Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KO) is looking for championship glory at 126 pounds, but he'll have to go through a familiar face to attain it. He challenges friend and WBC featherweight champion Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-4, 35 KO) for his title on the undercard of Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero Saturday night.
Mares is a former titleholder at bantamweight, but he is moving up in weight to challenge Ponce De Leon.
This will be the biggest test of Mares' career to this point. He's faced some outstanding fighters, but none with the power and experience of Ponce De Leon. This is a battle of two of the best Mexican-American fighters in the world.
This should be an awesome appetizer for the main course of fighting Saturday night, here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, May 4, 9 p.m. ET
Where: MGM Grand in Las Vegas
TV: PPV (Contact your local cable or satellite provider)
The Book on Mares
Mares' tough childhood has made him rugged mentally and in the ring. He has a seemingly insatiable hunger for greatness.
Though he's had six-straight championship fights against world-class competition, he still reaches for more. He could have stayed at bantamweight but Mares is looking for bigger paydays and more glory.
Beyond the the ultra-intriguing bout with Ponce De Leon, there are possibilities for fights with Mikey Garcia, Orlando Salido, Juan Manuel Lopez and others at featherweight.
Mares hopes this will be just the beginning of a successful run in the weight class.
He isn't blessed with explosive power, but he has great instincts and he puts intense pressure on opponents. His fights are often difficult to referee and score because he will simply go into the chest of his opponent ala Lamont Peterson.
Besides a huge heart, Mares' chin is like that of a man 6'6", 230 pounds. Take a look at the shot he takes from Vic Darchinyan in their 2010 bout. It happens at the 31:17 mark of this video.
Even with that shot, Mares never stopped coming forward and won a split decision.
At times Mares can look for one big shot too often. He's at this best when he's throwing combinations. He has seemingly grown out of many of his bad habits as he's matured, but the 27-year-old's pride can still get the best of him at times.
Mares likes to make most of fights brawls. Because of this he delivers a very entertaining brand of boxing that will always make him a crowd favorite.
The Book on Ponce De Leon
Trying to Derail a Stable Mate
Both Mares and Ponce De Leon are promoted by Golden Boy and managed by Frank Espinoza, but Mares is clearly the more celebrated client.
He is more marketable for many reasons, but none of that matters to Ponce De Leon. Many feel he was short-changed when he lost to Adrien Broner in March 2011. He then lost a technical decision to Youriorkis Gamboa in his next fight.
A cut on his forehead force the referee to stop the fight and Ponce De Leon was behind on the cards. Both of those tough-luck losses don't seem to have diminished his spirit, though.
Since then, he has strung together three-straight wins and he won the WBC title in his last fight against Jhonny Gonzalez.
Staying on this roll is all that matters, even if that means going through a friend.
Power and Poise
Though Ponce De Leon is a big-time power puncher, he starts slow and likes to study opponents early. He doesn't have great hand or foot speed, but he fights with a very tight guard.
The 32-year-old's jab is used to disrupt his opponent's timing, more than to score. His power punches are long and looping, which makes him a little unconventional. His awkwardness can work to his advantage at times.
Being a southpaw with long arms, he is able to touch his opponent from angles and distances that can initially appear out of reach.
He has a five-inch reach advantage in this fight. If he can keep distance with he and Mares, he has a chance to win.
The reach advantage could be big for Ponce De Leon, but ultimately, Mares' pressure will wear his opponent down. He has a great chin, that I believe will translate to featherweight.
Mares just never seems to show fatigue late, even in knockdown, drag out affairs. I see him winning by late TKO.
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