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Abner Mares and Jonathan Oquendo Interview Transcript
Thank you, everybody for calling in today. We are talking about Abner Mares vs Jonathan Oquendo, which is the co-main event in the “Honor & Glory: Canelo Alvarez vs. Erislandy Lara” SHOWTIME PPV ®event. On the call we have both fighters and we have Stephen Espinoza of SHOWTIME Sports and President and Founder of Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya.
Before I turn it over to Oscar I just wanted to let everyone know that next Tuesday will be Canelo Alvarez’s media day in San Diego and next Wednesday will be the Canelo Alvarez and Erislandy Lara media conference call, so please keep an eye on your inboxes for that information.
Now, I will turn the call over to Oscar De La Hoya. Oscar, please go ahead.
Oscar De La Hoya
Thank you very much. It is a great pleasure to be on this call with all the media and, especially, with both fighters. We are really excited and thrilled to be showcasing such a great matchup with Abner Mares and Jonathan Oquendo, who we all know very well.
This is a fight that will be a 10-round fight in the Featherweight division supporting the main event, Canelo vs Erislandy Lara, which will be a 12-round Junior Middleweight bout. It is taking place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas July 12th.
At this moment let me take this opportunity to introduce to you and say a few words from Showtime Sports, Stephen Espinoza.
Thank you, Oscar. We’re very excited and very happy to have Abner Mares back on SHOWTIME. As all of you know, Abner has a long history on our network and, as you all know, during that history he has not hesitated to take on any challenge that he’s been given. Mares fights the toughest fights without exception and he is always entertaining along the way.
So, we are, again, happy to have him in the SHOWTIME family and happy to have him in this good, action-oriented fight. Jonathan Oquendo, he has good power and is an aggressive boxer. We made this matchup because it fits with the style of the card, two action guys, a great rivalry, Mexico vs Puerto Rico, and we’re looking for fireworks, just as we are throughout the entire card on July 12.
O. De La Hoya
Thank you. Let me also take this opportunity to thank AT&T, who have been doing a great job as a partner of Golden Promotions, along with Corona, thank you very much for your continued support and we are really thrilled to be presenting to the fans across the globe this tremendous, tremendous line-up.
Let me introduce to you the first participant on this call. He hails from Bayamon, Puerto Rico. He has won 10 of his last 12 bouts, seven by knockout. He holds wins over Jose Luis Araiza, Eden Sonsona and Alejandro Montiel. He’s coming off a great 12-round unanimous decision over top prospect Guillermo Avila. So, obviously, he’s here and he wants to make a statement, especially on this big blockbuster Pay-Per-View card July 12th, at 24-3 (16 KOs) from Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Jonathan Oquendo.
I want to thank Golden Boy Promotions. I want to thank PR Boxing, the promoters, for helping me get on this card. I’m very happy and I’m anxious for the date to arrive.
O. De La Hoya
Let me introduce to you a fighter that we have been cultivating right from the start. We are thrilled and excited to once again be showcasing Abner Mares on such a tremendous card. I remember him right from the Olympic Games and right from the start knowing that this young fighter is going to be something special in the sport of boxing.
He hails from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico, and now fighting out of Downey, California. He’s a member of the 2004 Mexican Olympic team. He had a tremendous stoppage win versus Daniel Ponce de Leon to win the WBC Featherweight crown. He is the previous owner of the Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight Championships and, obviously, he’s anxious to return.
He has been off for a year and is coming into this difficult fight against Oquendo, who is a very solid, tough fighter from Puerto Rico. So, without any further ado, Abner Mares.
Thank you, Oscar. You forgot Featherweight Champion, actually, which I’ve been. Thank you so much, Oscar, Showtime, Jonathan Oquendo for taking this fight. I’m excited. It’s going to be close to a year since I have been in the ring, since I have fought and I can’t wait. I’m excited to make the card. I didn’t choose an easy fight. I chose a hard, hungry fighter such as Jonathan Oquendo and I can’t wait. I can’t wait for July 12th, another great card for Showtime and I’m really excited.
