it’s sad. It comes to frustration on my side but, again, I got this tough fight ahead of me and I took it with my arms open and just move on. Hopefully we win this fight and keep on moving forward.”
Espinoza says that should Mares down Moreno (which is certainly no guarantee), “We don’t want any other fight. He’s proven everything he’s had to prove and the only fight we want, the fans want, everybody else wants is just Donaire.”
No, ifs, ands or buts about it.
“This is the time. Like I said, we fought everybody; we only want to fight the best and Donaire is the best,” said Espinoza. “It’s the only fight we’d be looking at. It’s the only fight we’d want.”
I guess it’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t, when it comes to the sanctioning bodies. I hear a lot of complaining (and some flat-out whining) about the WBA stripping Daniel Geale of its middleweight title thus elevating Gennady Golovkin as its full champion. Last I checked, the WBA made it very clear going in that the winner of the fight between Geale and Felix Sturm would have to face Golovkin next or risk losing his title.
Well, after Geale (who also held the IBF title) defeated Sturm, he decided to embark on a fight against Anthony Mundine in a highly anticipated rematch in Australia. Certainly no one can blame him for making this decision. That event is a big one Down Under and will make him more money than a fight with Golovkin would right now. But Geale knew going in that making this choice would lead to him losing his WBA strap. And while he says it’s not fair that he’s being punished for Sturm not having fulfilled his mandatory obligation for a few years, how fair would it be for Golovkin - who’s had a version of the WBA middleweight title since 2010 - to wait even longer for his shot?
Again, if Geale wanted to keep the WBA belt, he could have faced Golovkin next. He decided not to, which is certainly his prerogative. There’s no reason they can’t fight later on. Geale made a business decision but that came at a price - the WBA title.
It’s funny; when sanctioning bodies don’t follow their own rules and regulations (which is often) they get excoriated, rightfully. And when they do, it seems if it doesn’t benefit their fighters or self-interests, well, they get ripped to shreds by those same people.
I guess titles don’t matter of course, only when they do. And sanctioning bodies should always follow their own rules. Of course, only when they shouldn’t.
I’m not sure how well Mares-Moreno (which also includes IBF bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz and the return of Alfredo Angulo) will do at the box-office at the Staples Center. I get the sense this was a card that would’ve fit better at the Home Depot Center but the main event is one hardcore boxing fans are looking forward to, nonetheless. Here’s the ticket info (and again, this being a Golden Boy event, beware of late giveaways and discounts. So buy at your own risk):
Tickets priced at $200, $100, $50 and $25, not including applicable service charges and taxes, are on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets, online at, by phone at (800) 745-3000 and at the STAPLES Center Box Office.
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