Abner Mares of Hawaiian Gardens had already won titles in the bantamweight and super bantamweight divisions when he challenged Daniel Ponce De Leon for his featherweight title this past Saturday at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Not only was Mares moving up in weight, he was facing a left-handed power hitter in De Leon. Mares went right after De Leon and stopped him in the ninth round to become a three-division champion. As impressive as Mares was, trainer Abel Sanchez of West Covina believes we have yet to see his best.
“Just like Floyd (Mayweather), he seems to be getting stronger and better at the higher weights,” said Sanchez, who trains middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin out of his sprawling camp in Big Bear, Calif. “When he gets to 130 (super featherweight), he’s going to be an even better fighter. He has good mobility, he was able to withstand Ponce De Leon’s punching; De Leon’s a strong puncher.
“He’s not going to shy away from anybody. He has proven that in all of his fights. And to go in there against a guy who was at least 10 pounds heavier, he took everything De Leon threw and De Leon never wobbled him. I think it has a lot to do with him going up in weight. Not having to sacrifice for weight makes him a better fighter, just like it did with Floyd.”
De Leon appeared to be a good 10 pounds heavier than Mares at fight time.
Mares, 27, on Monday at 6 p.m. will be recognized by the city of Hawaiian Gardens at a special city council meeting.