Mares takes belt from Ponce de Leon in WBC featherweight fight

Daniel Ponce De Leon’s reign as the WBC featherweight champion was a brief one.

Unbeaten Abner Mares saw to that by scoring an impressive technical knockout in the ninth round in his first time fighting at 126 pounds Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden.

Heading the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Robert Guerrero fight, Mares used a big counter right hand to drop Ponce De Leon with just over a minute to go in the ninth.

Ponce De Leon beat referee Jay Nady’s count, but was defenseless against Mares’ follow-up onslaught, causing Nady to stop the fight at 2:20.

“I had to mix it up against a fighter like this,” said Mares, who is 26-0-1. “But I changed it up on him and thank God we got the victory.

“It’s hard to fight a friend.”

Both fighters are managed and promoted by Frank Espinoza, and Ponce De Leon (44-5) was defending the title for the first time since beating Jhonny Gonzalez on Sept. 15. But Mares knocked him down late in the second round with a looping left followed by a crisp, short right.

The knockdown seemed to give Mares confidence. And he was able to handle the attack by Ponce De Leon, using good defense and superior footwork to avoid getting nailed by a big shot.

“He hit me a lot of times with the left hand but he never hurt me,” Mares said. “I demonstrated poise but I learned a lot.”

Ponce De Leon was unhappy with the way things ended.

“I want a rematch,” he said. “The ref stopped the fight too quickly. I was winning rounds. He dropped me, but I was conscious.”

Also on the undercard, J’Leon Love survived a sixth-round knockdown to score a 10-round split decision over Gabriel Rosado to win the vacant NABF middleweight title.

Love (16-0) was ahead on the cards of judges Dave Moretti (95-94) and Herb Santos (97-92). Glenn Trowbridge had Rosado leading 95-94.

With nine seconds remaining in the sixth, Rosado (21-7) floored Love with a right hand.

“I got hit with a shot I did not see,” Love said. “But after that I stepped it up and fought back. I was proud of my performance. When you get knocked down like that you have to step it up.”

Rosado said he was the busier fighter and deserved better.

“Everyone knows who won,” he said. “We don’t control the judges. My performance spoke volumes tonight. I don’t think I have to prove myself against him, but I’ll fight him again if I have to.”

Love said, “We can do it again if he wants to.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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