Exclusive: Mares talks Montiel clash, future Santa Cruz rematch

Featherweight star Abner Mares is hoping to come through his March 12 bout with Fernando Montiel relatively unscathed as the former world champion pushes for a return with rival Leo Santa Cruz.

The 30 year-old, who has won world titles in three separate weight classes, recently switched trainers to work with Robert Garcia in Oxnard on the back of a majority decision defeat to Santa Cruz in August of last year.

Despite initially seeking an immediate return with Santa Cruz, Mares is hoping victory over another multi-weight world champion in Montiel, 36, will lead to a second crack at the current WBA 126 pound belt holder.

For the past month, Mares has been enjoying life under new coach Garcia, ahead of his first outing in seven months, which takes place on the Keith Thurman v Shawn Porter welterweight championship undercard at Mohegan Sun Casino.

“It’s great. We’ve been together for five weeks now and I think my boxing style and his way of teaching will definitely convert into something magical. I think it’s going to show March 12 as things he been going really well and the connection is there, so it’s really good,” Mares exclusively told World Boxing News.

“I’m going to be truly honest, the Montiel fight is not one that I was expecting as we asked for a rematch with Leo, but obviously he has a fight already against Kiko Martinez.

“We also asked for a fight against Jesus Cuellar, the WBA champion, but I believe he was not in training in preparation for anything so he wouldn’t be ready. Lee Selby was also a target but I think he has a mandatory IBF challenger, so we had no other option but to look for a decent, well-rounded and dangerous fighter in Montiel.

“Fernando Montiel has been a three-time world champion and he is no easy task. He gave Lee Selby a hell of a fight and we are expecting the same thing. Saying that, I hope not it’s not a war and I hope it’s an easy a fight that we can make it, but at the same time we are expecting a tough fight. We just have to be well prepared.

“We’ve had five weeks of hard training so far and we will be ready for him and I’m looking forward to March 12.

“My fans can expect a different, meaner and more dangerous Abner Mares with the collaboration of Robert Garcia. I think my style and his style are going to make the perfect beast.”

Asked whether his focus will switch to Santa Cruz if he successfully manoeuvres past Montiel, Mares replied: “There is a big possibility that a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz can be made in the summer, God willing we both come out victorious in our upcoming fights.

“In the first fight, I think my performance was good and it was a great fight. Obviously, the result was not the one we were expecting, but overall it was a good fight.

“From my point of view, I don’t think the tactics we used were right and maybe we could have changed them, but that’s what excites me about a rematch. That if we change certain things there are big, big possibilities and I know I could beat Leo Santa Cruz. 

“It’s just the way we fought that night wasn’t the proper way, but overall I was happy with my performance,” he added.