What did you learn from your last fight, the loss with Jhonny Gonzalez? What have you been doing the whole year, how have you been preparing? How have you been working so that the inactivity doesn’t affect you in this upcoming fight?
You learn a lot from a loss. In fact, you learn more from a loss sometimes than from wins. The inactivity, the year out, it made me see a lot of things, rethink a lot of things and, obviously, rejuvenated me. I’ve been coming off a long string of title defenses, fight after fight, tough fights. In a period of eight, nine months I did a lot of tough fights. We’ve got a new team working with Virgil Hunter out here in the Bay area and if it affects me, the layoff, it’ll be for the first few rounds, but once I get in my rhythm, nothing is going to stop me.
Jonathan, what have you seen? It’s a very good fight, a big fight, tough fight and the fights between Puerto Rico and Mexico are always great fights. What can you tell us?
I’m very appreciative of the opportunity. I’ve always admired Abner. He’s a great fighter, great champion. The fights between Mexico and Puerto Rico, Puerto Rico and Mexico, they’re always classic wars. He’s coming to fight. I’m coming to fight and the fans are going to win that night because they’re going to see a tremendous fight.
Obviously, it’s a great card, a lot of Mexican fighters distributed throughout the card. What are the expectations, seeming that it’s a great date, the ending of the World Cup, and what are the expectations as far as Pay-Per-View goes?
We have high expectations for this fight. It’s a solid card top to bottom, with high quality fights. There is competition from the World Cup that weekend. Without a doubt a lot of the Spanish language media, in particular, are paying a lot of attention to World Cup, as are the English language media.
So, there will be competition, but there’s competition every weekend. We are very confident that this is going to be a very solid Pay-Per-View performer for us.
How come the Gonzalez fight was never put back together after that postponement?
Well, I did suffer a brief injury in Mexico City. I was training for that fight for February, a rematch against Jhonny Gonzalez and then after that we just didn’t agree with dates pretty much. That was the whole case of the fight not happening.
He wanted to take some time off. I was not going to give any advantages, so I decided not to take the fight any time soon and he didn’t want to wait. So, with that said, I needed more time for myself to recover. I’m just focused on this fight, but later on in the future it’s possible again.
So, I understand you have to be focused on your preparation for the fight coming up in a couple of weeks, but is, in the back of your mind still the idea that you would like to gain revenge against Jhonny?
Yes, no doubt. This is a guy who took my undefeated record. He did take a lot from me that night. I’m not saying physically, because it happened so fast, less than a round. So, thank God, physically, I wasn’t damaged that much, but naturally he did as far as taking my undefeated record, so believe me, I do want my rematch, I want my revenge. But that will come within time.
How do you approach those early rounds where fighters coming back from knockouts, especially such a quick one, can be, at least mentally, a little bit in a familiar place?
Well, you know what, it’s funny, I didn’t even say this, but I was blessed that the fight was stopped shortly. I was going to get up that second time, but the ref did make the great call and did not let me continue or else I think I would have done even more damage or even, who knows, I would have probably fought back, a lot of punches. But at the end of the day I did take this fight because I know I’m ready mentally.
I’ve gone through that stage early and that’s why I took this whole time, almost close to a year off and I’m back. I always had that in my mind, when I first signed a contract to be a professional fighter that there was going to be a loss. No matter what, this is a contact sport, it’s a risky sport, anything can happen. I’m ready for anything.
Abner, are there any distractions whatsoever because as I understand it you’re in the process of parting with your manager, Frank Espinoza. I believe you’ve sought arbitration in California. Can you tell me what’s going on with that and if there are any distractions at all?
No distractions whatsoever. Actually, I’m in the Bay area. I’m away from home. I’m in an actual camp out here and I think if anything else, I’ll just fight against Jonathan Oquendo, a great fighter. As far as Espinoza situation, my lawyer is taking care of it. I have nothing to do with it as in now.
