Abner Mares envisions a return to the ring as he takes on Olympic boxing broadcasting
Abner Mares can see the scrutiny coming, and he delivers a forceful response.
“I’m going to stop you right there,” Mares said Tuesday when asked about the news last month that retired fellow Southland world-champion fighter Israel Vazquez, 38, has lost the use of his right eye.
“I do take care of myself.”
The New York State Athletic Commission in June stopped former three-division world champion Mares (29-2-1, 15 knockouts) from fighting World Boxing Assn. featherweight champion Jesus Cuellar because Mares had undergone surgery in 2008 to repair a detached retina.
Yet, Mares, 30, is determined to keep fighting, saying there are talks in place for him to appear in a possible main event Oct. 15 at Staples Center versus Argentina’s Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs).
It was announced Tuesday that Mares, a 2004 Olympic boxer from Mexico who was also raised in Hawaiian Gardens, will serve as an Olympics boxing color commentator for Spanish-language Telemundo Deportes and NBC Universo.
“I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a challenge,” Mares said. “I’ll be [broadcasting remotely] while I’m training in Miami [with Robert Garcia]. I’ll go from work to work.”
Premier Boxing Champions also is holding an Oct. 1 card, to be headlined by a junior-middleweight fight between International Boxing Federation champion Jermall Charlo and Julian Williams, that could land Mares.
“I’m 100% positive I will be back in the ring,” Mares said Tuesday in an interview with The Times.
Showtime Executive Vice President Stephen Espinoza, whose network will televise the Oct. 15 card, expressed concern last week about Mares in light of the news on Vazquez, who staged a classic four-fight series against Mexico’s Rafael Marquez on Showtime.
Espinoza said he would want to be sure that all medical exams were done to convince him that Mares’ eye was not in further jeopardy.
“[Vazquez] has said he didn’t take care of the problems he had over [multiple] surgeries in both [eyes],” Mares said. “I’ve only had one surgery done. And if I’ve ever felt anything since, I always go to the doctor. I get myself checked, even in sparring, from pink-eye or red-eye from a glove. I’m strict.”
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He then detailed his eye history.
“I had a detached retina in 2008. I had one surgery and I was able to fight once again – for the seven years since then,” said Mares, who last fought in August 2015, losing a majority decision to Leo Santa Cruz for the WBA “super” featherweight belt. “No trouble whatsoever.”
At a Brooklyn card Saturday, a New York State Athletic Commission representative said no representative would respond to any question from The Times.
“It’s just too bad [New York] had to wait until the last week to give me the news,” Mares said. “It was my issue and no secret, nothing I was hiding. It’s just based on my history. I had the surgery, and when I was 18, I had lasik [laser surgery to improve vision. New York] is just really strict. They don’t accept any kind of surgery on your eyes.
“It was sad they wouldn’t give me the clearance other states had – here, in Las Vegas, Chicago. It’s a bump in the road, but I’m still training and sparring and there are still people to fight.”
Cuellar switched trainers since the cancellation, and now has famed seven-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach in his corner.
“I’m excited about fighting period, I don’t care who’s in his corner,” Mares said.
Meanwhile, he’ll handle the television work with the expertise of past participation, world-class success as a pro and interaction with six Mexican Olympians he hosted at his Bell gym for a month this past year.
“I know the sport,” Mares said. “It’s one thing to know it, another to explain it, but I’ll work on it. It’ll be a good experience. I’m a bit nervous, but excited. I’ll tell people what I see from my experiences, in the Olympics, as well. You change [when fighting in the OIympics], you think about it, and the amateur world has changed so much since from when I was there. No headgear, the scoring system is different, 10-9 like the pros. It’s quite different.”
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