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,
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
“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.”
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.”
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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...