A rematch against Leo Santa Cruz sounds great on paper, but having suffered a devastating knockout before at the StubHub Center, Abner Mares isn't looking past any opponent.
Abner Mares has one man standing in the way of a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz, and he isn't going to take him lightly.
If there is going to be a rematch, Mares and Santa Cruz must first both take care of business. Mares must face another hungry young fighter, once-beaten 24-year-old Andres Gutierrez. The bout is part of a championship doubleheader on FOX (7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT) that takes place Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
This will be Mares' second bout with renowned trainer Robert Garcia in his corner. At 31, Mares (30-2-1, 15 knockouts) looked revitalized with a split decision win over Jesus Cuellar last December in their first bout together.
"Everything that’s working is working really good," Garcia said. "Training has gone great, sparring is beautiful. We have great sparring partners - young, hungry kids that want to prove themselves against Abner. And Abner is doing his work being able to control those young contenders that want to get in there and hurt him."
Mares is returning to the StubHub Center for the first time since suffering a devastating one-round knockout loss at the hands of Jhonny Gonzalez. It's been a long road back to the upper echelon of the 126-pound division, but after acquitting himself well in a close loss to Santa Cruz in their first fight — and the win over Cuellar — he's back in the conversation as one of the division's best talents.
“I will be returning to the scene of the crime but there have been many great fights there at the StubHub Center and we hope to give a good fight that night,” Mares said about returning to the same spot he lost to Gonzalez.
Mares can't look past Gutierrez (35-1-1, 25 KOs), a hungry fighter who is getting a second chance after a freak injury kept him from facing Carl Frampton earlier in the year. Gutierrez was set to face Frampton but slipped in the shower and broke his nose and lost two teeth.
“ I will be returning to the scene of the crime but there have been many great fights there at the StubHub Center and we hope to give a good fight that night. ” 126-pound World Champion Abner Mares, on returning to StubHub where he suffered a devastating KO by Jhonny Gonzalez
Opportunity has knocked twice and the hard-charging Mexican isn't going to waste it.
"Look, I’m coming to surprise everybody," Gutierrez said. "I feel very good. It is my dream to bring home the World Championship and I’m going to go ahead and really shock boxing fans in Los Angeles. I am not just an opponent."
Gutierrez is a notoriously slow starter and Mares should be able to use his experience to get out ahead early. At 5-foot-4 and ½ inches tall, Mares is slightly shorter than the 5-foot-6 Gutierrez, and only has a slight reach disadvantage. Mares will still look to take the fight inside, which suits Gutierrez - and the fans - well for a brawl.
A rematch with Santa Cruz hangs in the balance, but Mares made it clear he's not just interested in a rematch with his former foe, he wants fights with all the top-tier featherweights and a move to 130 pounds before he hangs them up.
"If I get Frampton over Leo next on the list, any order, Leo, Frampton, Gary Russell Jr., Oscar Valdez and if I could make it jump to 130 and if you’re still there Gervonta Davis. I’ll fight them,’’ Mares said. “That’s four or five fights that could totally be my career right there."
Gutierrez will be ending a one-year layoff when he faces Mares, the longest time out of the ring since turning pro in 2009.
"I'm back 100 percent from what happened in the whole Carl Frampton situation," Gutierrez said. "That's all behind me. My focus is Abner Mares. I'm ready for Abner Mares. You all will see on (Saturday) that I am 100 percent and extremely focused and ready."
For a complete look at Mares vs Gutierrez, visit our fight page.