Rising two-division titlewinner Abner Mares will face perhaps his most difficult task to date when he challenges WBC featherweight titleholder Daniel Ponce de Leon on the May 4 Showtime Pay Per View card headlined by the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
A 27-year-old former bantamweight, Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) will be facing a rugged, hard-punching southpaw in Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 knockouts), a former 122-pound beltholder.
Ponce de Leon won his current title with an eight-round technical decision over Jhonny Gonzalez last September, ending a 12-fight winning streak that included 11 knockouts for Gonzalez, who was dropped in the sixth round.
But Mares is no stranger to difficult matchups, having twice defeated ex-beltholder Joseph Agbeko, earned a decision over former beltholder Vic Darchinyan and battled to a draw with then-beltholder Yonnhy Perez – all over a 20-month span as a bantamweight.
After defeating Agbeko by consecutive majority and unanimous decisions, the latter in December of 2011, Mares rose to 122 pounds for a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Eric Morel in April to earn the WBC’s belt.
In November of last year, Mares scored a unanimous decision over WBA bantamweight titleholder Anselmo Moreno (33-2-1, 12 KOs), who rose in weight to challenge for the junior featherweight belt. Mares dropped the Panamanian in the fifth round and ended his 27-bout winning streak.
Ponce de Leon, 32, has been stopped only once, and that was in the first round by Juan Manuel Lopez as junior featherweights in June of 2008.
Mares spoke to RingTV.com in this Q&A about his upcoming fight with Ponce de Leon below.
RingTV.com: Your general thoughts about Ponce de Leon?
Being that it’s my first fight at featherweight, and I’m going in against a great champion and the fact that he’s a power-puncher.
But all that I can say is that I’m here to please the crowd and I’m here to give the fans what they want to see, and that’s great fights. That’s why I’m taking this big step and I hope that we can steal the show that night, myself and Ponce.
RingTV.com: Your thoughts concerning being on the undercard of a Mayweather card?
AM: The fact that I’m on a big stage? I mean, who wouldn’t want to be on a Mayweather card as the co-main event with Mayweather?
All that I can say is that, God is great, I’m blessed, and I plan to take full advantage of the big screen and make it my night that night.
RingTV.com: Are you going to carry any more or any less power in this weight class?
AM: You know what? That really does not concern me being that I have never been known as much of a power-puncher in my fights.
So with that said, I just plan to go in there and do what I always do in my fights, which is to out-work the other man.
You know, I’m the type of fighter who has always really just out-worked my opponents and really just figured out my opponents and make it my fight that night.
Yes, we are working on power-punching, knowing that we’re going in against a hard puncher, so we know that we’ll have to earn his respect as well.
Whenever we land, I want Ponce to respect my punch as well, so we are working on the power-punching. Again, I’ve grown tremendously. My strength and conditioning coach has done a terrific job in helping me with that.
RingTV.com: Where are you weight-wise right now?
AM: I’m feeling strong, and I’m actually a little bit heavy right now, to be honest, being a month away from the fight.
But that’s normal, being that I’m going into this new weight class. My weight right now is at about 136 or at 137, so I can’t wait.
RingTV.com: Did you gain anything from Ponce De Leon’s performance against Gonzalez?
AM: You know what? Ponce is a tough fighter. Ponce an go in there against a tough fighter and a talented fighter and he’s still going to give the guy a fight.
I’m talking about the Broner fight, when he fought a talented fighter in Broner and he actually did pretty good for himself. A lot of people saw him winning that fight.
The same thing in there with Jhonny Gonzalez. A lot of people thought Gonzalez was going to out-box him and use that reach and counterpunch all night.
But Ponce made it his fight and he smothered Jhonny Gonzalez and frustrated him and got the best of him. That’s how he became a world champion.
So now, it’s my turn. It’s my turn to frustrate the guy and to make it my fight, and I plan to do that that night.
RingTV.com: Will we see more power and will we see a knockout from Mares against Ponce de Leon?
AM: I’m going to go in there and to have fun. I just want to have fun that night because it’s such a big card and a lot of people will be there for Cinco de Mayo weekend. I’m just going to go in there and enjoy myself.
I am a little tired of being in tough, big fights like my last four or five fights have been and just going the distance. But for this one, I’m just going to relax and enjoy myself.
I’m going in there against a power-puncher and I just can’t definitely go in there and be too comfortable. But I do have to have my times in there where I have fun inside the ring and just see what happens.
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com