Jonathan, why is it going to be different this time than what happened in the previous fights when you fought better opposition?
Basically, the couple of times I wasn’t in the best preparation that I could have had. I’ve learned from that. Like they say, third time is a charm. And you know what, we’re taking it very serious. I know Abner Mares. I know his capabilities. I know how risky this fight is. We were both, at one time, with Golden Boy years ago and I always thought that was a possibility to make this fight, you know, Puerto Rico vs Mexico, down the road we would make it.
I had a couple of losses and they taught me and now we have a good team. We’re preparing really well and, you know what, I’m excited. It didn’t run in my mind after a while that I was going to be fighting him after a few years, but the fight is here. I’m very anxious, I’m very excited and I look forward to it.
What is involved in the mental adjustment in not fighting for you, when you’re used to fighting that often against quality fights?
Like you said, I am through fighting that many opponents and every time I finish a fight I like to go back and look at what I did wrong and what we could prevent. As you mentioned, you saw progress in Abner in every other fight. It was a different Abner and the next fight, it’s going to be a totally different Abner because of how camp, I told you guys, I just recently switched coaches.
So, you will see a different Abner and this whole time being off just helped me, helped me to get hungrier, helped me to get healthier and helped me mentally to be close with my family. So, believe me, I’m taking this fight like if this was my debut fight.
How do you characterize the change in training? Is Virgil Hunter tweaking things? Is he adding anything? Is there anything that you didn’t do that he’s improving?
All of the above. You mentioned tweaking things, he’s improving things, he’s making me see things I didn’t know and we’re working with each other. We’re working with what I have and he’s working with what he’s going to give me. So, I’ve seen a lot of progress already with him, the sparring sessions already, so believe me, when fight night comes all that will be shown.
Do you think it’s going to be a situation like with Amir Khan where the first couple of fights people were very critical when he fought, I think, Molina and then he fought Diaz? Or do you think you’ll step right in and be real smooth right off the bat?
I would like to think that, yeah, it will be just as Khan did this last fight against Collazo, that will be the result the next fight. I show that I’ve shown a lot of progress already and I think that’s the Abner Mares you guys will see that night.
Abner, you were always a very well-rounded fighter offensively and defensively. Has Virgil helped you more on the defensive end or on the offensive end?
Defensive, no question,that is one of the top reasons why we are here and we needed that. That was shown even in the fight before the Ponce fight, I think I boxed somewhat good, but still was getting caught with some punches that I was missing punches. So, there’s still room for progress, there’s still room for learning, I’m at that stage. I’m 28 years old. I feel young, I really feel young for the 26 fights that I have in my career, I feel like I’ve done so much yet I can do some more. I’m progressing and I’m happy to have made the decisions that I’ve made so far, which is come more eager and keep on learning.
Abner, also what do you know about Oquendo? What sort of things does he present that you really have to worry about? I know he’s been in the ring with a lot of good fighters, what’s your scouting report on him at the moment?
Everything, because if you look at it, he’s a hungry fighter. He’s coming off a fight early this year, so he’s got that advantage. Again, I mentioned the hungry fighter, he wants to win. He’s a tough fighter. I know him because we’ve both been signed with Golden Boy Promotions for a period of time and we’ve fought in a couple of same cards, so as well as he knows about me, I know about him.
I’ll tell you, he’s a tough cookie, he’s a tough guy and I did not choose an easy fight for my comeback and that’s exactly what I need, I need someone that’s going to pressure me and someone that’s going to take me to deep water so I could revive to get that Abner Mares, you know, that anger back in me.
Abner, There were talks in the past that you were going to fight Jason Velez. In fact, the WBC even announced it as a possible eliminator and how did that affect you, how did you adjust for the change that now you’re fighting Jonathan Oquendo?
They never really formally mentioned or offered it and I was never preparing for Jason Velez. This was the fight that I’ve been training for and preparing for and I see Jonathan, another Puerto Rican, obviously, like Velez, but even more dangerous. A stronger, more aggressive, he’s coming, he knows what a win means. Obviously, it’s even a riskier fight, so that’s what we’re preparing for.
