Abner Mares: ‘I’m going to become world champion again’
Abner Mares is 16 months and a victory away from his only career setback.
But the three-division titlewinner still hears from his fans about the shocking first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez that dethroned him as WBC featherweight titleholder.
“It’s a tough crowd out there, I’ll tell you that much. It’s a tough crowd and a tough fan base to keep happy,” said Mares, who was floored twice by Gonzalez in August 2013.
“I think that the fans are a little bit upset because I got knocked out in the loss and because I didn’t get the rematch, but that rematch will come again in time. That’s all that I have to say.”
Mares (27-1-1, 14 knockouts) will return to action against Jose Ramirez (24-3-2, 15 KOs) on Dec. 13 at The MGM Grand in Las Vegas as part of a Showtime-televised quadrupleheader headlined by former titleholders Amir Khan and Devon Alexander in a welterweight bout.
The event will include Keith Thurman opposite Leonard Bundu in a 147-pound clash of unbeatens, as well as junior middleweight Jermall Charlo, the 24-year-old twin of 154-pounder Jermell Charlo, against Italy’s Lenny Bottai.
“At first, I was disappointed in myself [after losing to Gonzalez], very discouraged. I really wanted the rematch and it was going to happen in February, but then I got injured. Now I’m back,” said Mares.
“I just turned 29 this past Friday. I’m blessed, healthy and hungry. ‘Hungry’ is the key word for me. I’m hungry to become a world champion again and to get back to where I was.”
Mares was THE RING’s No. 5-rated pound-for-pound fighter entering the bout with Gonzalez.
In his last fight, in May, Mares fought under trainer Virgil Hunter, sustaining a cut over his left eye en route to a unanimous-decision win over rugged Jonathan Oquendo on the undercard of Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara.
“I think I grew mentally as a person with my time off … I really needed this time away. Things happen for a reason,” said Mares. “I needed more time to spend with my kids and my family. If it wasn’t for the free time I wouldn’t have built my own gym.”
Since the Oquendo fight, Mares has returned to to longtime trainer Clemente Medina, calling his decision “more about comfort than anything.”
“I’ve been working with Mares for almost two months since he started with me again after leaving Virgil Hunter. Mares is a wonderful fighter, I don’t have to change anything. The reason he came back to me is because he knows my style, and my style is similar to Mares. He and I together are a very good team,” said Medina.
“I wasn’t surprised when he came back to me, because before he left, he told me that he wanted to try to learn something different. I wasn’t happy, but I understood. He needed to learn something different from someone else. I told him that if he wants to come back to train with me, the door is always open.”
Mares has twice beaten ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko, earned a decision over former titlist Vic Darchinyan and battled to a draw with then-titleholder Yonnhy Perez, with all four fights coming within a 20-month span as a bantamweight.
“No one knew about me when I entered the Showtime bantamweight tournament,” said Mares. “Then I won that and no one expected it. I’ve won many fights that people didn’t expect me to win.”
After defeating Agbeko by consecutive majority and unanimous decisions, the latter in December 2011, Mares rose to 122 pounds for a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Eric Morel for the vacant WBC belt in April 2012.
In November 2012, Mares scored a unanimous decision over WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno, who rose in weight to challenge him. Mares dropped the Panamanian in the fifth round and ended his 27-bout winning streak.
“It’s not that I just want to become world champion again, I’m going to,” said Mares. “I’m going to let my actions speak louder than my words. I’ve been in this situation before.”
Ramirez, 27, is 5-4 with two knockouts over the course of his past nine fights, and was last in the ring for a fourth-round stoppage loss to Vasyl Lomachenko in October 2013.
Should he get beyond Ramirez, Mares has said that he is looking forward to a potential 2015 bout against two-division titlewinner Leo Santa Cruz (28-0-1, 16 KOs), who, like Mares, has been promoted by Golden Boy and is advised by Al Haymon.
In his last fight, Santa Cruz dropped and stopped Manuel Roman in the second round to defend his WBC junior featherweight belt on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s rematch against Marcos Maidana.
Mares-Santa Cruz is a fight that Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya wants to see happen. But as bad as Mares wants Santa Cruz, he insists that he is not looking beyond Ramirez, for now.
“That’s not difficult at all, because there is no paper signed,” said Mares. “So my concentration and my focus are on Jose Ramirez, and no one else. If the fight were to happen later on in the next year, then, well, let’s do it. But right now my focus is on Jose Ramirez, and no one else.”