Two potential crowd-pleasing fights delivered in a big way this weekend. Showtime’s Saturday night card featured the young sensation, and pound-for-pound candidate, Abner Mares, fighting the experienced and durable Jhonny Gonzalez. Gonzalez had an obvious advantage in size, but early in the fight Mares seemed faster, more fluid, and not without power. Gonzalez had trouble landing solid shots, but he was poised and balanced when he threw. About a minute and a half into the fight, Mares threw an impressive combination that made it seem as if he was gaining momentum. Only moments later, however, as Gonzalez continued to steadily apply pressure with tight punches, Mares opened up his guard as he attempted a right hand, only to be caught on the chin by casual left hook. Mares rose to his feet by the count of 9, but was very unsteady. Gonzalez didn’t have to chase Mares long before flooring him again with frantic combinations. Mares beat the count again, but was far from convincing in his assertion that he was ready to fight. The referee stopped the action in the first round and awarded Gonzalez the belt. As a developing star, Mares needed to avoid hiccups like this one to guarantee his place in the limelight. The Featherweight division is competitive and the tides of popular interest are inconsistent, but if Mares makes a conservative, calculated comeback, it seems reasonable to expect him to maintain major significance in the division.
The co-feature Saturday was a showcase for the up-and-coming Bantamweight Leo Santa Cruz against Victor Terrazas. Santa Cruz was as impressive as he has been in all of his early showings, putting his opponent down twice in the third round with accurate, powerful punches. Terrazas was a legitimate opponent but didn’t have the technical tools to defuse his opponent’s explosive power. There is speculation that Mares will be paired against Santa Cruz, but even at a catch-weight, I would think Mares would be leery of an opponent on such an impressive streak after his recent knockout loss. If he first wins a solid tune-up fight, a match against Santa Cruz would be great for Mares to reclaim his place in the division , but it would probably be too dangerous before he regains his confidence.