Exclusive: Mares talks Cuellar clash, possibility of Santa Cruz II
Mexican-born Abner Mares is not one to shy away from a challenge and almost nine months on since his last fight – a decision loss to WBA ‘super’ champion Leo Santa Cruz – he returns to the ring to face another featherweight titlist in Argentina’s Jesus Cuellar in a fight he is confident of winning.
Mares (29-2-1, 15 KO) is under no illusions that he is in for a tough nights work when the pair face on June 25 at New York’s Barclays Center as an exciting chief support act to Keith Thurman vs Shawn Porter. There is added spice in the fact that the 30-year old is now working with Robert Garcia, the former trainer of Cuellar.
The fight will be for Cuellar’s WBA ‘regular’ belt and will be Mares’ second attempt at becoming a four-time world champion following the Santa Cruz defeat.
“The Santa Cruz loss was what it was and I honestly feel I caused my own downfall and beat myself,” Mares exclusively told World Boxing News.
“It was a close fight but I could have stuck to my game-plan and performed a lot better than was the case – I learnt a lot that night.
“Now I have this next opportunity against Cuellar and it is very important for me to get the victory, especially coming off a loss and to become a world champion again will put me in a great place” he continued.
In a bid to make sure he does not fall short again Mares took the decision to team up with Garcia, the trainer who Cuellar (28-1, 21 KO) opted to leave before his last title defence – a decision win over Jonathan Oquendo.
“It is going great with Garcia and we work tremendously well together and have an excellent understanding. It’s not just your typical coach to fighter relationship, there is a lot more to it than that – I’m a student in they gym and am learning every day.
“We both want to be the best in the world and the training is going superbly for this fight,” Mares continued, “We haven’t had to do camps as such like going to Big Bear, training is training and we have had some fantastic sessions.
“The coach knows Cuellar well and knows when he gets lazy and what punches he likes to throw so we have an advantage in that sense. It’s definitely personal for Robert and I think he sees this as a way of getting a bit of revenge.”
While Mares is by no means overlooking Cuellar, he still craves the opportunity to avenge that loss to Santa Cruz and a victory in June could well lead to a second contest against the ‘super’ champ.
“Cuellar is a very good and exciting fighter and one that always gives his all. He will fight from the first bell until the last and carries a lot of power – he is a KO guy. If he hits you, he can put you down and it should make for a very entertaining fight.
“The styles could make for a Fight of the Year contender and although I can box, the warrior in me always comes out and loves to go toe-to-toe.
“For me, a rematch is always more interesting when the first fight was an exciting one like the Santa Cruz bout was and a second fight would be exciting again. It is personal because I lost against this guy and it is the first fight I would choose to take.”
Matt Horan is lead writer for WBN. Follow on Twitter @mhoran123