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Abner Mares to Face Daniel Ponce De Leon for WBC Title, Leaves Behind Thoughts of Donaire

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COMMENTARY | Believe it or not, media reports are sometimes accurate and, occasionally, right on the money. By all accounts, Abner Mares (25-0-1, 13 KOs) tried his best to get a shot at Top Rank hothouse flower and current 122 lb. kingpin, Nonito Donaire, but could never quite get close enough to the prize.

Even the $3 million offered by Mares' promoter, Golden Boy, wasn't enough for Bob Arum and Company to swallow their pride, take a fan-friendly risk, and give the sport one of its most lusted-after bouts.

So, with no real opposition of note left at junior featherweight, Mares opted to vacate his WBC belt and move up to featherweight where a new crop of fighters, less bogged down in boxing politics, awaits.

According to ESPN's Dan Rafael via Twitter, Mares will be challenging WBC featherweight titlist, Daniel Ponce de Leon (44-4, 35 KOs) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California on April 20 with Josesito Lopez-Marcos Maidana as a possible co-feature.

Mares-Ponce de Leon is nowhere near as glamorous or legacy-defining as Mares-Donaire would've been, but it's still a high profile bout on Showtime with a world title at stake. For Mares, it's not a bad consolation prize for being frozen out of the big fight picture at junior featherweight.

The 27-year-old from Guadalajara will be able to add another big name to his growing resume in a bout almost guaranteed to deliver on quality ring action. Provided he wins, of course, only good things can come from this match-up.

The 32-year-old Ponce de Leon is well known by hardcore fans for delivering compelling ring drama with a ring style about as subtle as a toothache. The disparity in skill and ability will be huge, but two heavy hands and a brutish will to win make Ponce de Leon a live opponent against anyone from 122 to 130. And, to be fair, his skills have actually improved somewhat over the years with the addition of an odd-looking jab that looks like it's delivered via boxing glove tied to the end of a jousting pole. The two-division world titlist has also added some marginally better balance to compliment his overall more mature game.

The improvement was evident when he faced then-super featherweight contender, Adrien Broner in March of 2011 and dropped a controversial ten round unanimous decision. Many observers, including this writer, felt that the hard-charging Mexican had done enough to score the upset, but the judges thought differently.

Ponce de Leon would then lose, legitimately, to Yuriorkis Gamboa before taking a full step back, fighting two tune-ups, and taking the WBC featherweight title from Jhonny Gonzalez in a headbutt-caused eight round technical decision back in September of last year on the Saul Alvarez-Josesito Lopez undercard.

Against Mares, expect a full-on assault because, just as Mares looked to Donaire, Ponce de Leon may be seeing this opportunity as his legacy-defining moment. Over the course of a twelve-year career, the blue collar battler from Ciudad Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua has yet to register a win over a truly elite-level, pound-for-pound quality star.

Wins over the likes of Jhonny Gonzalez, Gerry Penalosa, Rey Bautista, and Antonio Escalante are on Ponce de Leon's distinguished resume, but he has always come up short against the elites-- Juan Manuel Lopez, Celestino Caballero, Adrien Broner, Yuriorkis Gamboa. This could very well be his last legitimate chance at scoring that career-defining win over a highly-favored main stage performer.

For Mares, Ponce de Leon is the gatekeeper to a featherweight class that includes Jhonny Gonzalez, Chris John, Billy Dib, and a likely untouchable Top Rank star, Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia.

The versatile boxer-puncher will be pushed on April 20 and, if everything plays out true to form, he will push back. Expect things to possibly get a bit messy as both Mares and Ponce de Leon have been known to stretch the limits of the rulebook on occasion.

If victorious, there are some decent bouts out there for Mares at featherweight, but nothing even remotely approaching the big ticket importance of a Donaire clash at junior featherweight. Just chalk up another lost mega-fight to boxing politics and the stubborn refusal to compromise, even in the best interest of the sport.


Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.


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