Alfredo Angulo had mentioned to us how on a personal level Virgil Hunter had helped him. Is that your case as well? Are you having a lot of help with him personally?
I came here for Virgil to seek a trainer for the training purposes. On the personal level, that’s my family. I see professional psychologist and that helped me tremendously. But for here, it’s the training.
How long was your time working with the psychologist and what was the most important, what did he help you with the most?
I want to make a quick correction. Not a psychologist, it was more of a coach, sporting coach that helped bring back the Abner that maybe had been lost, re-live that Abner that had got me there. After the loss, obviously, I was a little sad, but thanks to God and thanks to my family and I was with the coach for three months and he helped me bring that out and I want to continue fighting for many years.
It’s the risk we’re in and this is the type of game. You risk losing and you’ve just got to learn to get up and I may lose again and guess what, I’ll know how to get up.
You had the opportunity to go up a division to look for that fourth title, the fourth division. You stayed at 126. What’s the intent, what’s the goal? To fight for a world title? Most of the champions are with Top Rank.
Obviously, you’ve heard the news, my promoter, Golden Boy Promotions is looking to work with top rank in fights in the future and, look, they have great fighters, great champions, so I feel very comfortable at 126 right now. That’s what I have in front of me right now and I have an opponent that I’m concentrating on him. But at the time, at the time maybe I was thinking with my heart and not with the mind.
I want to go in for the fourth division, but sometimes when you think with the heart only, it can run into mistakes and it could cost you. It could have cost me a loss right there. So, right now, I’m making the weight very comfortable. I’m very happy at 126 and we’re going to continue here.
Jonathan, what do you expect from Abner Mares? Do you expect the Abner Mares, because of the coming off a knockout loss gives you an opportunity or do you expect the Abner Mares from before the loss and that it’s just going back up to world champion level and this could put, a win, obviously, could put you at that level?
Abner mentioned it earlier, you fall, you lose, you’ve got to learn to get up. To be a great champion, great fighters, you have to learn to fall and get up. I’ve learned from my past, from my mistakes. He took some time off, he rested. He knows what he needed to do. I’m positive, I know he’s coming to fight. I know he’s coming. I know what kind of fighter he is.
When I’ve lost in the past, a couple of weeks later, I’m back in the gym. That’s my way of dealing with it. That’s my therapy, right back in the gym. I’m very prepared. I know what this fight means. And I’m just looking forward to the date. I’m ready.
Abner, with the loss, the obvious question is how important is it to be victorious on your upcoming fight?
Obviously, significant, significant to my career, obviously, getting back on that list of winning. It would mean a lot to me, my fans, my family and we’re preparing, we know we have a tough opponent, a difficult fight, a strong fight, but that’s what we’re preparing for.
You’ve, obviously, made the change in trainer, probably working on a variety of things. What is the difference? What are we going to see different on fight night?
You’re going to see a more intelligent, a little bit more boxing maybe I think that I had that Virgil is bringing back out, that is polishing and showing me. I’ve always liked to go toe-to-toe, I’ve always liked to go forward and aggressive. I’ll still have that, but you’re going to see a little bit more of the boxing in it as well. I know we have a tough, strong opponent, so we’re going to bring it out.
Jonathan, what does it mean to beat an opponent at the level of Abner Mares. I’m assuming that it would mean a lot to you to come out with a victory.
This is significant, a win over Abner. We all know he’s a tremendous three-division world champion. This means more than a title to me. This means more. This would put me, we’ve all known that he’s been considered one of the best fighters in the world, so to me this is more than a belt. It’s the status what it would put me in history and what it means for me and my family. It’s everything.
That was actually our last question. So, I want to thank all the participants on today’s call as well as all of the media that dialed in. We will be sending out a fight week schedule next week as well, so keep an eye on your inboxes and thank you so much, everybody, for being here today.
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