RingTV.com caught up to three-division titlist Abner Mares, who will face an opponent to be determined in his first fight under trainer Virgil Hunter on the Showtime PPV undercard of the July 12 Saul Alvarez-Erislandy Lara main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Mares (26-1-1, 14 knockouts) was previously in consideration for the June 21 Showtime card at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., that will feature the Gary Russell Jr.-Vasyl Lomachenko WBO featherweight title bout as well as Robert Guerrero and Devon Alexander in bouts against Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jesus Soto Karass, respectively.
But given that Mares had only recently made the difficult decision to transition from longtime cornerman Clemente Medina to Hunter, the 28-year-old felt he needed time to adjust.
"I was going to be back on June 21 but after that, I got offered this date, which makes more sense to me and my team," said Mares, who was last in action in August, when he lost his WBC featherweight title in a shocking first-round knockout loss to Jhonny Gonzalez.
"Obviously, with the move that I made, switching trainers, this gives me time to adjust to Virgil and to get used to each other. So it looks like I'll be getting back into the ring on July 12. It's a big card and I'm really happy with that date. I appreciate my promotion, Golden Boy, giving me that date. You really want to come back big and what better way than to come back on a 'Canelo' undercard?"
Mares later suffered a rib injury in Mexico City that scuttled his rematch with Gonzalez, slated for February. Mares was similarly injured in June 2012, when rib damage led to the cancelation of a clash with bantamweight Christian Esquivel.
"It will have been a year this coming August, so I'm really anxious to get back into the ring. I'm really looking forward to July 12 and Abner Mares will be back this year. We're definitely coming back strong," said Mares. "I'm walking around at about 143, so now, I can't wait. I think that we're looking at a catchweight. I will probably be at a catchweight of 127 or 128 pounds."
Managed by Frank Espinoza, Mares was THE RING's No. 5-rated pound-for-pound fighter entering the bout with Gonzalez. He was floored twice by the Mexican veteran during the first defense of the belt he won in his 126-pound debut, a ninth-round knockout of Daniel Ponce de Leon.
Ponce de Leon was the last man to defeat Gonzalez in an eighth-round technical decision in September 2012, ending Gonzalez's 12-fight winning streak which included 11 knockouts.
Mares said it was difficult to split from Medina, under whom he debuted as a fighter and won his three title belts.
"It was a really hard decision. It's hard right now, talking about it. I sat down with him, privately, and honestly, we talked about it. I told him that I was ready to make the move. Obviously, he was sad. I was sad as well because it has been years with Clemente. We were able to capture three world titles together and, not just that, it has been a great friendship that me and Clemente have had. We were together as fighter and trainer altogether for about five, six years," said Mares.
"In some ways, that's what made it easier with Clemente and myself to understand that it was time to make that split. Our relationship is so good that none of this will come between us. We have a great relationship, so he understood that I have to learn some new stuff. He's got plenty of other good fighters and I'm not taking anything away from him as a trainer. He's got other fighters in some ways because of what he was able to do with me. It was a tough decision but now we're moving forward. He's going his way; I'm going my way but we're still really good friends."
In switching to Hunter, Mares is hoping for similar success to that of former titleholder Amir Khan, who scored three knockdowns during a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Luis Collazo in Khan's welterweight debut on May 3.
The triumph represented Khan's third victory in as many appearances under Hunter since leaving longtime trainer Freddie Roach, including a 10th-round stoppage of Carlos Molina in December 2012 as well as weathering a fourth-round knockdown in a unanimous decision over former titleholder Julio Diaz in April 2013.
"Amir Khan did a tremendous job but he's been with Virgil for a couple of years, so that's definitely why he looked that spectacular. In their first fight together against Carlos Molina, he didn't look as great as he did in this last fight. So people need to understand that there still is a transition that is happening right now. We just started together not too long ago but you will see the difference. You will see a better performance from Abner and a different Abner. As I explained a while back when people first asked about Virgil, there's not many changes that he makes at all. If anything, he doesn't change too much," said Mares.
"Virgil Hunter is the type of coach that just works with and enhances what you have. He works and tries to perfect what you already know and I'm blessed to know how to box a little bit. So with the experience that Virgil has, he can make that offense that I'm known for my best defense. With that said, I can still be aggressive. But in the way that he's teaching me, I can be aggressive, not just in going forward but also boxing, if that makes sense. So that's one way of putting it. I'm really happy with the way that he's helping me to see things. He's a great coach, a great mentor and a great motivator as well. He's the full package, so I think that I hit the jackpot. We've hit it off so good, that I wouldn't be surprised if we looked as good as Amir Khan did in his last fight."