Abner Mares will end 2019 without having entered a single fight, but will at least end the year on a high note.
The former three-division titlist has been given a clean bill of health and cleared to return to the ring, with plans for his next fight to take place in the first quarter of 2020.
“I’m coming back,” Mares (31-3-1, 15KOs) revealed during a special Sunday afternoon edition of Fox’s Inside PBC Boxing, on which he regularly serves as an expert analyst.
The show was otherwise dedicated to preview the upcoming heavyweight title fight rematch between unbeaten Deontay Wilder (41-0-1, 40KOs) and top-rated contender Luis Ortiz (31-1, 26KOs; 2NCs), which airs live Nov. 23 on Fox Sports Pay-Per-View from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mares was motivated to offer the welcomed sidebar after watching an opening clip of Fox Sports’ National Football League (NFL) insider Jay Glazer participate in a sparring session last weekend at West Point in honor of Veterans Day.
“The doctor has given me clearance to return to sparring next month,” noted Mares. “I think I just found my sparring partner!”
On the more serious side, the 2004 Mexican Olympian—who turns 34 later this month—couldn’t be more thrilled with the news of returning to his first love, which is inside the ring as a prizefighter.
Mares hasn’t fought since a 12-round loss to Leo Santa Cruz in their featherweight title fight rematch last June. He was due to face now former two-time 130-pound titlist Gervonta Davis this past February, only to have to withdraw two weeks prior due to what was revealed to be a detached retina.
It was at least the second time in his career in which it has become an issue, this time sidelining the California-based featherweight for the entirety of 2019. He’s been able to maintain his sanity through his regular role as a Fox Sports analyst, even if not quite maintaining his fighting weight.
“Is that the weight class you’re looking to come back at,” quipped Fox Sports host Kate Abdo, poking fun at Mares’ thicker frame these days, though not quite the size of the comfortably-shaped Glazer. “Maybe come back as a welterweight?”
The plan will be for Mares to return to the ring as a featherweight—where he’s campaigned since a 9th round knockout of Daniel Ponce de Leon in May 2013 to become a three-division titlist—or junior lightweight, where he was to meet Davis in a bid to claim a fourth divisional strap. The time frame is pegged for late February or early March.
At what level, however, depends on whether calmer heads trump his fighting heart.
“Are you going to come back with a tune-up? Are you going to come back with a big fight,” inquired Abdo, though not without offering her own friendly and professional advice. “Smart, would be a tune-up.”
As much was noted—if not fully embraced—by the comeback kid.
“Smart would be a tune-up,” repeated Mares, though winding up for his own admission. “Knowing myself, I want to come back strong. I want the big guys… meaning the big names.”
If nothing else, it earned the instant respect of his fellow in-studio analyst.
“I ain’t mad at that,” agreed Shawn Porter, the former two-time welterweight titlist, no stranger to big fights himself.
Mares’ title run through three weight divisions boasted one of the toughest stretches of his time. Beginning with a 12-round draw versus Yonnhy Perez in their first fight—and also Mares’ first career title fight—in May 2010 came eight straight fights spanning 39 months all against former or current world champions. A win over Vic Darchinyan in Dec. 2010—at the start of the Showtime Bantamweight tournament—netted Mares the IBO bantamweight title, adding the IBF strap to his collection following a pair of 12-round wins over Joseph Agbeko.
Title wins over Eric Morel, Anselmo Moreno and Daniel Ponce de Leon saw Mares emerge as a pound-for-pound entrant before his world came crashing down in a stunning 1st round knockout at the hands of two-division champ Jhonny Gonzalez in Aug. 2013 to end his featherweight title reign.
Just seven fights have followed in the six-plus years since, including a pair of hard fought losses to Santa Cruz. Wedged in between came a Dec. 2015 win over Jesus Cuellar to claim a secondary featherweight title.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox