Abner Mares smiled as he was being serenaded, nodding his head to a sound as spirited as his movements in the ring would soon be.
Last December, Mares was engaged in his pre-fight routine in his dressing room at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, vibing to an impromptu performance by a band he brought in to help get him in the zone.
Since his 2011 clash with Joseph Agbeko, Mares has been recruiting different musicians to play for him prior to hitting the ring.
“It gets me going,” he says. “It takes me to a whole different world where I just concentrate and feel the music. It brings out a different side of Abner Mares.”
This time, it was popular norteño act Los Plebes del Rancho, a boisterous-sounding trio in matching red-and-black suits fronted by charismatic frontman Ariel Camacho.
The group would accompany Mares on his walk out to the ring, where he would batter Jose Ramirez en route to a fifth-round stoppage victory.
Three months later, however, tragedy would strike when Camacho, but 22 years old, died in a car accident in his native Mexico.
Mares didn’t just lose a singer he loved on February 25, he lost a friend.
“This guy was 22 years old, he had a life ahead of him, so it really struck me,” Mares says as he prepares to battle Arturo Santos Reyes on Saturday. “This fight is dedicated to him. It motivates me.”
What’s more, Los Plebes del Rancho will once again perform for Mares prior to the fight.
“They’re going to be in my dressing room just as they were for my last fight, just having them play for me and reminiscing on the good times we had,” he says. “It’s going to bring a different vibe, a different energy. These guys were there for my last victory, and they’re going to be there in this next victory.”
As he speaks from a studio in the bowels of the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where he will once again be fighting, Mares seems moved by the memory of his friend, but in control of his emotions.
On Saturday, though, those emotions will be unleashed.
“It’s going to be a different Abner,” he says firmly. “It’s going to be a little bit more of an angry Mares.”