In less than three years, Abner Mares has ascended from title challenger to three-division beltwinner who is currently THE RING’s No. 5-rated pound-for-pound fighter.
The 27-year-old Mexican-born California resident has won major titles in the bantamweight, junior featherwieght and featherwieght classes over the span of 21 months.
On Saturday, Mares (26-0-1, 14 knockouts) will face ex-beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez (54-8, 46 KOs) in the first defense of the WBC crown he won in his 126-pound debut with a ninth-round knockout of Daniel Ponce de Leon.
But just like in boxing, Mares, in life, has not always been on top.
Mares was born into poverty in Mexico prior to his family’s moving America when he was 7. By the age of 15, Mares already had been a gang member and found himself sleeping on floors before being sent by his parents to pursue a spot on the Mexican Olympic boxing team.
“My life has changed tremendously. There’s been hard times,” said Mares, who represented Mexico in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Greece.
“Eating out of trash cans, having nothing, sleeping on the floor. My parents never owned a home, and it was just apartment to apartment, and living in, like, a two-bedroom for 11 brothers and sisters. You know, that’s a lot.”
A married father of two young daughters, Mares said, “Once you become champion, you just want more,” adding, “My work has given me enough to upgrade to good things for my family.”
“People know me now, and you tend to forget where you come from. You’re just like, ‘this is the life. I’ve been missing out,'” said Mares in the video.
“I’m throwing money away. And then, you have that moment where you just go, ‘Hold on, Abner. This is not you. You started from nothing. Eating out of trash cans. Having nothing. It’s not you. Go back to you.’ That’s why I have my beautiful family.”
In terms of his boxing skills, Mares will look to return to his roots against Gonzalez, doing whatever it takes to break his man down.
“So, Emily (Mares’ daughter),” asks Mares at the end of the video, “do you still get scared when I fight?”
“I don’t want you to get hurt,” she responds.
“Exactly. You still don’t want me to get hurt, right,” says Mares, with a high-five. “That’s why I always win.”
LEO SANTA CRUZ ‘RELAXED AND FOCUSED’ WITH BROTHER ROBERTO IN HIS CORNER
When former IBF bantamweight titleholder Leo Santa Cruz (24-0, 14 KOs) enters the ring against WBC junior featherweight titleholder Victor Terrazas (37-2-1, 21 KOs) on the Mares-Gonzalez card, he will do so with his brother, Roberto, in his corner.
Roberto has suffered from the potentially life-threatening disease, lupus, but has been doing better, according to Santa Cruz, who once shared his thoughts about both his family in a Showtime-produced video.
During a recent conference call, Santa Cruz spoke about Roberto again.
“He’s really good. Right now he is already gaining weight. He’s been around. He’s in the gym with me. He helps me out, give me water and things, like gloves and stuff like that. He’s doing really good. Before, when I used to come train for my other fights, he always used to stay home because his body was hurting. I was thinking maybe he was going to have to go to the hospital,” said Santa Cruz.
“He went to the hospital and then he came back, and then in a couple days, he had to go back to the hospital. So that really made me worry, and I was not concentrating so much on the fight or on training. But now that I know that he’s right here, and his body doesn’t hurt or he doesn’t have something wrong with him it gives me more confidence. I am able to concentrate here in the gym. I am more relaxed and focused.”
MARES 125.5, GONZALEZ 125; SANTA CRUZ 121.75; TERRAZAS 121.
On Friday, Mares weighed 125.5 pounds compared to 125 for Gonzalez. Santa Cruz was 121.75 pounds to 121 for Terrazas.
KID GALAHAD: ‘I’M GOING TO BE A THREE-WEIGHT WORLD CHAMPION, I PROMISE YOU THAT’
British junior featherweight Kid Galahad (14-0, 7 KOs), a 23-year-old resident of Sheffield, England, will be after his fourth straight stoppage victory against English rival James Dickens (16-0, 5 KOs) on Sept. 14.
Born Abdul Barry Awad in Qatar, Galahad moved with his parents to England when he was 3. As a teenager, Galahad said that he met one of his childhood inspirations, Prince Naseem Hamed.
“When I was a kid, we used to watch all of Prince Naseem’s fights. When I was maybe 13, I met Naseem, and he said that I should go to see his original trainer,” said Galahad, who also admires Floyd Mayweather Jr., Michael Nunn, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and Pernell Whitaker.
“Naseem said, ‘If you want to be a world champion, then you need to go to Brendan Ingle’s gym.’ So I ran home, and I told my mum. I said, ‘Mum, I’m starting boxing.’ When I got to that gym, I just knew that boxing was going to be the way that I would make my living.”
Galahad has a keen interest in the Mares-Gonzalez and Santa Cruz-Terrazas fights.
“I think Mares beats Jhonny Gonzalez by maybe a late stoppage. I’d say, maybe between eight and 10,” said Galahad.
“Leo Santa Cruz is a good fighter, but Terrazas is a tough fight to call. I think that Terrazas could take it, but I’ll take Santa Cruz by stoppage, say, round 10.”
If he gets his way, Galahad could land in the ring with either Terrazas, Santa Cruz, Gonzalez or Mares down the road.
“Let me tell you something, I’m going to be a three-weight world champion, and I can promise you that,” said Galahad. “Hopefully, I’ll be fighting for a world title within the next 18 months to a year. I’m going to clean up everything.”
GARY RUSSELL JR. WELCOMES NEWEST BABY DAUGHTER
Russell’s wife, Sapphire Russell, gave birth to their third child, Harmonee Mariah Russell, at 7:19 a.m. on Aug. 13. The family also includes Sacred, 4, and Gianna, 1.
“Being a great father is the most important thing in my life,” said Russell, in a statement. “Sapphire and I look forward to seeing Harmonee grow up with her big sisters. I guess that I’m just meant to be surrounded by beautiful women.”
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo courtesy of Hennessy Sports
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com