It’s safe to call Jhonny Gonzalez a heavy-handed puncher, given that the former titleholder has scored 12 knockouts in his past 14 victories.
That’s a major reason why the 31-year-old Mexican predicts that Saturday night’s fight with THE RING’s No. 5-rated pound-for-pound fighter Abner Mares at The StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. “is going to be a war.”
In his last fight in May, Mares (26-0, 14 knockouts) won his featherweight debut — and his third belt in a third division — with a ninth-round knockout of Daniel Ponce de Leon, which earned him the WBC title.
Ponce de Leon was the last man to defeat Gonzalez (54-8, 46 KOs), who has won two straight fights since losing an eighth-round technical decision to Ponce de Leon last September in a bout that ended his 12-fight winning streak which included 11 knockouts.
“I have fought at StubHub before, so I am very comfortable being at that venue. A lot of fight fans will recognize me from the past fights that I have fought there. On Saturday night my fight with Mares is going to be a war,” said Gonzalez, whose clash with Mares will be the main event on Showtime.
“Mares built his career with hard-earned fights, and he wants to defend his title. I am motivated to claim the title. At this point in my career, I feel that this could be one of my last opportunities to take that title. I invite all fight fans to witness what will be a battle for the ages. Abner Mares is youthful and strong, but I have experience and will come well prepared with my own arsenal of weapons.”
A 27-year-old Mexican-born American, Mares is entering his sixth consecutive title fight, with his past seven wins coming against top opponents over three divisions — bantamweight, junior featherwieght and featherwieght.
Mares twice defeated ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko (the first bout earning him the IBF 118-pound title), earned a split decision over two-division champ Vic Darchinyan and battled to a draw with then-titleholder Yonnhy Perez — all over a 20-month span as a bantamweight — before moving up to junior featherweight, where he outpointed Eric Morel for the vacant WBC 122-pound title last April.
Last November, Mares scored a fifth-round knockdown en route to a unanimous decision over WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno.
“I’ve got a hard fight ahead of me. Jhonny Gonzalez is a tremendous fighter, tough, and very skilled. But I’m here to fight. Jhonny may well be thinking that this is his last shot in a big fight,” said Mares.
“So I know he’ll be bringing his ‘A’ game, which is why I know I need to bring my ‘A-plus’ game on Saturday. I always train like a contender anyway. When I’m getting ready for a fight, I don’t think of myself as a champion. I don’t want to lose my edge, my hunger. There’s no way I will ever become complacent.”
RingTV.com sought the opinions of 17 boxing insiders as to who will win the WBC featherwieght title bout.
Abner Mares TKO 10 Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares can provide further evidence that he belongs among the top five in the pound-for-pound debate with a definitive victory over Jhonny Gonzalez.
It won’t be easy. Gonzalez is tough. He’s a survivor. But the resourceful Mares figures to stop him late. The clever Mares finds a way and it’s way to keep him in the debate for a while.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Cleverly UD 12 Kovalev]
Abner Mares TKO8 Jhonny Gonzalez: Over the past few years, Abner Mares has demonstrated a very impressive ability to adapt to and defeat whatever style is thrown at him, boxers and sluggers alike. His status as an elite Pound-for-Pound fighter is well earned.
Jhonny Gonzalez is a well balanced fighter with a tendency towards slugging so I don’t suspect that he will be able to show Mares anything that the defending WBC featherweight champion hasn’t already seen before in the ring.
Advancing age and the wear and tear of battle are not characteristics one should bring to a fight against a prime young pugilist like Mares who I am picking to win by TKO in eight predominantly one-sided rounds.
Record: 8-7 [Cleverly SD 12 Kovalev]
Abner Mares TKO 8 Jhonny Gonzalez: For me this should be a relatively smooth appointment for Abner Mares as he closes in on super fights. Jhonny Gonzalez, despite being a former champion, has never matched up well against the very best and that is precisely what he will be facing in Carson on Saturday.
Daniel Ponce De Leon was having his way with Gonzalez prior to winning a technical decision, whereas Mares all but stood De Leon on his head. Boxing doesn’t always work like that, but I expect Mares to win this one inside schedule. He is simply too fresh and too talented.
Record: 3-2 [Cleverly UD 12 Kovalev]
Abner Mares KO 9 Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares showed against Daniel Ponce de Leon that his style has multiple layers and that will stand him in good stead against Jhonny Gonzalez, who uses a much more orthodox, polished approach.
I do think, however, that age and wear are starting to tell on Gonzalez because he was dropped in the third round against the 21-12-2 Eusebio Osejo, who came into the bout losing three of his last four.
Because of that, I think Mares would be wise to bring back his aggressive, high-output attack to wear out the older, more experienced fighter. While Gonzalez has the smarts to last the distance, this one will probably end inside the distance.
Record: 8-5 [Cleverly W 12 Kovalev]
Abner Mares TKO 6 Jhonny Gonzalez: A younger, fresher, better Abner Mares simply will be too much for Jhonny Gonzalez. He’ll hammer Gonzalez up top and to the body, before stopping him.
Gonzalez, a former two-division champion from Mexico, has a huge heart and he’ll come to fight. But when you consider how each fighter fared against Daniel Ponce De Leon over the past year, it’s tough to fathom Gonzalez winning this fight.
Record: 7-2 [Kovalev TKO 5 Cleverly]
Abner Mares TKO 8 Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares showed that his power has carried over from junior featherweight with the way he dismantled Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Jhonny Gonzalez is an able boxer or slugger, but I think his aggression will work against him this time. On the inside, I foresee Mares being more accurate and scoring an eventual stoppage.
