The accomplished three-division champ discusses his time away and reasons for returning to the ring to face the dangerous Miguel Flores in a lightweight battle Sunday, September 4 on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View.
Abner Mares doesn’t have to fight again.
He’s one of the most accomplished little warriors in the business, with major titles in three divisions, victories over an impressive list of elite opponents and the universal respect that goes along with that kind of resume. He could be headed to the Hall of Fame.
And he already is well into a second career as television analyst for SHOWTIME. Money isn’t a problem.
So why is Mares returning after a four-year break to face Miguel Flores in a lightweight bout on the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Luis Ortiz card Sunday, September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on FOX Sports PBC Pay-Per-View (9 p.m, ET/6 p.m. PT)?
Because he can.
“I’m not trying to prove anything,” Mares told PBC. “I’m not trying to accomplish anything, not focused on titles right now. It’s more of a satisfaction type of comeback, going out on my shield, going out on my terms.
“It’s that type of comeback for me.”
Mares’ career has been hampered by two detached retinas, the first of which occurred in his left eye in 2008. He didn’t fight again for 10-plus months, after which he recorded some of his greatest victories.
Then, in January 2019, he pulled out of bout against rising star Gervonta “Tank” Davis scheduled for that March 5 because of the same injury in his right eye. He had it repaired in surgery but, already in his early thirties, he thought he might be finished as an active boxer.
And he was OK with that. He had done enough his career to look back without regrets.
However, his mind set evolved. First, his surgeon gave him the OK to resume his career if that’s what he wanted. And, second, he had an epiphany while working the fight between Davis and Mario Barrios in June of last year as an analyst.
He suddenly realized at ringside, watching the man he was supposed to fight make his ring walk to the deafening cheers of his fans, that he needed to be inside the ropes at least one more time.
“That’s when I got the itch,” Mares said.
The process wasn’t easy after being away for so long, particularly for a fighter in the later stages of his career.
Your timing is off. Your speed and reflexes, attributes that helped lift you to elite status, aren’t how you remember them. And getting punched in the face or body by a trained boxer feels like you’ve been hit by a car.
“ I took a break for four years, my body is rested. I’m good. ” Three-Division World Champion - Abner Mares
Mares remembers his first sparring session after the Davis-Barrios fight as a harrowing experience, one that caused him to have second thoughts about his comeback plans. “I felt like sh--,” he said.
That gradually changed. The more time he spent in the gym, the more he began to feel like the dominating fighter he once was. Now, after a long training camp, he feels transformed.
“I wanted to quit,” Mares said of that first sparring session. “I thought, ‘Man, what am I doing back?’ The second day, whatever. The third day. Then you understand that everything is a process. It takes time to get relaxed, get your timing, your footwork, your hand speed, even pulling the trigger. I couldn’t let my hands go. Then, when you see the progression from Day 3 to Day 4 to a month to two months, you see the progress and everything falls into place.
“Yesterday (last Thursday) I did 10 rounds with an 18-year-old kid, a 140-pounder. For me to perform, to look how I looked, that takes you to another level mentally. I’m where I want to be.”
Still there are going to be doubters, those who point to his eye injuries, his age and his time away from the sport and suggest he’s making a terrible mistake.
Mares’ reaction to that way of thinking? He rolls his eyes.
As he said, he’s coming back because he loves to box and doesn’t want his last boxing memory to be a fight that was canceled because of an injury. If things go well against Flores, he’ll undoubtedly fight again. If he falls on his face, he has made it crystal clear that he’ll walk away and not look back.
Either way, he stressed, it’s only a fight.
“I don’t listen to people,” Mares said. “’Why are you coming back? You have a bad eye. You’re old.’ Why does it matter? I’m coming back. I know I’m capable of doing it. Just sit back, relax and enjoy the show. Don’t take it personally. Some people take it more personally than I do.
“A lot of fighters are older than I am. Luis Ortiz is , [Erislandy] Lara. A lot of fighters older than me are still fighting. I took a break for four years, my body is rested. I’m good. Be happy for a man.”
For a closer look at Abner Mares, check out his fighter page.