LAS VEGAS -- Former three-division titleholder Abner Mares made a triumphant return to the ring 11 months after he got wiped out in one round and lost his featherweight world title to Jhonny Gonzalez.
Mares won a unanimous decision against Jonathan Oquendo in a sloppy fight that featured a lot of grappling and booing from the crowd on Saturday night at the MGM Grand on the undercard of the Canelo Alvarez-Erislandy Lara fight.
But for Mares, a former three-division titleholder, it was a welcome relief from his previous fight.
"I think I did good," Mares said. "I felt a little rusty. I did feel kind of sluggish in there but I'm happy with the win. That's all that counts." The judges all had it for Mares, 98-92, 98-92 and 96-94. ESPN.com also had it for Mares, 96-94.
Mares (27-1-1, 14 KOs), 31, a former Mexican Olympian who lives in Southern California, suffered a terrible cut over his left eye in the fourth round, causing referee Kenny Bayless, who ruled the cut was caused by a punch, to call timeout so the ringside doctor could take a look. Mares was allowed to continue but blood was coming down the side of his face.
His corner did a fine job closing the wound, which was not a factor for the remainder of the fight, which had the crowd restless because of the grappling and lack of action.
Mares, normally a very aggressive fighter, was a bit more controlled because that is the style taught by Virgil Hunter, the trainer he was working with for the first time.
Mares said he is ready for any of the top 126-pounders.
"I want my rematch with Jhonny Gonzalez," he said. "I want any featherweight. I'm back. I came back strong."
Oquendo (24-4, 16 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, gave a solid effort but was outworked by Mares. Oquendo has now lost the three times he has faced a top-level opponent, also suffering defeats to former world titleholders Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. and Juan Manuel Lopez.
Junior lightweight Francisco Vargas (20-0-1, 14 KOs) scored the biggest win of his career, dominating, dropping and stopping former two-division titlist Juan Manuel Lopez (34-4, 31 KOs) when Lopez's corner pulled him out of the fight at the end of the third round.
"I'm very happy with this win. I prepared for this moment and I'm ready for anyone at 130 [pounds]," Vargas said through a translator. "The way I won was with the combination of upper and lower body shots. I know he's a warrior but after we did the combinations my corner knew it was over and we would knock him down."
Vargas, who may have punched his way into a world title shot, had hurt Lopez in the second round and continued to pound him in the third round. They engaged in an extended ferocious exchange but Lopez was getting the worst of it by far. Vargas was strafing him with head shots and finally knocked him down with 15 seconds left in the round. Lopez got to his feet and waded right back into battle and Vargas continued to blast him. When the round was over, referee Vic Drakulich stopped the fight at the request of the Lopez corner.
"I wanted to keep fighting but my corner decided I had enough," Lopez said through a translator. "I'm a warrior and I would have fought to the end. I really don't know if I want to retire but I will talk to my promoters and see what we decide."