Some boxers are reluctant to accept fights with southpaws, usually because they don’t have much experience against left-handers. Abner Mares definitely isn’t one of those boxers.
Mares has faced three lefty opponents since 2010, and not only did he emerge victorious each time, but they were three of the most notable triumphs of his career.
Now Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) is hoping to go 4-for-4 against high-profile southpaws and in the process become a four-time world champion when he challenges 126-pound titleholder Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) on June 25 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“A lot of people have difficulties fighting southpaws, but I adjust to them really quick,” said Mares, whose battle with Cuellar is the co-main event to the Keith Thurman-Shawn Porter 147-pound title clash. “And with Robert Garcia [who is Cuellar’s former trainer] being in my corner for this fight, it’s definitely an advantage.”
The first of Mares’ southpaw victories was a split decision over Vic Darchinyan in a 118-pound bout in December 2010. Four fights and two world titles later, the Mexico-born, Southern California-raised Mares defended his 122-pound crown with a unanimous decision over lefty Anselmo Moreno in November 2012.
In March 2013, Mares moved up another weight class and dethroned 126-pound titleholder Daniel Ponce De Leon via ninth-round TKO, dropping the champion twice. As impressive as those victories were, none of those left-handers were as skilled, accomplished or aggressive as Cuellar, a 29-year-old native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who will be looking to successfully defend his title for a sixth time.
“Cuellar is one of those southpaws that you just like fighting because he keeps coming forward, no matter whether or not you’re hitting him,” Mares said. “It’s a matter of how much my hands can take as far as hitting his face. All we’re working on is fighting a southpaw puncher, and that’s it.”
In defeating Ponce De Leon, Mares improved to 26-0-1 and became a three-division world champion. But his unbeaten record and third piece of hardware went out the window three months later when he was knocked out in the first round by Jhonny Gonzalez, a stunning result given that Gonzalez was on the downside of a lengthy career and had lost to Ponce De Leon less than a year earlier.
Following his first defeat, Mares picked himself up and reeled off three consecutive victories from July 2014 to March 2015, setting up last summer’s showdown for a vacant 126-pound title against Leo Santa Cruz. The two Mexican-Americans from Los Angeles battered each other for 12 brutal-but-thrilling rounds, with Santa Cruz earning a majority decision.
Having had 10 months to recover physically and mentally from the Santa Cruz loss, Mares said he’s ready for another all-out slugfest against Cuellar, who has stopped three of his last four opponents inside the distance, including an eighth-round KO of Darchinyan last June.
“I think I’m a better, faster, more skilled fighter with great footwork, [and] I’m going to go toe-to-toe with this guy if necessary,” Mares said. “If a knockdown comes, I’ll get back up, take my eight count and go on with the fight. I’m mentally prepared for that as well.”
For complete coverage of Cuellar vs Mares, visit our fight page.