Don't be surprised if the WBC featherweight title fight between Abner Mares and Daniel Ponce de Leon steals the show on Saturday night.
Mares (25-0-1, 14 KO) has been a title holder in previous weight classes but moved up to fight Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 KO), who won the belt from Jhonny Gonzalez in September.
Ponce de Leon has knockout power. Mares will be well aware of that and try to keep his distance. His last six fights have all gone the distance, and Mares might lack any chance of landing a knockout blow having moved up in weight.
This one will in all likelihood go the full 12 rounds. Here is a prediction for each round of this undercard title fight.
It's cliched, but both guys will be feeling each other out in the early stages of the fight. Neither is going to take too many risks in the first round. Ponce de Leon knows he will be considered the underdog in the fight. He'll be looking to find any openings in the early rounds. Mares will outpoint him in Round 1 by hitting a higher volume punches.
This is still a little to early to expect much from the fight. Both will begin to formulate a game plan for the rest of the fight. They will have had strategies coming into the fight, but the first-hand experience will solidify how the rest of the fight will unfold.
Mares will really start working Ponce de Leon's body. That's how he's been so successful. Mares keeps on chipping away at a guy's ribs and liver until his opponent has nothing left. Smokin' Joe Frazier put it so well, "Kill the body and the head will fall."
Ponce de Leon will hit a nice punch that gives Mares all the warning he needs. Mares will bite off a little more than he can chew and open himself up nicely for the champion. The challenger won't be knocked down, but he will have gotten a nice little jolt to keep him honest for the duration of the fight.
Mares won't be too affected by any early hits from Ponce de Leon. He will be coming into the fight knowing the champion's strengths and weaknesses. Mares is an extremely skilled fighter, so he's not going to stand in there and try to match Ponce de Leon punch for punch. He'll dodge the champion's best strikes and continue working the body.
Here is where the fight will start to really get interesting. Mares will be dominating much of the fight, but Ponce de Leon will be more than ready to end the fight with a quick knockout. The champion will know he's got a hard road ahead of him if he can't put Mares on the mat. The longer this fight goes, the more advantage goes to Mares.
The fighters will have each other figured out for the most part. Ponce de Leon will have an idea of best how to exploit whatever opportunities Mares gives him. A knockout, or even knockdown, is unlikely to happen in this fight. Should it happen, it will be in the next two rounds.
This is the danger zone for Mares. The fight is a little over midway over. Ponce de Leon will have been slowly broken down. Considering he's lost the lion's share of the rounds, the champion will want to take more risks. If he dominates the fight down the stretch, he could come out with the victory.
The eighth round could also be a point of no return. Ponce de Leon will have taken a lot of shots to the body. He'll have enough left in the tank for a few more rounds, but slowly but surely, he's been losing his power.
If Mares survives the eighth round and doesn't get knocked down, the fight will be his. Pretty soon, Ponce de Leon will lack the strength necessary to end the fight with one punch. Mares will continue hitting the champion with a barrage of blows.
If Ponce de Leon continues to damage Mares by the time the eighth round concludes, he'll have a great chance to pull off the upset. Mares will have taken some heavy blows and be worn down. This is the window for the champion to assert himself in this fight.
It will likely be the former scenario happening.
Mares will have taken Ponce de Leon's best punches. He'll be staggered at times in this fight but always manage to stay in the fight and regain his composure. The champion's will to win will have dampened as he sees Mares still on his feet.
The champion will continuing getting desperate. He'll be doubting his chances of winning the fight, but he'll believe he can still knock out Mares. Because of the challenger's superb stamina, Mares won't be too tired by the final rounds. He'll still be able to work Ponce de Leon's body and avoid the heavy punches.
At this point, Ponce de Leon will be going for broke. He'll know he's out-pointed and that the only way to win the fight is to knock out Mares. Of course, Mares will know this as well and keep his distance. The decision will be left in the judges' hands, and the outcome will appear obvious.
Winner by decision: Abner Mares