The Abner Mares (26-0, 14 KO) vs. Daniel Ponce De Leon (44-5) clash wasn't quite as good as some thought, but it was a nice final appetizer before the main event. This fight preceded Floyd Mayweather vs. Robert Guerrero at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Mares made sure the crowd saw fireworks.
He dropped Ponce De Leon twice en route to a ninth-round TKO victory. Mares gained the WBC featherweight title and has immediately made himself the biggest presence in the division.
The ending was a little controversial, though. Mares had decked Ponce De Leon in the ninth, and the champion was hurt. Ponce De Leon made it to his feet, but Mares was all over him.
Referee Jay Nady stepped in to end the fight to the chagrin of some fans and to the Showtime broadcasting team of Paulie Malignaggi and Al Bernstein.
Here's how the fight broke down from round to round.
The opening round was exactly what most of us expected. Mares came forward with his head down. Ponce De Leon attempted to counter him on the way in.
A few of the punches found their mark from both fighters. Per the Showtime telecast, both men landed 16 punches apiece.
It was too close to give either man an edge. I called this one even.
In a very competitive round, Ponce De Leon was doing a great jab fighting and countering off the ropes. He was beginning to throw solid uppercuts, but Mares landed the telling blow in the round.
A hard left hand with about six seconds left in the round dropped Ponce De Leon. It didn't seem to badly hurt the champion, but he learned that Mares could tag him.
Mares' speed advantage was on display in this round. Ponce De Leon seemed a bit gun shy after being dropped in the previous round.
After taking another hard left hand in the closing seconds, there was no doubt who earned the 10-9 edge in the third.
Ponce De Leon bounced back pretty well for the fourth. His jab found the mark enough to take the round, in my eyes. Mares was a bit too wide with his punches, and it cost him.
He didn't land with enough regularity, but it was still clear Mares was in control overall.
The fifth round was difficult to score, but it appeared that Ponce De Leon did better work. His jab, straight-left combination stood out in an uneventful three minutes.
Through the last three rounds, Ponce De Leon had started to take control. He began to back Mares up, and even though neither were landing big, Ponce De Leon seemed to control the tempo.
Malignaggi, Steve Farhood and Bernstein had Mares up 59-54 through five rounds; I had the fight even at 57.
Mares seemed to be picking things up in this round. He took a low blow in the round, but no point deduction or warning occurred.
Nady ruled that Mares' holding caused the low blow. It was seemingly insignificant as Mares won the round.
Even though it appeared Mares might be tiring, he still landed the more telling blows in the round. His jab, over-hand right combination found the mark enough to take the eighth round.
The two featherweights were firing shots with fury. Mares dropped Ponce De Leon with a vicious right hand. The champion was hurt and on wobbly legs. He made it to his feet, and Mares pounced like a cat.
He had Ponce De Leon on the ropes teeing off, and Nady jumped in to stop the fight. Was the stoppage premature? Perhaps, but it did appear the end was near.
At the end of the day, it probably only abbreviated the inevitable.
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