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Abner Mares focused on entertainment, then revenge

Fighters Network
Abner Mares (L) with Arturo Santos Reyes ahead of their fight on March 7, 2015. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

Abner Mares (L) with Arturo Santos Reyes ahead of their fight on March 7, 2015. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.

Abner Mares realizes the pressure he’ll have on his shoulders when he opens up the inaugural “Premiere Boxing Champions” card against Arturo Santos Reyes on March 7. To be seen on NBC in front of a large audience of casual boxing fans who know the names of Mayweather and Pacquiao but struggle to conjure up the names of boxing’s elite, Mares understands that he will set the tempo for the rest of the night. Win or lose, if he’s boring, nobody will watch him again and that runs the risk of people tuning out before the enticing matchups of Keith Thurman vs. Robert Guerrero and Adrien Broner vs. John Molina take place.

“I don’t just want to win,” Mares (28-1-1, 15 knockouts) says over the phone a few days before heading to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for fight week. “I’m more focused on winning the viewers and the crowd at the MGM. It’s going to be hard to top the two headliners but my plan is to look impressive and steal the show.”

Mares makes it clear that he’s more interested in being more like Arturo Gatti where he wins over fans with gutsy performances, regardless of how they turn out. If that means taking a risk that could leave him open to getting hurt, so be it. As long as the viewers are entertained, he’s happy.

“I have that mentality now to go out and give fans a great fight regardless of who is in front of me,” Mares explains. “Even when I lost I made it exciting. It’s all about making fans want to watch you.”

Keenly aware that Reyes (18-4, 5 KOs) is nobody’s definition of a world-beater, Mares explains that he has no desire to carry his opponent through the fight. It’s a mentality that he has been carrying since reuniting with his Southland-based trainer, Clemente Medina, after not seeing much improvement during his time with Virgil Hunter. He admits that he got to the point where he felt unbeatable after stopping Daniel Ponce De Leon in his featherweight debut in 2013 to secure the WBC title. But in his next fight, his dreams turned into a nightmarish reality when he was knocked out in the first round against Jhonny Gonzalez and promptly sent back to the drawing board.


Abner Mares struggles to stand after being knocked down by Jhonny Gonzalez. Photo by Naoki Fukuda.


“I thought I was at my best and when you feel like that you stop pushing yourself to train hard and see little things that you are doing wrong,” Mares says. “Now I always say there is room for improvement. I could care less about being on anyone’s pound-for-pound list.”

After an 11-month layoff and a lackluster performance against Jonathan Oquendo, Mares shifted gears in his next fight and entertained with a fifth-round stoppage of Jose Ramirez last December. His newfound hunger found him pressing manager Al Haymon for a quick turnaround and that landed him on the March “PBC” debut against Reyes. And if everything goes right on March 7, Mares has plans to fight four times this year and already has his sights set on his next opponent.

“After this fight I’m calling out Jhonny Gonzalez and I’m telling Al Haymon that I want that rematch,” the Mexican boasts. With Gonzalez defending his WBC title against Gary Russell Jr. on March 28, Mares is aware that he may not get what he wants when he wants it. But that’s okay with him, he’s up for any challenge against a top-flight fighter. “If I can’t get that fight, I want Leo Santa Cruz or any other top featherweight.”

A Santa Cruz-Mares fight is something that diehard boxing fans have been salivating over for quite some time, and Mares says that he is definitely open to making that fight happen. But rest assured that regardless of what happens when Gonzalez faces Russell, Mares wants his revenge just a little bit more.

“This is personal,” Mares says, shrugging off the notion that he’ll lose interest in the fight if Russell wins. “I’m not so much worried about the title but it’s personal because this guy took down my undefeated record and he did so much to my career. I don’t care if he loses or wins against Russell, I just want to fight him.”


Andreas Hale is a self-proclaimed Swiss army knife of journalism who covers everything from music and film to sports and politics. He has covered combat sports for diehard outlets including Yahoo! Sports, Sherdog, FightNews and others while also writing for mainstream outlets such as Jay Z’s Life+Times, MTV, BET, Vibe, The Source and more. You can follow him at and he would welcome any and all conversations about the sweet science.