5’4½” with a 66” reach and a résumé including three titles in two
divisions and the likes of Vic Darchinyan, Yonnhy Perez and Joseph
Agbeko, 26-year-old WBC super bantamweight champion Abner Mares is on
the edge of ultra-elite status. Having won the Showtime bantamweight
tournament, the next logical step (besides maybe taking a ton of easy
defenses) was a securing a key win that would push him from a top-shelf
fighter to universally-recognized greatness. 122 pounds appears the
place to be for the Guadalajara native who fights out of L.A.’s Hawaiian
Gardens, where he was raised.
caught up with Mares on the eve of the promotional tour for his
November 10 showdown with defensive specialist Anselmo Moreno live on
Showtime from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Mares, heading into
his third week of sparring, had just finished training for the day and
reflected on the homecoming bout.
“This fight has been moved around a couple times from October 13 to the 27th and now finally November 10. We are on our second week of sparring. I
am feeling good,” Mares told Maxboxing.com. “Obviously we are not going
as many rounds right now. Feeling good, feeling good. We are just
looking to execute our game plan.”
Mares won the bantamweight tournament against Joseph Agbeko in a
decisive rematch of their controversial first fight, it was the same
night as Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II. Consequently, the win might
have been overshadowed just a hair. While November 10 does feature an
HBO fight card between Vanes Martirosyan and Erislandy Lara, hardcore
fans are anticipating this one with bated breath. Mares gets to headline
Staples Center in the heart of downtown. For a Mexican fighter who grew
up in L.A., that’s a dream come true right there.
last time I fought here at the Honda Center [in Anaheim, CA. against
Agbeko], it was great seeing family members, friends. For this fight,
it’s going to be even greater at the Staples Center. I am really
excited,” said Mares. “More people are talking about me and this fight.
This is a fight that boxing fans were asking for. I am looking forward
to this and fighting in front of that crowd.”
Anselmo Moreno, Mares could not be picking a tougher fighter as a first
defense. As Mares put it later in our conversation, this is a fight
fan’s fight. At 5’6½” with a 69½” reach, Moreno, a southpaw out of
Panama, is a bit of style nightmare. On top of his superior physical
dimensions and odd lefty style, he is defensively gifted. Moreno can
stay in the pocket much the way Pernell Whitaker could and make you miss
by inches. While not exactly an offensive juggernaut with just 12
knockouts against 33 wins, one loss and a draw, Moreno is the definition
of “make you miss and make you pay.”
So how does one prepare for that?
we find sparring that can replicate somewhat [Moreno]’s style, the way
he moves, the kind of punches he throws and work from there,” explained
Mares. “My coaches have the game plan. I am really looking forward to
this fight. Like you said, he has a really unique boxing style. He is a
really good boxer. He is a technical fighter but, at the same time, he
can stand there and trade punches. It’s interesting that we are getting
ready for a technical, really great fighter. I go with excitement for
each fight that I have.”
I asked what makes Moreno unique in Mares’ eyes.
thing, he doesn’t throw that much and he makes you miss a lot,” he
answered. “I mean, he is a guy that just waits for you to make a mistake
and then he counters. He is not a fast fighter either. He is pretty
slow actually but when he throws back, he hits you right where he wants
to hit you. And again, like you said, he does fight like Pernell
Whitaker. There are similarities. He is a great fighter. He is a really
technical fighter. I am looking forward to fighting any style and
somehow managing to overcome whatever he is bringing in.”
so few knockouts, you’d think opponents would just walk through the
finesse style of Moreno using sheer aggression. Or considering Moreno’s
low offensive output, if one were simply steady in his offense, the
judges might just award him the win on volume.
yeah, yeah, but at the same time, he is not someone I am comfortable
with just going in.” Mares countered. “You can’t just move forward with
this guy. This guy makes you pay. You lunge in and then you miss. So
you’ve got to be careful when you go in and try to go for the body. He
doesn’t throw a lot of heat but really picks his punches. Anselmo Moreno
- and I am not going to say what it is but I feel we have the perfect
game plan for this guy. Come November 10, we are going to work it.”
