Jhonny Gonzalez: Gonzalez didn’t do anything against Abner Mares on Saturday that we haven’t seen before. The Mexican veteran has 47 knockouts in 63 fights, evidence that he’s one of the biggest punchers in the sport. He just never did it on such a big stage. Gonzalez (55-8, 47 knockouts) essentially ended matters with a perfect left hook, one from which Mares, the then-WBC featherweight champ, couldn’t recover. Gonzalez thus won his second major title in 2 minutes and 55 seconds and made an enormous statement before a large TV audience, which should put him position to earn bigger money than he has seen in the past. And it’s about time. Gonzalez has been on a nice run the past four years, going 15-1 (with 13 KOs) since he was stopped by Toshiaki Nishioka in 2009. In other words, some of us didn’t realize how good he is until Saturday.
Abner Mares: Now we’ll learn more about Mares’ character as it applies to his boxing career. The stunning loss doesn’t erase a series of victories over elite opponents that includes Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko, Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce de Leon. Mares proved he is an outstanding fighter. At the same time, a first-round knockout loss – particularly one as brutal as that – is a significant step backward. All his considerable momentum, which was leading to even bigger fights, is lost. And one must wonder about his confidence. Mares (26-1-1, 14 KOs) can dismiss the setback by saying “Hey, I got caught. It happens,” which is true. And many fighters have succeeded after such a knockout. One example is Gonzalez himself after his setback against Nishioka. But moving on isn’t necessarily simple. It requires unusual mental toughness. We’ll see if Mares has that.
BIGGEST WINNER II
Leo Santa Cruz: Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KOs) doesn’t seem to do anything particularly well. He’s not a great boxer, although he’s very good. His athleticism doesn’t stand out. And he generally won’t take out opponents with single shots. He’s simply a tough, aggressive fighter who breaks down opponents with a high volume of hard punches and can take a good shot. The result is major titles in two divisions over the past 14-plus months, including a third-round KO over Victor Terrazas (37-3-1, 21 KOs) to win the WBC junior featherweight belt on the Mares-Gonzalez card. And remember: Terrazas was no pushover. The Mexican veteran had won 11 consecutive fights since he was stopped by Rendall Munroe in 2010. He was expected to give Santa Cruz some resistance. That he failed to last three full rounds is further proof that Santa Cruz is not your average fighter.
Unbeaten Kubrat Pulev (18-0, 9 KOs) turned in a solid, if unspectacular performance in a unanimous-decision victory over Tony Thompson (38-4, 26 KOs) on Saturday in Germany. Thus, the Bulgarian solidified his position as a legitimate heavyweight contender. The fight also did nothing to help the reputation of David Price, who was stopped in consecutive fights by Thompson. … Two Japanese fighters didn’t waste any time making their marks on the pro level. Naoya Inoue (4-0) outpointed No. 8-rated Ryoichi Taguchi (18-2-1, 8 KOs) to win the Japanese junior flyweight title Sunday in his fourth fight. Meanwhile, Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata, a middleweight, stopped regional titleholder Akio Shibata (21-8-1, 9 KOs) in his pro debut.