By Robert Morales
Four weeks ago in this space, Abner Mares was quoted as saying he did not expect to retire undefeated because of his credo of only wanting to fight the toughest hombres out there, and because there are so many outstanding fighters with whom to contend. It just didn't seem logical that Jhonny Gonzalez was going to be the guy to hand Mares his first defeat, if for no other reason than Gonzalez was presumed past his prime by many in the industry.
You could have knocked Mares' manager, Frank Espinoza, over with a feather when Gonzalez knocked out Mares in the first round of their featherweight title fight Saturday at StubHub Center in Carson, Calif.
"Well, I mean, I was surprised when I first saw it," said Espinoza, who said there was a rematch clause in the contract for the fight; it's a rematch that could take place before the end of 2013, based on information that came from a conversation BoxingScene.com had Wednesday with Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions.
"It's something I wasn't expecting," Espinoza said. "It caught me off-guard. Shocked. It happened so quick."
It might seem strange to say, but it almost doesn't make sense that a fighter of Mares' caliber could get caught so early in a big fight with such a clean and strong left hook to the jaw. Espinoza, however, said that Mares didn't show any signs of having any problems in camp. Espinoza also said he doesn't think Mares' run of tough opponents ahead of the Gonzalez bout played a role, either.
"I don't think it had anything to do with that," Espinoza said. "I think that he got caught early and that was it. You really can't say much more than that. I don't think it had anything to do with his prior fights.
"He's not worn as a fighter. He still has a lot to give. It was a punch, and he'll be back."
Espinoza, whose stable includes about 10 quality fighters, spoke at length about the future for the 27-year-old Mares. He's not concerned about any lasting effects, to be sure.
"At the end of the day, this is boxing," Espinoza said. "I believe that Abner will be back even stronger. I think he learned from this experience. And I'm going to support my fighters, win or lose. That's really it.
"It wasn't a brutal fight, so I expect Abner to come back when Abner is ready to come back."
The Rematch Could Happen This Year
When we spoke with Espinoza, it was early Tuesday afternoon. At that time, he wouldn't be nailed down regarding a time frame. He would only say he definitely plans on getting Mares a return fight with Gonzalez.
"Yes, I prepared a rematch clause," Espinoza said. "It was intact and we plan to exercise that. I spoke to Abner and he wants to come back. It's something that he wants to prove, that he is the best. We did it once with (Joseph) Agbeko when a lot of people were saying, 'Well, the low blows,' this and that. There was controversy.
"And Abner wanted to do it again because he wanted to prove he was able to beat Agbeko handily, and he did. And that's the way Abner is; he's got that warrior spirit. And now that he has lost, he wants to win. He's got that championship pedigree in him. So, yeah, he would like to fight Jhonny Gonzalez, sure."
Well, don't look now, but according to Schaefer, that rematch could happen by the end of the year, based on a conversation he had with Mares later Tuesday. Before that, Schaefer was under the assumption that Mares would invoke the rematch clause, but that both he and Gonzalez might take another bout before that.
Schaefer was even already planning on having Gonzalez step into the ring with Gary Russell Jr. next, with Mares fighting someone else on the same card, then Gonzalez and Mares fighting each other again early next year assuming they won their respective bouts. That would have worked fine because Golden Boy has two controlling options on Gonzalez.
Apparently, the "warrior spirit" Espinoza spoke of got in the way of that plan, and now Schaefer is being told to do what he can to make the rematch now for sometime near the end of 2013.
"In typical Abner Mares fashion - Abner Mares in all of his fights never took it the easy way, he always looks out for the biggest fights - Abner called me yesterday himself and he said he wants to have the rematch and he wants to have it this year," Schaefer, who promotes Mares, said mid-afternoon Wednesday.
"He wants to end the year being world champion again. This fight woke up the beast in him. He wants the rematch. And I said, 'Are you sure?' And he said, 'Absolutely, that's what I want.' I said, 'OK, let me see if I can get it done. I'm not sure I can get it done this year, but this is certainly an important fight, a big fight, and I'm going to see what I can do.' "
Schaefer said the only thing that could get in the way of the rematch taking place before the end of 2013 would be the typical stuff like finding open dates for sites and TV in the last part of the year when things get real busy.
"So I said, 'Let me go to work and see what I can do,' " Schaefer said. "Am I surprised?No, I'm not surprised because that's Abner Mares. ... That's why I think Abner Mares is such an exciting fighter."
