By Jake Donovan
The hardest thing Abner Mares would have to do on Saturday evening was prove he could come back from a knockout loss.
The former three-division champ returned to the ring for the first time since his shocking upset defeat at the lethal hands of Jhonny Gonzalez to concede his featherweight title last August. Having joined forces with trainer Virgil Hunter – chief second for 168 lb. king Andre Ward and former 140 lb. titlist Amir Khan, among many other fighters - Mares presented a different look in taking a 10-round decision over Jonathan Oquendo in their chief support to Saul Alvarez’ split decision over Erislandy Lara at the MGM Grand.
Mares has never before disappointed on the entertainment front since turning pro in 2005 following a run on the 2004 Mexico Olympic Boxing team. His performance on Saturday changed that statement, as the night was clearly about winning first and looking good the next time.
“I felt the ring rust when I was in there tonight,” Mares (27-1-1, 14KO) admitted after the fight, his first in 11 months, which marked his longest inactive period to date. “I didn’t think it would happen, but I had to fight through it.”
Now that he’s back in the win column, Mares plans to throw himself in the deep end rather than continue to ease his way into the water. From his first title challenge versus then-unbeaten bantamweight titlist Yhonny Perez to his loss to Gonzalez, Mares’ stretch of tough fights rivaled that of anyone else in the sport.
While the break was welcomed – in addition to the loss, he also left the Espinoza Boxing Club to head north to the Bay Area in joining Hunter’s stable – Mares is ready to return to the level of competition that made him among the sport’s very best fighters in the world.
“I’m ready for (a rematch with) Jhonny Gonzalez. I’m ready for any featherweight in the world,” Mares boldly proclaimed of his future. “I’m back and want to fight the best.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox