The new and improved Abner Mares (27-1-1) was too slick and sharp for Jonathan Oquendo (24-4) on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
In his return from a crushing first-round KO loss to Jhonny Gonzalez, Mares shook off the rust from an 11-month layoff and earned an unanimous-decision victory.
ESPN's Dan Rafael has the final scorecards:
After the bout, Mares was asked if he wanted another crack at Gonzalez.
Per the Showtime pay-per-view broadcast, Mares said: "I want my rematch. I'm ready for any featherweight."
Oquendo seemed to be hunting for power shots, but he couldn't find the mark enough to score big against Mares.
You could see the influence of new trainer Virgil Hunter in Mares' game through the first three rounds. The 28-year-old employed far more movement than he had in the past and put together a good number of good combinations.
He did especially good work to Oquendo's body. Rafael noticed the difference in Mares:
In the fourth round, Oquendo briefly took the momentum. He landed some hard punches. One of them was an uppercut that opened up a nasty cut on Mares' left eyelid. The cut seemed to throw Mares off his game, and Oquendo took full advantage.
Max Boxing's Steve Kim appreciated the spirited action from the fourth frame:
Famed UFC cutman Jacob "Stitch" Duran did an excellent job getting the laceration under control. A calm and relaxed Mares used even better footwork to take command of the fifth and sixth rounds. His jab and control of the distance between him and Oquendo kept him in the driver's seat.
Instead of trying to crank up the intensity and activity in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds, Oquendo seemed to get less busy. With Mares moving in and out and looking to counter, the fight got pretty boring to watch.
Steve Kim obviously felt the same way:
Mares easily controlled the the late rounds with superior skills and a smarter, more effective game plan.
Oquendo was simply overmatched from a tactical standpoint. He had no idea how to land regularly. He couldn't set up the power shots he desperately wanted to land. And instead, he wound up being frozen for long periods of time.
Perhaps he could perform better against a more free-wheeling fighter.
As for Mares, this new style will serve him well. Though it may not be as exciting as the more reckless approach he employed before aligning with Hunter, it lends itself to better longevity.
Mares showed more hand speed and foot movement, and that makes him a more difficult assignment for the fighters in his weight range.
His performance produced mixed reviews from folks around the sport:
I really didn't want to see Abner Mares morph into a shorter Andre Ward.— Lou DiBella (@loudibella) July 13, 2014
Can someone try to locate Abner Mares? I see his body, but his spirit is locked in Virgil Hunter's basement.— Jonathan Snowden (@mmaencyclopedia) July 13, 2014
Critics can say what they want about Hunter and the fighters in his stable and their styles. The fact is, they win. At the end of the day, boxing is about hitting and not being hit. Hunter preaches that style, and his fighters seem to follow it to a T.
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