Abner Mares dropped Daniel Ponce de Leon twice en route to scoring an impressive ninth-round stoppage in the co-featured bout to the Floyd Mayweather-Robert Guerrero event on Saturday in Las Vegas. Mares won the WBC featherweight title.
Mares (26-0-1, 14 knockouts), a former bantamweight and 122-pound titleholder, sent a message to Ponce de Leon by sending his fellow Southern California-based Mexican Olympian to the canvas at the end of the second round. Ponce de Leon (44-5, 35 KOs), a power-punching former 122-pound beltholder, was considered the naturally bigger and stronger fighter going into their anticipated matchup.
However, Mares let his friendly foe know that his power had to be respected. Mares also let the boxing world know that he is a well-rounded boxer-puncher-slugger. The Guadalajara native measured and controlled the distance well throughout the bout, getting in and out of range to land his shots without being clipped by Ponce de Leon, who nevertheless staged a mini-rally in the middle rounds by forging forward behind hard lefts in rounds six, seven and eight.
However, Mares snapped Ponce de Leon’s surge short by dropping the rugged lefty with a short hook midway through the ninth. Ponce de Leon got up but was forced to the ropes where Mares landed seven flush right hands, as well as a few hooks and body shots. Referee Jay Nady saw enough and stopped the fight at 2:20 of the round.
“It was tough when I dropped him both times,” Mares said. ”I felt bad. I wasn’t just fighting any opponent. It’s a friend. The second time especially. I hoped he would just stay down. I dedicate this fight to my dad, who recently had a stroke, and to all of Mexico.
“I was trading punches and had to mix it up. I think I confused him. He only had one game plan. To push, push, push. I want to stick to featherweight. I felt strong and tough at this weight.”
Ponce de Leon admitted that Mares’ power and speed surprised him, but he was unhappy about the stoppage.
“I want a rematch, I need a rematch,” he said. ”The referee stopped the fight too quickly. I was winning rounds. I think that the referee stopped the fight too fast. Abner dropped me but I was very conscious. I don’t want to discredit Mares. He is very fast, but I was winning the fight.”
On the official scorecards, Ponce de Leon was trailing Mares, who landed 40 percent of the total punches and 50 percent of his power shots, according to CompuBox.
Photo / Al Bello-Getty Images