by Cliff Rold
It’s hard not to love a gunslinger.
Jhonny Gonzalez has been a gunslinger through the years no matter the result. He traded knockdowns with Israel Vazquez years ago and has taken turns knocking out and being knocked out by some of the best from 118-126 over the years. Factor in as regular a fight schedule as any world-class fighter in recent years, and one could almost imagine him with spurs and a six-shooter in days gone by.
Abner Mares is a bit of a gunslinger himself. He’s doesn’t fight as regularly but he’s shown a willingness to accept any high noon challenge and has yet to find the man that can get the draw on him.
This is what passes for a slower night for Mares.
Gonzalez is no slow night.
Let’s go to the report card.
Title: WBC Featherweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: IBF Bantamweight (2011-12, 1 defense); WBC Super Bantamweight (2012-13, 1 Defense)
Height: 5’4 ½
Weight: 125.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 120.4 lbs.
Hails from: Montebello, California (Born in Mexico)
Record: 26-0-1, 14 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #1 (BoxRec), #2 (Ring), #3 (BoxingScene, TBRB, ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 5-0-1, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions Faced: 7 (Isidro Garcia RTD7; Yonnhy Perez D12; Vic Darchinyan SD12; Joseph Agbeko MD12, UD12; Eric Morel UD12; Anselmo Moreno UD12; Daniel Ponce De Leon TKO9)
Previous Titles: WBO Bantamweight (2005-07, 2 Defenses); WBC Featherweight (2011-12, 4 Defenses)
Weight: 125 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 125.65 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 54-8, 46 KO, 3 KOBY
Rankings: #4 (Ring), #5 (TBRB, ESPN), #6 (BoxingScene), #7 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-4, 7 KO, 3 KOBY
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 11 (Adonis Rivas UD12; Ratanachai Sor Vorapin TKO7; Mark Johnson KO8; Fernando Montiel SD12; Israel Vazquez TKO by 10; Irene Pacheco TKO9; Gerry Penalosa KO by 7; Toshiaki Nishioka TKO by 3; Hozumi Hasegawa TKO4; Elio Rojas UD12; Daniel Ponce De Leon L8)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Mares B+; Gonzalez B-
Pre-Fight: Power – Mares B; Gonzalez A
Pre-Fight: Defense – Mares B; Gonzalez C-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Mares A; Gonzalez B
Gonzalez enters having won two in a row since a disappointing boxing match where many hoped a bombs away punchers duel would be with Ponce De Leon last fall. They can’t all be wars of course and Gonzalez still had some thriller in him, coming off the floor in round six. Now he has a chance to regain the belt he lost in that fight and add one more name to a thick resume.
That name won’t be easy to come by. Mares has become one of the game’s most well rounded elite fighters. He can box and brawl, with a little bit of salty educated fouling indicative of the sort of ‘all fighter’ approach he takes. Mares has heart to go with it. In the rematch with Joseph Agbeko, he demanded victory late in the fight even with a sure lead. After bursting to a lead over the excellent Anselmo Moreno last year, he weathered some rocky moments and fought back harder.
Gonzalez, the taller man, will try to abuse Mares at range. Gonzalez can throw a wicked body punch underneath at well but he’s most dangerous landing leveraged power shots off the jab. Stopped three times, to the head and body, he can be vulnerable. While age and experience has made him more cautious, and improved his defense, he’s still not terribly hard to find.
Mares can be hit as well but clean shots don’t land in volume to often. Mares is great at crowding opponents and he works the body hard when he gets close. He also has tremendous balance, making it hard to knock him off track when he decides its time to come forward.
Mares looked like his power had improved in his win over De Leon earlier this year and it may be Featherweight is the best class for his body of the three he’s competed in. Given his frame, Gonzalez has also grown nice into Featherweight but enters with more wear and age on him. If he can get through with some big power stuff early, Mares could find himself in a big time battle.
Mares is hot right now, a world class fighter with as good a recent run of foes as anyone. The experience, physical maturity, and skill of Mares is all coming together. Mares has done nothing but improve with each fight. This is his prime, and he’s going to be a very tough out for anyone the next few years. Gonzalez has always been a tough out, even in fights that ended suddenly. This is in many ways his last chance. Sure, with his name, he might get more shots. There is a difference though in being a viable title fight opponent, and a legitimate contender. Gonzalez is still a contender on Saturday night. That’s likely all he will be. Mares is just too good right now and his body punching will break Gonzalez down over the course of the fight towards a late stoppage or decision win.
Report Card Picks 2013: 32-19
Prior to the Showtime main event, former IBF Bantamweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (24-0-1, 14 KO) moves up to 122 lbs. to challenge WBC titlist Victor Terrazas (37-2-1, 21 KO). Coming off eleven wins in a row, Terrazas should be a stern test but his style will keep him in range and the high volume offense of Santa Cruz will keep churning. Santa Cruz is the pick on a late stoppage…Overseas action is topped by the big men…Picking against Heavyweight Tony Thompson (38-3, 26 KO) has been a losing proposition against anyone not named Wladimir Klitschko has been a losing proposition for most of the 21st Century (so far). It has literally been a losing proposition for the report card twice already in 2013. Now, just six or so weeks after a second upset of David Price, Thompson takes on the man some see as a potential heir to Klitschko, Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev (17-0, 9 KO). Pulev doesn’t appear to be a huge puncher but he’s so far been sturdy and he ‘s technically sound. Thompson’s short rest may mean an advantage against a Pulev off almost a year in terms of sharpness, but the second Price fight was grueling, gutsy stuff. In a tough fight to call, the pick is a still somewhat unproven but younger and fresher Pulev to get a big win on the way to a title shot, probably by decision.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com