By: Sean Crose
“Making weight sucks,” Abner Mares tells me. “But you’ve got to have professionalism.” Professionalism will certainly be in order when the California based fighter has a rematch of his terrific 2015 bout against Leo Santa Cruz (airing live on Showtime June 9th from the Staples Center in Los Angeles). Mares lost on the cards the first time around, but has had two impressive wins since that time, against Jesus Cuellar and Andres Gutierrez respectively. Mares makes it clear that a fighter can lose support when he loses a fight. “The only way to really get them back,” he says, “is by impressing.” Mares has certainly impressed the right people over the past few years. The Santa Cruz rematch will be for the WBA super world featherweight title.
“I would hope so,” he says when I ask if he’s going to change his game plan for Santa Cruz this time around. “Of course, going in, I have to make a lot of changes.” Still, the 32-2-1Californain knows that a fight between he and Santa Cruz certainly isn’t going to be a boring affair. “We both have that style that’s unbreakable,” Mares says of he and his foe. “It’s difficult not to make it exciting.” As for Santa Cruz himself, Mares is generous. “He seems like a great person,” he says of his opponent, adding that the fight is “nothing personnel…it’s just a matter of the best facing the best.” As for the rumor that the winner of Santa Cruz-Mares II will move on to face Carl Frampton, Mares makes it clear that such things aren’t on his mind. “I’m not thinking of that,” he says.
As fight date nears, Mares is confident. “I have half the fight won already,” he says, “because I have a great corner.” And that corner comes courtesy of one Robert Garcia, former titlist turned esteemed trainer. A Garcia camp has a family feel to it, something Mares appreciates. “There’s always that respect,” he says of the way Garcia does things. “When there’s no respect, you don’t learn anything.” To Mares, boxing is something that regularly calls for growth, even when one has reached the heights he himself has. “It’s been tremendous,” he says. “You never stop learning with him (Garcia).”
Still, boxing can also be a struggle. “We’re at that state right now where we’re just cutting weight,” he states. Yet Mares also makes it clear that the struggle is worth it. “Walking into that ring…” he says thoughtfully, clearly still impacted by the rush it gives him after so many professional fights. “Boxing is my life,” he states, “and boxing is all I know what to do.” That doesn’t mean the man doesn’t have side projects, though. Promoting a fight of the magnitude of Santa Cruz-Mares II can be a job in its own right. There’s throwing the opening pitch at a Dodgers’ game, after all. “It was great,” he says of the experience. “I hadn’t thrown a baseball in years.” Indeed, Mares admits he’s “amazed” at how well he was able to throw a burner.
The fighter has also been spending time doing charitable work with young people. “I do that a lot,” he says. Mares recently hosted “Champions Day” for the LA Sheriff’s Department. “I’ve been part of this youth program for four years or more already,” he tells me. “A lot of people forget where they came from. I don’t.” Conversely, Mares isn’t forgetting where he wants to go. He’ll be the toast of boxing if bests Santa Cruz in their second go round, something he’s clearly confident of doing. The man is riding high right now (he admits to being “really pleased” with the work he did the last time he was in the ring). He’ll be riding even higher if his hand is raised in victory June 9th at LA’s Staple Center.