Abner Mares was fit to be tied in his hometown comeback fight.
The 2004 Mexican Olympian and former three-division titlist was unable to secure a victory in his first fight in more years, fighting to a majority draw with Miguel Flores. Judge Rudy Barragan (96-94) had Mares ahead, overruled by judges Patrick Russell (95-95) and Zachary Young (95-95) who scored the lightweight fight even after ten rounds in their Fox Sports Pay-Per-View undercard bout Sunday evening at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
Mares hadn’t fought since a repeat defeat to Leo Santa Cruz in their June 2018 WBA featherweight title fight rematch. The Guadalajara native—who fights out of nearby Hawaiian Gardens, California—was due to challenge then-unbeaten WBA junior lightweight titlist Gervonta ‘Tank’ Davis in February 2019 but was forced to withdraw after suffering a detached retina.
The injury and subsequent surgery was the starting point of a four-plus year layoff, as the 36-year-old was required to undergo a battery of medical examinations before receiving a clean bill of health required to return to the ring.
Flores’ only concern was conquering a former three-division titlist, not buying into the notion that he was facing a damaged fighter. There was the theory that Flores was a safe pick for Mares, only two fights removed from a brutal knockout loss to Eduardo Ramirez (who faces Isaac Cruz later this evening) and who is a fringe contender at this point.
Mares more than held his own in the opening round, fighting at a career heaviest 134.2 pounds but looking sharp at the weight. He consistently beat Flores to the punch, landing right hands at the tail end of one-two combinations. Flores briefly knocked Mares off balance with a left hook and rode out an overhand right to connect with a right uppercut.
Both fighters let their hands go in a high contact round two. Mares landed a flurry of power shots, briefly rocking Flores with a right hand during that sequence. Flores came back to land two rights on the chin of Mares, who took the shots well and immediately reclaimed momentum. Flores was rocked by an overhand right and again with a counter left hook later in the round as he attempted a left hook of his own.
Action slowed in round three. Mares offered far more movement, baiting Flores who chased the veteran boxer around the ring. Flores worked behind his jab, hoping to catch Mares with a right hand but unable to pin down his well-credentialed foe.
The same pattern held true in round four, though Flores was able to enjoy late round success. The 30-year-old from the greater Houston area landed several shots to the body in the back half of the round, though his momentum stalled when a left hook landed well below the belt which provided Mares with a brief break in the action.
Momentum remained with Flores in round five, who enjoyed success with his jab which he used to work his way inside. Mares briefly turned the tide with an overhand right while pinned against the ropes in the final minute. Flores took the shot well, landing a double jab but forced to take a counter left hook just before the bell.
Mares picked his spots throughout the second half of the fight, wisely preserving his energy. Flores was the busier fighter, forcing more of an inside fight to which Mares wisely clinched to slow down the action. Flores outworked Mares in round seven, including a long right hand that sailed through Mares’ guard and found its way to his chin.
Flores was urged by noted trainer Bobby Benton to take the final two rounds, picking up that Mares was dramatically slowing down. Flores (25-4-1, 12KOs) heeded the advice, closing strong down the stretch as Mares couldn’t offer anything beyond movement as he appeared to be running on fumes.
The two embraced at fight’s end, with nervous moments in both corners as they awaited the scorecards.
Whatever comes next for Mares, Sunday’s bout was preceded by an incredible career worthy of at least Hall of Fame consideration. His record moves to 31-3-2 (15KOs), though a hard conversation will have to come of whether he is permitted to continue to fight. The former bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight titlist remains winless since October 2017, though offered a credible enough account of himself to where he can head into the sunset with his held high—if he chooses to do so.
Mares-Flores aired as part of a four-fight PPV. Headlining the show, former unified heavyweight titlist Andy Ruiz (34-2, 22KOs) faces two-time title challenger Luis Ortiz (33-2, 28KOs) in a scheduled twelve-round WBC heavyweight semifinal eliminator.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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