Mexican-American Abner Mares (26-0-1, 14) successfully became a 3-weight world champion as he stopped Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-5, 34) for the WBC Featherweight title, in what could well be the best victory of Mares' career so far, and that's actually saying a lot.
Despite having only moved to Super Bantamweight 13 months ago Mares was now starting his campaign at Featherweight and the impressive Mexican seemed to have filled out to 126lbs excellently as he looked the same size as the genuinely big, and strong Ponce De Leon.
With both men looking equal in size the difference it was never going to be a case of who was the bigger man in the ring but who could determine the style of fight. Could Ponce De Leon hurt Mares with his explosive left hand? Could Mares force his fight on to Ponce De Leon?
In the first round the answer to who could dictate the style of the fight became obvious as Mares came forward and forced Ponce De Leon on to the back foot. Although the action wasn't anything notable it was worrying for Ponce De Leon that he was effectively being forced backwards by the smaller man. Things got more worrying just a round later as Mares dropped the champion thanks to his sharp and fast shots that appeared to have more sting on them than they had had at either 118lbs or 122lbs.
Mares continued to force Ponce De Leon on to the back foot though started to mix up what he was doing. For large portions of the following rounds he was fighting as a pure boxer using his jab and movement to keep a controlled distance at other points he was brawling with the champion and landing 3 or 4 punch combinations in little bursts before Ponce De Leon could land much of note. It was this switching between styles and Mares' speed with both hands and feet that really helped to confuse De Leon who landed several left hands but did very little to discourage Mares.
Ponce De Leon, who was, in his defense, forcing the action in several rounds, looked very one dimensional and it didn't take long for Mares to see everything that was coming his way as he became incredibly comfortable in the ring. In fact there was only really one blow that Ponce De Leon landed that really got Mares' attention and that was a major low blow in round 7 that would have seen many fans saying "karma" for the numerous low blows that Mares himself has landed. Aside from that one shot however Mares looked like he could do whatever he want with out taking anything of note.
Having completely dominated the bout with his hand speed it seemed that the challenger could have cruised to a decision victory. Instead however, Mares dropped Ponce De Leon in round 9 before moving in for the finish and forcing the referee to step in and wave the bout off with Ponce De Leon taking major shots with little being fired back.
With the WBC Featherweight title now around his waist Mares has got plenty of options to call out, though he may struggle to get the biggest match ups as the current champions are unlikely to be facing him. The likes of Mikey Garcia, Evgeny Gradovich and Orlando Salido are all Top Rank fighters with the other name of note in the division, Chris John being very comfortable with fighting in the East. It may well be that Mares will have to face someone like the unheralded Robinson Castellanos or a fighter who he could persuade up from 122.
For Ponce De Leon this loss may well spell the end of his hopes at the title level, though the hard hitting Mexican will always be a fighter that fans will want to see in the ring.