Robert Garcia trained Jesus Cuellar for two years, which included helping the Argentine boxer win a 126-pound championship.
But when Cuellar defends that world title against Abner Mares at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on June 25 (CBS, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT), Garcia will be working in the opposite corner.
Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) went 6-0 with three KOs under Garcia’s tutelage, but he dismissed the trainer after defeating Vic Darchinyan by eighth-round KO last June. Now Garcia finds himself in the odd position of training Mares to defeat his former charge.
“I never thought this was going to happen right away where I would be facing Cuellar, but things happen for a reason,” Garcia said. “I have nothing against Cuellar. He’s a great champion with tremendous power. But this is my job, and if I’m training his opponent now, I’m going to do everything that’s possible to get that title from him.”
Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) said Cuellar’s loss is his gain as he attempts to become a 126-pound champion for the second time.
“The Cuellar fight is something I asked for, and he’s a tough opponent, but I know this is a fight I can win,” said the 30-year-old Mares. “I’ve got a new trainer in Robert Garcia, and a solid strategy to go with being in the best shape that I’ve ever been in.
“I’ve always been a fierce fighter, but I’m working with more strength, speed and power now. This will be a great fight between two warriors—one from Argentina and one from Mexico—and it will be one that the fans are going to love.”
Mares, a former three-division champion, will be fighting for the first time since losing a majority decision to 126-pound titleholder Leo Santa Cruz in August. Garcia attended that bout and saw Cuellar there, but was dismissed by the fighter shortly after that.
“[Cuellar] was sitting in the front row and I was sitting about four rows behind him,” Garcia said. “I called out his name and told him I was happy to see him. He pointed out that security wouldn’t let him come back to say hi to me, which I felt kind of weird about.
“[Garcia’s brother and ex-champion] Mikey [Garcia] and [Julio Cesar] Chavez Jr. were sitting right next to Cuellar. Fans were taking pictures with Mikey and Chavez and myself, and Cuellar just walked by us. I called my guys that were with him and asked what was going on, and that’s when they said he doesn’t want to train with you anymore. I never heard from him and was never given a reason, and I still don’t know why.”
Cuellar is now working with former Garcia assistant Donald Leary, who trained the 29-year-old Argentine before he defended his title in December with a unanimous decision over Jonathan Oquendo at Barclays Center.
“Donald called me and I gave him the blessing to do it, and that was before I knew Cuellar was fighting Abner,” Garcia said. “Now that Mares is my fighter, we have a great relationship that has developed into a brotherhood and a friendship.
“I tell him, ‘This is the way we’re going to train,’ and he respects me and never complains or says no to anything. I don’t wish bad on Cuellar; it’s just that this is my job now, and I know it’s going to be a great fight.”
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