(Jhonny Gonzalez, left, Abner Mares, right; credit: Esthen Lin, Showtime)
What an upset. But it made sense. It's the kind that can always happen when you're in the ring against someone with Jhonny Gonzalez's dynamite, as Abner Mares discovered Saturday on Showtime. Mares, in his second fight at featherweight and climbing the pound-for-pound rankings of best fighters in any division, couldn't make it out of the very 1st round as Gonzalez caught him with a picture-perfect left hook from which he never recovered.
That left hook dropped Mares immediately. Mares and Gonzalez had been feeling each other out before then, but toward the end of the round the Mexican veteran sneaked in the shot against the younger man and it was basically over after that. Mares rose, yet he wasn't in great shape. Mares, unable or unwilling to hold, foolishly opted to trade with Gonzalez, and Gonzalez made him pay with a second knockdown courtesy of two lefts and a right. Referee Jack Reiss wouldn't let Mares rise again, although he should've given him a chance to try, even if Mares' face told the tale of a fighter who wasn't all there.
Gonzalez was a top five featherweight, so maybe it's not a huge upset within the division. What makes it a big upset is that Gonzalez was a heavy betting underdog against a fighter who was viewed as world class, whereas Gonzalez, for all his power, has fallen short in some of his biggest bouts. He now owns the best win of his career. He also spoiled, at least for the time being, a match-up between Mares and the man who fought on the undercard, Leo Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz certainly held up his end. Against the most accomplished opponent of his career, Santa Cruz made short work of Victor Terrazas. Santa Cruz also was making an adjustment in an early fight in a new division, junior featherweight. Although both of the first two rounds were competitive, Santa Cruz was simply landing the bigger and better punches, as he tends to do with that swarming volume style of his. And in the 2nd, Terrazas' right eye was swollen nearly shut.
In the 3rd, Santa Cruz caught Terrazas with a left hand that buckled him, then polished off the ensuing knockdown with a right. Terrazas was finished, but tried to slug with Santa Cruz and got the worst of it, eventually going down, almost taking a knee, really, after a glancing right. When he got up, he told the referee he couldn't continue because he couldn't see, according to Showtime's Jim Gray. And the eye was bad, real bad, so I buy it and can't criticize him too much for begging off.
Two fights. One huge upset. One destructive performance. One spoiled fight that fans had been salivating over. But I doubt too many people are complaining after that kind of excitement.