Abner Mares making positive impact on at-risk youths in Los Angeles

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Abner Mares remembers how hard it was to escape the violence and other hardships growing up in the Hawaiian Gardens section of Los Angeles, so the three-time world champion has continually partnered with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department to help mentor underprivileged and at-risk teens.

Abner Mares

Abner Mares, center, poses with a group of teenagers at a recent workout at Del Mares Gym in East Los Angeles as he prepares to fight Leo Santa Cruz on Saturday night.

Mares recently invited teenagers from rough areas such as South Central and Compton to a workout at Del Mares Gym in East Los Angeles as a way to get his message across.

“I told stories about how I lived, how they can use me as an example, how they can make it,” said Mares, the fourth born of 11 siblings. “I didn’t go into details of their tough situations or how bad they’re living because I’m a guy that takes things too seriously. It can break me down emotionally.

“Eventually, I’ll sit down with them as individuals, but I don’t want to take that home just yet. Not right now.”

Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KOs) has been getting ready to take on Leo Santa Cruz (30-0-1, 17 KOs) on Saturday night at L.A.’s Staples Center (ESPN, 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT) in a battle of 126-pound Angelenos.

Mares provided 100 tickets for some of the teens, their parents and Sheriff’s Department members to attend the fight.

“I close my eyes and imagine their feelings being at Staples Center at their age,” said Mares, who won a unanimous decision over Anselmo Moreno in November 2012 in his last fight at Staples. “They know how hard I train. They know my style. They’ll be proud of me. I’ll inspire them.”

Greatest feeling ever and motivation.. thank you God first of all for blessing me in life, and as I know you will bless These Kids right here Because they are The Future in Life, Soon some will be Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers Hey and why not World Champions in boxing .. Just Remember Keep chasing your dreams and Never Ever let anyone tell you you can't be anything in life .. It's your Choice in life who you want to be and what , if you work hard and dedicate yourself.. thank you @centurysheriffsboxing my friends at @rcees for the Haircuts Thankyou @sibuenosi my PR, my wife @nathaliemares_mua for the support and my Kids @divamo1984 thank you for starting this 2 Years ago with me .. #TeamMares #DelMares #UnderArmour #GivingBack #ThankYouLord #TheFuture

A video posted by Abner Mares Martinez (@abnermares) on

Mares also donated 500 backpacks earlier this month to the L.A. County Sheriff's Century Youth Activity League. But what he really hopes to give to each child he comes in contact with, though, is a positive example that anything is possible through hard work.

“I talk to them as friends. ‘How is school? Do you have a girlfriend? What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I listen to them,” Mares said. “They feel comfortable with me. I told them, ‘As hard as you guys saw me work out today, I hope that you train even harder,’ and, ‘If you think I’m good, I know you’ll be better.’ There’s no doubt in my mind they believe they can make it. I see it in their eyes.”

For complete coverage of Santa Cruz vs Mares, visit our fight page.

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