The two independent retina specialists that the California State Athletic Commission chose weren’t the only ones Abner Mares needed to convince that he should return to boxing.
Mares’ wife, Nathalie, and his two daughters, 16-year-old Emily and 11-year-old Amber, didn’t want him to fight again. He won world titles in three weight classes, they’re fine financially and Mares has one of the most prominent broadcasting gigs in boxing as an analyst for Showtime.
There was no reason, they repeatedly told him, to take another risk. They, like many boxing fans and reporters, didn’t understand Mares’ need to box again, even if his 10-round junior lightweight fight against Miguel Flores on September 4 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles is just a final opportunity to go out a winner.
“It took ‘em a while to understand that it was something personal, something that I wanted,” Mares explained during a virtual press conference Tuesday. “You know? But at the same time, ‘But like, dad, we don’t want you to get hurt.’ You know, I’m like, ‘I’ll be good, baby. I’ll be good, girls. I’ll defend myself.’ So, they understood.
“As a matter of fact, [Tuesday] I had a sparring session and they were there, my daughters and my wife. And, you know, to see my loved ones say, give me positive [reinforcement], like, ‘Dad, you did good today. Give me five.’ You know? So, things like that, and I’m just enjoying myself, like I said. But it took ‘em a while, but now they’re on it. You know, they have to. They support me a hundred percent, like I support them.”
By the time he enters the ring to face Flores on the Andy Ruiz Jr.-Luis Ortiz undercard, the 36-year-old Mares won’t have fought in more than four years. The Guadalajara native lost his last fight, a 12-round rematch with rival Leo Santa Cruz, by unanimous decision in June 2018 at Staples Center, since renamed Crypto.com Arena.
Mares (31-3-1, 15 KOs) was supposed to challenge Gervonta Davis in February 2019, but he withdrew from that “Showtime Championship Boxing” main event less than two weeks in advance after suffering a detached right retina during sparring. Mares recovered from a detached retina in his left eye in 2008 to win world titles in the bantamweight, junior featherweight and featherweight divisions.
There were times after enduring a second detachment, though, that Mares assumed he wouldn’t resume his career. Once he received clearance from two retina experts, in addition to his own doctor, the 2004 Mexican Olympian determined that he needs to fight at least once more.
“My motivation is just to go out on my shield,” Mares explained, “you know, go out on my own terms, not to be the fighter that, ‘Hey, you know, he retired because he got injured.’ Nah, you know, I wanna be remembered as Abner Mares, after four years he comes back and he puts on a spectacular show and he wins and, you know, he probably calls it quits and that’s it. You know, I went out on my own terms, I went out on my shield and that’s pretty much why I’m doing this.”
Mares went through an arduous process to be approved for another boxing license in California. It began more than a year ago, but Mares’ perseverance paid off when he secured the Flores fight as part of Premier Boxing Champions’ upcoming FOX Sports Pay-Per-View show.
“There was a point in my life where I thought I was not gonna come back ever again,” Mares said. “[I felt] frustration more than anything because I think I waited a year after my injury. I did try to go for my license, but then, you know, my family and, you know, people around me said, ‘You know what? Why bother, Abner? You know, you’re retired. You’re good.’ I am good. I’m blessed. I am good where I’m at right now. So that kinda stopped me from continuing to pursue, you know, what I wanted to, which was to come back.
“And then, when I went and applied for my license, my California license, you know, it was a lot. I had to go through a lot of doctors, you know, people saying that I might not be able to. So, it was a process. So yeah, of course it crossed my mind that maybe I would never get the opportunity, maybe they would vote against, you know, me getting my license. But it was quite the opposite. Thank God I got the OK, the approval, and I’m here. And I’m taking full advantage of it. I’m training a hundred percent. I’m training. You know, I’m just enjoying this camp, training really well.”
Mares has viewed each of his fights as potentially his last bout since he suffered his first detached retina 14 years ago. He was just 23 when he came back from that career-threatening injury, thus Mares is realistic about what awaits him.
Mares would love a third bout with Santa Cruz or to fight for a world title, yet he understands that facing Houston’s Flores (25-4, 12 KOs) simply might amount to his one shot at ending his career with a victory.
“I don’t wanna put that pressure on myself,” Mares said. “I said it at the press conference, you know, at the Andy Ruiz and [Luis] Ortiz press conference, I’m not calling out no one. I don’t wanna fight the best right now. I’m taking it fight by fight. And, you know, it is what it is. It’s just Miguel Flores in front of me. I’m gonna enjoy this fight and take it as it is. You know, we’ll see what happens after that.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.