there is anything to worry about with Moreno, it’s not his punching
power. It’s his ability to make you miss all night while scoring on you
at will. I brought up the idea that a fighter could miss all night and
be tired in the back end of the fight vs. worrying about missing and
walking into a brutal KO punch. Was that a concern?
concern more than anything…now that you mention it, you’re making me
think of something to be worried about. But really, I am not at all. I
never think, ‘What if?’ You have to be ready for anything but you can’t
walk in there with a ‘What if.’ No, no, no. You have to walk in there
with, “Yes, this going to be a tough fight. Yes, this guy is a good
fighter but I know I can beat him.’ You can’t win all of your fights
just for being good. That’s one thing. He is good. He is in great
condition but he has never faced an Abner Mares. So I am just going in
there to get him out of his game plan, make it an ugly fight if I have
to, get that ‘W’ and keep on going forward.”
has faced some of the toughest bantamweights in the world over the past
two years. Beyond their toughness, they showed a variety of styles. In
particular, one of them was a southpaw named Vic Darchinyan. Mares has
only faced one other southpaw in his pro career (Diosdado Gabi, TKO 2)
though many in the amateurs. While Moreno is also a lefty, the way he
uses his stance is completely different from any lefty Mares has faced.
However, there is one tactic that might work with Moreno.
normally [Darchinyan] is the bully but when I fought him, I was trying
to be the bully against him. It kind of worked because I pushed and made
him pull back,” said Mares who was clearly still mentally in the ring. I
could hear him thinking of tactics as we talked.
know, it made him really uncomfortable. That’s one of the things that I
am going to do against [Moreno] is make him feel uncomfortable. If I
have to, I will make it an ugly fight,” Mares laughed, “as long as I get
Mares brings to bear in this fight, besides a solid all-around skill
set that can go from brawling to boxing, is experience. He has been in
with the top men in his former division. He came to super bantamweight
and promptly beat a former champ in Eric Morel to secure a vacant belt
at 122 pounds. If Moreno is the style problem, Mares’ experience should
be able to carry him through the rough patches.
much everything out there from the amateurs to now, fighting
ex-champions and current champions, [has prepared me for this].
Obviously I am bringing in the experience but at the same time, I am
just excited that I am going in against this great talented fighter with
a difficult style. That’s what fills me up, knowing that I can beat
this guy. I know I can. Just figuring out his style and his own game, I
am just looking forward to this fight,” said Mares.
valuable facet of Mares’ game is its aforementioned diversity. He has
no problem changing tactics when something is not working.
you mentioned, we definitely have Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. We don’t
know if it’s going to work and if it doesn’t, we have to switch it,”
Mares said simply. “That’s one of the things that people know about me
is that I can change from one bout to the next, one round to the next
round. So definitely we will be changing things up November 10.”
thing Mares and trainer Clemente Medina do is change out sparring for
each fight. Mares and his team don’t want him becoming familiar with his
sparring partners thus complacent. As for the game plan, how it
develops depends on the camp.
depends on the camp. I am not the type of guy that looks at tape. I let
my coaches do that,” Mares explained. “They tell me what he does and
what he throws and how does he defend. And they bring the sparring
partners and tell them, ‘Hey, these are the punches he throws, what he
likes,’ and so on and so on. I just go in and spar and if I am doing
well in the sparring, then I definitely think we are getting somewhere.
Our sparring partners are really good. I feel really comfortable.”
And adjusting to the southpaw style, complete with its odd footing and potential for headbutts?
thought I would be uncomfortable fighting a southpaw again. It’s always
difficult fighting a southpaw to begin with but I am feeling
comfortable,” said Mares. “But again, it is my third week sparring. I
sparred six rounds. I felt good. I felt strong. If we stick to our game
plan, we’ll be OK.”
is most everything. The rest is confidence with a dash of luck. Thus
far, Mares has had all of the above. Moreno is enough of a problem that
on November 10, Mares has his biggest chance yet to go from being a top
fighter to a class higher.
am going to be ready like always,” said Mares. “I am ready to win.
That’s all I can say. Ready to win and keep on fighting these toughs
fights facing great fighters. Just keep on moving forward.”