Abner Mares has built a boxing career on overcoming adversity. He survived a family migration from Mexico to L.A. led by his mother, withstood a childhood in poverty and then rebounded from a career-threatening detached retina in 2008.
So when Mares' scheduled Saturday night opponent, Joseph Agbeko, withdrew from the world bantamweight title unification bout at Nokia Theatre, Mares knew what to do: look for the silver lining.
"This is the worst, all the training and hard work put on hold," Hawaiian Gardens' Mares said Thursday at the L.A. Live news conference intended to hype the bout. "I just have to look at it the good way: that I haven't lost anything. I'm still undefeated. And I still have my opportunity.
"This is just one more obstacle that adds to my record. I don't know when I'm going to catch a break, or when my time will come, but I hope it comes soon."
Agbeko pulled out of the bout after failing to recover from a Monday night sciatic nerve attack that caused him to collapse at LAX after taking a delayed flight from New York.
"I'm very, very disappointed," Agbeko said Thursday. "It's a fight I wanted to happen, to find out who the best in the world is. And it was obvious I was going to win. I have the instincts." He will be reexamined by doctors Monday.
For Mares, something else is now on hold: He was planning to buy a home for his pregnant wife and daughter with his Saturday purse. He said he is not skeptical about Agbeko's injury, and even hugged the apologetic fighter Thursday.
Mares' promoter Richard Schaefer said he is willing to postpone the bout 45 days, and promoter Gary Shaw said he would petition for Agbeko to be stripped of his International Boxing Federation title if he is not able to fight in 60 days.
Shaw promotes the fighters who lost in the Showtime-televised bantamweight tournament semifinals, Yonnhy Perez, a Colombian who trains in Santa Fe Springs, and Australia's Vic Darchinyan. Perez vs. Darchinyan will now be Saturday's main event. Shaw argues the winner should be first in line to fight Mares if Agbeko requires excessive time away.
"I wouldn't wish to fight Abner; he's one of my best friends," Perez said. "But this is a business, and even though he might be my friend, he can be a foe too."
Schaefer said full refunds will be given to those who bought their tickets before the Agbeko withdrawal. Perez-Darchinyan is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., with Showtime televising the bout between former world champions.