By Jack Price @PriceyJ97.
There isn’t just one world title fight in Las Vegas this weekend. Of course, there’s the one everyone’s talking about between the pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather and Robert Guerrero, but on the undercard we could well be treated to an even more exciting and action-packed world title fight between Daniel Ponce De Leon and Abner Mares. De Leon will be looking to make the first defence of his WBC featherweight title against the highly-rated former 118 & 122lb champion Mares.
Mares has a perfect record of 25-0 with 13 KO’s with victories over some of the best fighters in the sport at bantamweight and super-bantamweight. Wins over guys like Vic Darchinyan, Joseph Agbeko, Eric Morel and most recently Anselmo Moreno have propelled him to superstardom and put him in a position where he stands just a few fights away from becoming one of the sports pound-for-pound best - That’s if he isn’t already there. This will be his first fight at featherweight and he will be diving straight into the deep end when he takes on WBC champ Ponce De Leon.
Ponce (44-4, 35 KO’s) has been around forever and has shared the ring with some of the best fighters in the world today. He is not the type of undefeated highly-rated “superstar” like Abner Mares, but he has made his mark at world level and more than deserves to have the title around his waist. Going into this fight he is on a roll, with 3 consecutive victories over Omar Estrella, Eduardo Lazcano and Jhonny Gonzalez. With a big power and size advantage over the smaller Mexican challenger it could be easy to make the 32-year old the favourite, but when you dig deeper into his record you see that he has fallen short every time against elite opponents, and Mares could be more talented than anyone he has faced so far.
Ponce’s three most recent losses have come to Juan Manuel Lopez, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Adrien Broner - 3 extremely talented fighters. He put up a good fight against Broner, but he was out-classed over 8 against Gamboa and KO’d in just one round against Lopez back in 2008. Mares might not have the punching power of Lopez or the technical skills of Gamboa but he can fight just as well, if not better, than both of them.
The 27-year old Mexican’s biggest problem will be size. At just 5”4 he will be extremely small to most of the elite fighters at 126lb but they have managed to get the smallest champion first at this weight. De Leon is only 5”5 but is still expected to have a strength and power advantage over ‘Lil Abner’ who is becoming known for his own force and strength at world level. If Mares can overcome this disadvantage then nothing else will really stand in his way of becoming a 3-weight world champ.
I expect Mares to struggle slightly in the first few rounds with De Leon keeping him at bay with some big shots. They may not be landing clean, but they should be enough to gain Mares respect. But the challenger cannot have too much respect for the champion’s power as he will need to start roughing him up and looking to land some big shots of his own at some point, and to do this he’s going to have to take some risks. After losing the majority of the first 4 rounds I expect Mares to start putting on the pressure and looking to wear the bigger man down with a lot of work to the body. If Mares can stay close and keep Ponce unsettled without taking too many big shots of his own then he should be able to do more than enough to win the fight on the judges’ scorecards. Mares has been down before in his career, but I can’t see this fight ending in a knock out either way. Both men are tough and even if they do go down, they will make sure that they get straight back up. I expect a very exciting fight here and a tough night for both men. My pick is for Mares by unanimous decision but I wouldn’t be too surprised if Ponce did cause an upset and win a close split decision.