Schaefer said Espinoza reached out to him Wednesday and that the two will meet next week to discuss the details.
"The rematch, it is," Schaefer said.
Antonio Orozco ready to move on up
As badly as things went for Mares on Saturday, the opposite could be said for another Espinoza fighter - junior welterweight Antonio Orozco of San Diego. The ever-punching Orozco knocked out Ivan Hernandez in the third round on the undercard.
Orozco is now 18-0 with 14 knockouts, and Espinoza believes he is getting close to being good enough for a world-title shot.
"I personally think he'll be ready by the end of next year," Espinoza said.
Orozco, who has knocked out his past six opponents and nine of his past 10, is a machine in the ring. And he goes to both the head as well as the body, with frequency.
"His performance was outstanding," Espinoza said. "He showed championship ability. He knows how to box, he knows how to punch. I mean, he knows how to deliver those shots downstairs and upstairs. Uppercuts. He's a complete fighter."
Since Orozco is also promoted by Golden Boy, Espinoza said he has already reached out to Schaefer and Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez to inform them he wants to get Orozco back in the ring as soon as possible, especially since he only fought three rounds against Hernandez.
There is something else Espinoza would like to see.
"What we want to do now is keep him busy, get him on bigger shows," Espinoza said. "That's another thing because he hasn't really been showcased, only like maybe a ShoBox, or was it Showtime Extreme? (It was Showtime Extreme on Saturday). I think he's ready to step up to the next level where people get to see him all over the world."
Orozco is a fighter with which the rest of the 140-pound division is going to have to reckon, Espinoza intimated.
"He throws punches in bunches, that's why I named him 'Relentless' because once he starts, he goes for more," Espinoza said. "Once he gets into that zone, he throws punches and he doesn't stop."
Espinoza likes a lot of things about Orozco. For one, that he's humble. Espinoza also likes what Orozco in the corner does before every fight.
"He starts pacing back and forth, back and forth, waiting for that first bell to ring," Espinoza said. "Like a lion that's in a cage."
Schaefer on board with Orozco
Schaefer said he is in line with Espinoza as far as Orozco perhaps getting a title shot by next year.
"Obviously, it all starts and it all ends with talent and Orozco certainly has the talent," Schaefer said. "He has the desire, the will. He's a nice kid, as well. He comes across very well."
As far as increased exposure, Schaefer said he also agrees with Espinoza in that regard. Schaefer said he would like to have Orozco headline one of Golden Boy's cards on the new network, Fox Sports 1, because it has an audience of 90 million.
"I have no doubt he will become world champion," Schaefer said. "He is not only a talented guy, but an exciting guy. People want to see somebody like him. ... Orozco is exactly the kind of fighter I would like to see on Fox Sports 1 with the larger audience, and then eventually part of the Showtime fights and then the pay-per-view."
Danny Garcia went out and grabbed his glory
A conference call was held recently to discuss the upcoming junior welterweight title fight between champion Danny Garcia of Philadelphia and Lucas Matthysse (34-2, 32 KOs) of Argentina on Sept. 14 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Saul "Canelo" Alvarez junior middleweight title fight (on Showtime pay-per-view). During the call Garcia said something in response to a question that really hit the nail on the head.
A reporter basically asked Garcia what he thinks about those who still aren't convinced he's as good as all that, his status as world champion and holder of two belts notwithstanding.
"I really don’t know because I feel like I’m before my time; a lot of people still don’t understand it because I’m not supposed to be here right now," said Garcia, 25, who is 26-0 with 16 knockouts. "It wasn’t supposed to be my time right now. I made it my time. I took it and the people still don’t understand it, but I’m just going to keep building my legacy and proving myself."
That made perfect sense. Garcia really wasn't on the minds of many in boxing until he knocked out Amir Khan in the fourth round in a title-unification bout in July 2012 in Las Vegas. Now, Garcia is on the minds of quite a bit of people in the industry, thanks to his ability and toughness in the ring, as well as his outspoken father/trainer Angel Garcia.
'Canelo' has the right attitude
Saul "Canelo" Alvarez has already shown quite a bit during his career, even though he's just 23. Ahead of his huge fight with Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs), he is acting very maturely and saying all the right things. At a media workout Tuesday at his camp in Big Bear, Calif., Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) was asked about his potential.
"I've always said that I've never fought to my potential, but that's because I've never had an opponent to bring it out," Alvarez said. "I feel that maybe Mayweather will be the one to bring it out."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.