Abner Mares vs. Leo Santa Cruz tonight on PBC on ESPN
By Dan Ambrose: Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs) will be putting his unbeaten record on the line tonight against former three division world belt holder Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) for the WBA Super World featherweight and vacant WBC Diamond featherweight titles on Premier Boxing Champions on ESPN from the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The fight starts at 10:00 p.m. ET. Both guys are trying to do something with their careers because they stopped facing quality opposition 2 years ago and have been just languishing in fighting 2nd tier opposition.
It’s kind of sad to see how Santa Cruz and Mares have seen their careers fade simply by them not being matched quality good opposition. To be sure, they’ve both been winning to lately, but against purely awful opposition. Mares, 29, has a small excuse for fighting weak opposition because he was knocked out in the 1st round by Jhonny Gonzalez in 2013, but that’s not excuse for Gonzalez to burn through two years of his career fighting weak opponents.
“I have to go ahead and perform at the high level, and whatever I need to do, I’m going to go out there and fight very hard and get the crowd on my side,” Mares said via ESPN.com. “I’m ready, I can’t wait. Leo Santa Cruz, I know you’re listening; I’m ready.”
In the past, you could almost guarantee a victory for Mares no matter who he’s facing, but that’s changed since his loss to Gonzales. Now all you can hope is that Mares stays on his feet for the entire 12 round fight and puts in a good performance win or lose. The combination of Mares’ knockout loss to Gonzalez and his two lost years of his career has a lot of boxing fans wondering how much he has left.
In facing Santa Cruz, Mares isn’t even facing the best fighter in the featherweight division. Santa Cruz doesn’t stack up against arguably much better fighters like Gary Russell Jr., Lee Selby and Vasyl Lomachenko. Those guys would likely box Santa Cruz’s head off and easily beat him. About the only thing good that Mares has going for him is that Nicholas Walters is no longer around because I think Mares would get knocked out by him if he were still holding down the WBA Super World featherweight title.
“I was at the peak [in 2013]. I was at a great time in my career where I was a three-time world champion, undefeated and I looked great,” Mares said. “No doubt in my mind even now, after my defeat, I’ve become even a better fighter, because now I know what defeat is.”
I don’t think Mares is a better fighter now than he was in 2013. To me, Mares is nowhere near as good as he was in 2013. He’s gotten older, and hasn’t looked good in his three fights since his loss go Gonzalez. He’s not as fast, and he fights like he’s not confident in his ability to take a hard shot without dropping for the 10 count. In his last three fights, Mares has beaten Johnathon Oquendo, Jose Ramirez and Arturo Santos Reyes. Those are all tune-up fighters, and Mares did not look good at all in those fights. Granted, Mares has been working on changing his fighting style during that time, but the change of style doesn’t seem to have helped him any.
“Now I know how to come back up and start all over. So it’s going to be the best Abner Mares. I think it’s the perfect time for me to focus on myself; I don’t care about him [Santa Cruz]. For myself it’s the perfect time, and I can’t wait,” Mares said.
Regardless of who wins tonight in the Mares-Santa Cruz fight, I don’t see the winner of this fight being a big deal in the featherweight division. Until the winner of the Mares vs. Santa Cruz fight proves that they can beat the likes of Russell Jr., Selby and Lomachenko, I see them as a mere belt holder and no better than the WBA “regular” featherweight champion Jesus Andres Cuellar.
Tonight’s fight will be good sloppy entertainment for as long as the fight lasts. Santa Cruz is a come forward type of fighter in the Antonio Margarito style. Mares is someone who now likes to box a lot, but he’s going to have no choice but to slug in this fight if he doesn’t want to be run over by Santa Cruz like a speed bump in the road.
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