Winner takes all: Mares is also a fighter who knows when he has a tough task ahead of him. The native of Guadalajara, Mexico, believes Agbeko, who he will face at Nokia Theatre at L.A. LIVE, will present the stiffest challenge of his six-year pro career.
“He’s a tremendous fighter,” Mares said of Agbeko (28-2, 22 KOs), a 30-year-old veteran from Accra, Ghana, who scored a unanimous decision over Darchinyan before his first bout with Perez. “No offense to Vic and Yonnhy, but he’s better than they are. He can box, he can brawl and he can punch. He can do it all so you don’t know what to expect when you fight him.
“All I can do is get into the best shape of my life and prepare for an aggressive fighter and a slick boxer, because he’s both. I won’t watch too much tape on him. I like to figure out my opponents in the ring.”
The fight, which will be televised on Showtime (10:30 p.m. ET/PT), figures to be as entertaining as Mares’ bouts with Perez and Darchinyan, if not more so.
Mares, who grew up in Hawaiian Gardens, Calif., and currently resides in Norwalk, Calif., wants to put on a show for the Southern California fans who will hopefully fill out the 7,000-seat downtown L.A. venue.
“It’s going to be exciting fighting in front of friends from my hometown and my entire family,” Mares said. “There’s no added pressure. I’m going to make it work for me even if the place isn’t filled with my fans.
“Everyone in the crowd was chanting ’Vic, Vic, Vic’ at first when I fought Darchinyan, but towards the end of the fight all you heard was ’Mares, Mares, Mares.’ How the crowd reacts depends on what you bring. Fans know what I bring.”
The consolation match: The bantamweight tournament’s consolation bout between Perez and Darchinyan probably isn’t much consolation for the participants given that Darchinyan believes he beat Mares and Perez was heavily favored to defeat Agbeko again. But it’s a fascinating matchup that should produce fireworks.
The two aggressive fighters possess styles that normally trouble the other. Darchinyan (35-3-1, 27) is a heavy-handed and awkward southpaw who normally likes to bang, but the 35-year-old vet proved that he could employ a effective stick-and-move strategy against Mares during the first half of their bout.
Agbeko basically outclassed Perez (20-1-1, 14 KOs) by utilizing a punch-and-move game plan in their rematch. However, both Agbeko and Mares showed that Darchinyan can be worn down by constant pressure, which happens to be Perez’s bread and butter.
The 32-year-old Colombian, who trains in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., is the definition of a volume-punching pressure fighter. Perez also epitomizes heart and determination with his relentless style.
Nobody knows this more than Mares, who happens to be good friends with Perez.
“You really can’t call Perez-Darchinyan a bout for third place,” he said. “It’s just another great fight for fans to enjoy on April 23.”