Record: 7-5 [Golovkinn UD 12 Macklin]
Abner Mares KO 5 Jhonny Gonzales: Classic case of a fighter beginning to reach his peak, Abenr Mares, against a fighter whose peak is years behind him, Jhonny Gonzalez. I really don’t think this fight will be too competitive past a couple of rounds.
Gonzalez still does have something left in the tank, but not enough to beat Mares. By the third round, Abner will be in charge, and will break down Jhonny. I don’t think it goes past five.
Record: 10-4 [Kovalev KO 6 Cleverly]
Abner Mares W 12 Jhonny Gonzalez: Interesting. Jhonny Gonzalez has experience and skills. However, Abner Mares is in a groove, looking sharp and in sync — same thing I guess? Gonzaez just will not have the pop to get make Mares hesitate.
Record: 7-5 [Kovalev KO 4 Cleverly]
Abner Mares TKO 8 Jhonny Gonzalez: I Like Abner Mares. Jhonny Gonzalez is a warrior. Over his career, he’s been in numerous wars and yet he is somehow still a top name at 126 in his early thirties. Mares is coming off an impressive KO of Daniel Ponce de Leon, who Gonzalez was unlucky to lose his belt to via technical decision.
While Mares-Ponce De Leon was entertaining, expect more sustained action between Mares and Gonzalez. Gonzalez will come to fight and doesn’t possess the awkward style of Ponce De Leon, which will result in less clashing of heads or tangle ups.
Gonzalez is a big puncher who could test Mares’ chin, but the numerous wars have added up and Mares should be able to get Jhonny out of there by the middle rounds. Gonzalez will go out on his shield.
Record: 6-0 [Kovalev late-round KO Cleverly]
Abner Mares TKO 11 Jhonny Gonzales: Abner Mares will be too young and too fast for the heavy-handed Jhonny Gonzales. Mares will work on the inside and bang to the body and head. He’ll use his defense to smother his bigger opponent.
Gonzales, with 46 knockouts on his resume, can crack. Mares proved in his last fight against Daniel Ponce de Leon that his chin is solid.
Mares will absorb some bone-rattling shots in the early going. By the middle rounds, his work rate will begin to tire Gonzales. I see him punctuating his performance by stopping the former champion.
Abner Mares mid-rounds KO Jhonny Gonzalez: Jhonny Gonzalez obviously has the proverbial puncher’s chance in this fight. But he doesn’t have much more. I expect a competitive few rounds.
But Abner Mares, barring any crazy moves that leave his chin exposed, should be quick enough and young enough to figure out how to break down his opponent. Let’s say Mares by mid-rounds stoppage.
Record: 10-5 [Kovalev mid-round KO Cleverly]
Abner Mares late-round TKO Jhonny Gonzalez: I like Abner Mares to grind out a late TKO in a tougher-than expected fight.
I think Jhonny Gonzalez knows this may be one of his last chances, and I feel he’ll be ready. But Mares is just on a roll right now and I think he’s filled out well into 126 pounds.
Record: 10-3 [Kovalev mid-rounds KO Cleverly]
Abner Mares KO Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares is hot right now, and has done nothing but improve with each fight.
His power has improved as he moves up as well. Jhonny Gonzalez has been stopped before to the body. It may happen again Saturday.
Record: 10-5 [Kovalev KO Cleverly]
Abner Mares KO 9 Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares is a hot fighter right now and I think Jhonny Gonzalez is a little shopworn at this stage of his career, in my opinion.
Mares has too much power, too much ability and sees a great light ahead with serious-money fights in his future.
Record: 13-3 [Kovalev KO 9 Cleverly]
Abner Mares KO 10 Jhonny Gonzalez: I’m going with Abner Mares by late round stoppage, say around the 10h. Mares is physically strong, younger and has a lot more left in the tank than does Jhonny Gonzalez, who has been in a few too many wars for me to give him the edge.
That said, it wouldn’t shock me if the technically-sound Gonzalez is able to get out in front early on, just as he did in the Israel Vazquez fight, only to be worn down late.
Record: 5-2 [Kovalev KO 10 Cleverly]
Abner Mares TKO 9 Jhonny Gonzalez: Abner Mares is one of boxing’s brightest stars who will fight anyone in, or around his weight class. He proved in his last fight, a dismantling of Daniel Pone De Leon, that the featherweight division is where he belongs going forward.
Jhonny Gonzalez lost a decision to Ponce De Leon but is a tough crafty veteran with some punching power that Mares can’t take lightly.
However, Gonzalez has never beaten anyone on Mares’ level and at 31 he is a shop worn fighter. Mares will be much fresher and I look for him to get off the canvas to score a knockout win.
Record: 4-0 [Thurman KO 4 Chaves]
Abner Mares KO 10 Jhonny Gonzalez: While you can never discount Jhonny Gonzalez, who is a devastating puncher, Abner Mares is a much more rounded fighter.
Mares has come into his own in the last two fights, winning a wide decision over awkward Anselmo Moreno at 122 before stepping up to 126 to stun Daniel Ponce De Leon.
Mares has been in with several tough guys since he won the IBF Bantamweight title and is now battle hardened. I expect Mares to be weary of Gonzalez power early, picking his fellow Mexican off, slowly building, using his speed and skills, before getting a stoppage in around 10 rounds.
Record: 3-2 [Cleverly W 12 Kovalev]
By a shutout, 17-0 shutout, the experts pick Abner Mares to successfully defend his WBC featherweight belt against Jhonny Gonzalez.
[Note: Martinez-Burgos was a draw, meaning all who selected otherwise received a loss]
Photos by Gene Blevins, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]