Abner Mares vs. Ponce De Leon?
Agatha Christie’s Jane Marple once astutely observed that “so many people seem to me not to be either bad or good, but simply, you know, very silly.” The same may be said of institutions. Are there any sillier than Top Rank and Golden Boy? If not for their infantile feuding, boxing fans would be delighting in a unification bout between WBC junior featherweight champ Abner Mares (Golden Boy) and his WBO counterpart Nonito Donaire (Top Rank). But nooooo. In fairness, Golden Boy’s CEO Richard Schaefer did make an offer, but neither “The Filipino Flash” nor Top Rank CEO Bob Arum found the terms to their liking.
Granted, there will indeed be a unification battle at the 122-pound level—Donaire is slated to take on WBA titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13. A good fight, to be sure, but Donaire vs. Mares would have been better. And speaking of the Mexican, a frustrated Mares has vacated his title in order to move up to the featherweight division. Although an opponent has yet to be named, a match with WBC beltholder Daniel Ponce De Leon—whose next opponent, Jayson Velez, just withdrew from their March 2 bout at the Apollo Theater—is a real possibility.
Twenty-seven-year-old Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) turned pro in 2005. Undefeated, he drew against Yonnhy Perez in 2010. He fought twice last year, defeating Eric Morel in April and Anselmo Moreno in November, both by unanimous decision. Mares is a two-division titleholder. He won the IBO bantamweight title in his match with Vic Darchinyan in 2010, as well as the IBF bantamweight strap from Joseph Agbeko in the first of their two bouts in 2011. As for the recently relinquished WBC junior featherweight title, which had been vacant, Mares won that in his April 2012 match with Morel.
Also a Mexican, 32-year-old Ponce De Leon (44-4-0, 35 KOs) is a 12-year pro. He fought three times last year, defeating Omar Estrella in January by sixth-round KO, Eduardo Lazcano in May by unanimous decision, and Jhonny Gonzalez in September by eighth-round technical decision. The southpaw won the vacant WBO junior featherweight title in his bout with Sod Kokietgym in 2005 (which he lost to Juan Manuel Lopez in 2008). More recently, Ponce De Leon took home the WBC featherweight championship in his September 2012 bout with Gonzalez.
A tough one to call. Ponce De Leon is more experienced, and his KO record of 73% is superior to Mares’ 50%. In addition, Mares is coming up in weight. But he’s done it before, and very successfully, having started off as a bantam. And let’s not discount that Mares is easily the dirtiest fighter since the deservedly maligned Andrew Golota, a fact to which Agbeko, for instance, is eminently qualified to testify. Ah, to stick Mares in a time machine, to let him try that on with fellow featherweights Sandy Saddler or Willie Pep, guys who raised dirty fighting to an art form, to a science. Fortunately for Mares, H.G. Wells’ mechanism is only a dream—and Ponce De Leon ain’t no Saddler or Pep.