By Lem Satterfield

Over the next few weeks the featherweight division will feature clashes between some of the top boxers in the 126-pound class. When the dust settles Abner Mares hopes to be in a position to once again stand among the champions in one of the most talent-laden divisions in the sport.

“Any featherweight should feel pressure being in the mix with others who are as good, if not better, in the weight class. It pushes all of us to work that hard and, if possible, to make these fights happen and match up against one another,” says Mares, who lost a majority decision to WBA champion Leo Santa Cruz last August.

Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs) will fight former world champion Fernando Montiel (54-5-2, 39 KOs) in a clash of Mexican-born featherweights at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Uncasville, Connecticut, airing live on CBS (8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT) on March 12. It will be the co-feature to a welterweight championship showdown between Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter. It is the first time that boxing will be broadcast on CBS in nearly 40 years. The last boxing match on the network was Muhammad Ali-Leon Spinks I in 1978.

Before Mares, a 30-year-old three-division champion, squares off against Montiel there will be two significant matches that will factor into Mares’ future course. 

Santa Cruz (31-0-1, 17 KOs), the WBA champion, will defend his title against former champion Kiko Martinez (35-6, 26 KOs) at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California on Feb. 27. Carl Frampton (21-0, 14 KOs) of Northern Ireland and Scott Quigg (31-0-2, 23 KOs) of England will meet in a junior featherweight title unification match. Both matches will be broadcast on Showtime.

Mares will be watching them with keen interest. The featherweight stars are aligning for Mares to be able to shine brightest among them.

“Leo Santa Cruz is fighting in two weeks, and I’d like that rematch. With Quigg or Frampton, if the winner moves up, I’d like to fight him. So there’s pressure for all of us to perform. I think one of us is always going to be trying to look better than the others.”

That includes Santa Cruz, whose next opponent, Martinez, lost to Quigg by knockout, and to Frampton  twice - by stoppage and unanimous decision.

“Abner can have the rematch after one fight,” says Santa Cruz. “Or he can take another fight after Montiel, and then we can do the rematch. But the rematch can happen.”

Mares will be in his first fight under Robert Garcia, the Boxing Writer Association of America Trainer Of The Year in 2012 who has also worked with Marcos Maidana, Nonito Donaire, and Mikey Garcia.

Facing a difficult opponent in a non-title fight after a loss and with a new trainer is a familiar situation for Mares.

He left longtime trainer, Clemente Medina, after the loss to Gonzalez in 2013.

“I’m in transition again with a new trainer, coming off a loss, and I’m not fighting a current world champion,” says Mares, who has worked with trainers Floyd Mayweather Sr., Oscar Suarez, Nacho Beristain and Joel Diaz.

“A lot of people are counting me out. I want to show I’m still in the picture and that I’m still as good as any other featherweight in this division. If I have the performance that I’m looking for, which is a spectacular one, then I’ll show everyone.”

Once known as a strategic, crowd-pleasing, boxer-puncher with calculated power and infighting prowess, Mares wants a return to the skills exhibited during a four-fight run between August 2011 and May 2013, when he earned world championships at 118, 122 and 126 pounds.

In Montiel, Mares faces an aging warrior whose eight-fight winning streak ended with an  action-packed unanimous decision loss to IBF titleholder Lee Selby (22-1, 8 KOs) in October. Montiel also lost in a bantamweight title fight to Nonito Donaire in 2011.

“I’m not thinking that I have to beat him as bad as Nonito did or as bad as Selby did. I’m just trying to do me,” says Mares. “Things look good with what we’re working on with Robert. I expect that to continue and to be able to beat Montiel similarly to the way that they did.”



Lem Satterfield is a writer for Premier Boxing Champions. Re-use of any or all of this material must contain proper attribution that reflects that.