By Rich Mancuso
To Abner Mares a boxing title is not significant. Perhaps that explains why the bantamweight relinquished his IBF championship this week. This latest turn of events, in the more exciting and noted division, will enable Vusi Malinga, 20-2-1-12 K0’s of South Africa to fight for the vacant title against AJ Banal of the Philippines.
“Nowadays it really doesn’t matter,” said Mares about the significance of a title belt, especially in his division. “It just matters to make a good championship fight. You can be a champion and it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to fight the mandatory.”
Mares was, no doubt referring to boxing politics. After he won his second fight over Joseph Agbeko in December, the IBF informed him about a mandatory defense against Malinga before March 3rd. From his home in Lakewood California, a suburb of Los Angeles, Mares decided to fight the boxing system. The title at this point had minimal value with a lack of time to prepare.
Yes, it is a championship title and an opportunity to defend. But there is also the factor of moving on, and opposing prominent names in another weight class. After his second and tough fight with Agbeko, which became a mandatory because of a controversial outcome of their first encounter, Mares had ambitions of moving on.
“This is the year to fight at 122, there is no doubt in my mind,” he says. “There are a lot of good names at 122. My first eight fights were at that weight before I went to 118, so I can handle it. Everything happens for a reason.”
And in boxing, most of the time, everything does happen for a reason. History of the sport does show how often a champion can vacate a title and then move on. Though Mares is not in a class of Manny Pacquiao, he will be the first to admit that, there is another champion from the Philippines that could be on his agenda.
Maybe Nonito Donaire, who is being showcased as one of the next and rising superstars of the sport?
“Donaire is one of those good names at 122,”says Mares who made a name for himself last year with is two fights against Agbeko, the first one in August that were televised on Showtime. “Jorge Arce, Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. and Guillermo Rigondeaux,” he says about future fights. Rigondeaux, of Cuba, recently won a major title at 122, with a 9-0 record and Mares know him well. “I know what he is capable of because he beat me at the Pan American Games in 2004.”
And if he moves up in weight, Mares will never be questioned about using body enhancement drugs. “I am not afraid to lose my undefeated record,” he says about his 23-0 mark. “Nowadays guys use things to their advantage,” he claims not making any direct accusations.
Regardless, Mares is in position to secure major fights this year. Showtime classifies him as one of the exciting fighters on their roster, though pay-per-view money will not be in the picture. The network is committed to doing more telecasts on their ShowBox and Showtime series. Mares, as of now is in a division that is not marketable for pay-per-view.
There has been discussion that Mares, a native of Guadalajara Mexico, would take on Eric Morel in Mexico on April 21st. Taking a fight in Mexico for the first time is something Mares has been anticipating, and a possible debut as a super bantamweight is not out of the equation. A third fight with Agbeko is out of the question even if a trilogy is good for boxing.
At 26-years of age, Mares says “I want to take advantage of my moment now. I planned on fighting three times last year and two or three times this year. I definitely want to take fights that benefit me the most. I am young and have a strong mentality.”
The fact Mares is young becomes an advantage. The time to make money is now, but unless he does what Pacquiao has, moving up in weight, big money fights will not come that easy. There is some logic as to why he did not keep the mandatory date in March and to some it will never be understood why a fighter would vacate his title.
Mares has started to pick up the training, He is putting in the run every morning, in the gym, but no sparring as of yet. To him, it was a busy 2011 and he is enjoying quality time with his wife and two children. “Young kids keep you on your toes,’ he says. “It has been good getting away from boxing and focusing on the family.”
But soon it will be back to work and then we can determine if a big enough money fight can be made.