Bantamweights Joseph Agbeko, Vic Darchinyan and Yonnhy Perez — ranked 4, 5 and 7 by THE RING — would represent difficult fights for any opponent. During a 15-month span, No. 3-rated Abner Mares faced all three.
In May of last year, Mares (22-0-1, 13 knockouts) battled to a draw with then-unbeaten Perez (20-2-1, 14 KOs) in a failed attempt to earn the IBF belt, and then defeated ex-beltholder Darchinyan (37-3-1, 27 KOs) by a split decision in December, after which Darchinyan complained of low blows.
In August, 25-year-old Southern Californian dethroned Agbeko (28-3, 22 KOs) by unanimous decision in a controversial clash during which referee Russell Mora’s failure to penalize Mares for repeated low blows led to an IBF-ordered rematch.
Mares’ fight with Agbeko included an 11th-round knockdown punch that Mora ruled legal even though replays clearly showed the punch landing on Agbeko’s cup.
The Darchinyan bout featured a knockdown by each fighter, with Mares, a Mexican-born, Montebello, Calif., resident, overcoming bleeding over the left side of his forehead from a first-round clash of heads, as well as being dropped by a hard, straight left in the second round.
Mares’ face was a battered mask of crimson in the end, but he persevered to vanquish the Armenian-born southpaw Darchinyan.
Heading into the highly anticipated Agbeko rematch on Dec. 3 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., RingTV.com questioned Mares during a recent national conference call:
RingTV.com: What do you believe that it says about you that you’ve fought three tough fighters in a row as you have?
Abner Mares: Well, what can I say? I’m truly blessed and I’m honored to have on my record back-to-back great fights against great fighters like Yonnhy Perez, Vic Darchinyan and Joseph Agbeko. Going into the ring again against Agbeko brings me nothing but more experience and it just gives me that much more mentally.
It tells me that being in with these guys means so much and it’s just taken me to a different level once you beat those guys or once you perform. That’s what happened in that last fight with Agbeko.
I think that I learned a lot from that and that I’ll take it into this next fight against him. I can definitely tell you that it’s going to be a totally different fight. God-willing, it will be an easier fight.
RingTV.com: Do you feel as if you have had to grow up, mature and develop on national television with those three fights?
Abner Mares: I think so. The people that really know me that have followed my career since Day One, honestly they can say that I’ve grown and that I’ve learned in every other fight also.
Every fight that comes, I learn, and I show something different. And that’s what makes me exciting and why people want to see me and pay attention to my fights.
That’s why they watch me and want to see me, because they know that Abner’s going to bring something new and something different. That’s me.
I train hard and I train to become a better fighter and I’m always doing new stuff in the gym, because you never can learn too much.
RingTV.com: How much of an adjustment mentally will you have to make as a result of having to be concious of the potential for low blows given your propensity for attacking the body?
AM: It is going to be an issue. I know that there are going to be a lot of eyes open to be looking for any punch that I throw, at least to the body.
Again, I trained, I don’t know if you can say, head-hunting. But again, I will definitley go to the body because I’m a fighter that always goes to the body.
I like to work the body and I like to break the opponent down. It has to do with the way that Abeko fights also. The way that he was pushing me down and the way that he kind of leans down.
But at the end of the day, we’ve adjusted to all of that I think and I don’t think that you will see any of that. We’re going to give a great fight.
At the end of the day it’s going to be a good fight and hopefully, people will go home happy.
RingTV.com: Will it be any sort of a compromise for you to have to be aware of and focused on where you are throwing your punches near the belt-line against Agbeko?
AM: I’m a professional inside of the ring and I’m defninitely going to work the body and try to go for my usual body punches.
But if I see that the referee is being really hard on me or saying that the punches are too low or not where they’re supposed to be, then I’ll stop doing that.
Because I don’t want the referee to take a point away or to become disqualified. So we definitely have that in mind and we’re ready mentally for that. We’ll work on that during the fight.
RingTV.com: Of the last three guys that you’ve fought, is there any one of them that you would say was more difficult than the other?
AM: I’m going to say that Abeko was a little harder to hit because of the way that he kind of pulls down and he hides his head really good. I could say that he’s more of a complete fighter than the last two fighters I fought.
I can’t wait to fight him again, but I think that Agbeko is a more complete fighter than all of the other fighters that I’ve fought.
Photo / Tom Hogan, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo / Tom Casino, Showtime
Photo / Gene Blevins, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org